Planning 101: Master Agile Project Planning in 6 Easy Steps
Careful planning is very important for the efficiency of Agile, as well as for the Waterfall. The difference between the two approaches is in timing. Planning is ongoing in Agile, and its incremental approach allows projects to adapt rapidly to changes. Planning is predictive in the Waterfall and the client knows exactly what to expect.
1. Cost of the project
At the first progress review meeting, the management will need to know what cost of the project will be and its duration. Organizational resources should be dedicated to the project. You’ll need to provide feedback on a number of levels to answer the initial set of questions to ensure you are still delivering the best value for your organization’s investment. To effectively respond to, and satisfy your management, you need to provide them a plan.
2. Product vision
The product vision is a very useful tool that clarifies to the team the purpose of the project, what they are working on, and what basic restraints they must work within. The vision is often detailed in a Project Charter document.
As an advice to get an efficient project charter document, you can write it down with the whole team in a collaborative workshop with the project sponsor and product owner present. If the team members who will work on the product are not in the office, you can gather them for the workshop in order to create a unique team culture.
3. Product roadmap
At the start of the project you have to create a product roadmap, a list of the most important features that the project will produce to address the scope. In case, if you expect to deliver just one release of the product, the product roadmap will coincide with the release plan.
The product roadmap is a high-level document kept by the product owner and the project manager, and it is expected to change over time and is validated against the product vision (you should remember to plan also the validation events).
4. Release plan
The release plan consists of a list of features that you should deliver in the next version of the product. In many cases, the features included in the release plan are the ones that the product owner and the project manager agreed to develop, based on the prioritization made at the level of epics and stories.
A release consists of a set of iterations with which the team will deliver measurable value to the organization. Stories and epics need to be sized (in story points or possibly days), and prioritized – so that the work will be allocated to iterations.
- The product owner determines the goals for the next release.
- The team reviews all factors that can impact the goals, including risk and connection between stories and epics.
You should plan the activities based on the team’s velocity. You could use an estimated initial team’s velocity as the starting point for planning the activities.
Once you have the estimated the speed, it’s time to plan the iterations: the stories and epics for the release in priority order with their size; how many story points you can deliver in a single iteration etc.
5. Iteration plan
All Agile teams should be able to plan the activities included in an iteration based on the lessons from the work done in the previous iterations. They can apply the iteration planning to validate the release plan and produce the detailed iteration plan.
You should organize one or more sessions of iteration planning to analyze the release plan and update it based on any changes that occurred since the last update.
In the first part of the meeting, the product owner will expose the actual priorities and the team revises the iteration plan for identifying the stories to be done in the actual iteration.
In the second phase of the meeting, the work is broken down into specific tasks and pulled by every team member during the next iteration, based on his/her ability to do the task in the amount of time initially estimated to complete it.
6. Daily stand-up meeting
Daily meetings are an important and efficient tool used to communicate the progress within the iteration. Every day the whole team gets this meeting and the iteration manager asks the status of all tasks assigned to every team member.
There are several simple rules to be followed by every team member:
- The meeting is really “stand up”, and the maximum duration is 15 minutes.
- There is maximum one minute for each member to elaborate the status of the task allocated to him/her.
- All team members should answer what they have done on the previous day, and what they will do today.
The scrum master is responsible for removing the obstacles exposed by the team members (after the standup meeting) so the team can be fully productive.
And one final advice: you have to keep in mind that you shouldn’t punish your team members for not meeting task dedication because otherwise your task force will adapt to the behavior and won’t tell the truth about the status of the tasks during the standup meeting.