How To Perfect Your Agile Planning Process

by Julian

Agile planning is an iterative and incremental project planning approach that adopts work units called “sprints”.  Each sprint spans about 1-3 weeks where a team focuses on a set of tasks and aims to complete them. 

Agile planning helps teams understand how much they can achieve by defining what needs to be completed within each sprint. It creates a repeatable process, incorporating feedback with every iteration and being adaptive to changes. 

At ScrumGenius, we’ll show you how you can implement agile planning into your company’s project management processes. We'll give some tips on how to create great agile teams.

Advantages of Agile Planning

Better control and increased flexibility.

With the transparency, feedback integration and quality control feature introduced in agile planning, managers obtain better control over the project. Agile planning also empowers teams with unparalleled flexibility where small bursts of work are supplemented by constant feedback. 

Improved project predictability and reduced risks.

Agile planning brings about increased visibility. Hence, predicting risks and coming up with mitigation plans becomes easier, reducing the inherent risks in the project. 

Continuous improvement and higher team morale.

The agile method fosters an open culture of idea exchanges and collaboration. This allows members to learn from shared experiences and improve together. This nature of the teams allows members to learn new skills and grow in their roles while fostering a close-knit environment.

Agile Planning VS Traditional Project Planning

Organizational Structure

Agile Planning takes on an iterative project management approach that focuses on incorporating feedback and continuous releases. On the contrary, traditional project planning adopts a linear or waterfall approach where all the phases of a process occur in a sequence.

Project Scale

Agile planning focuses on small and medium scale projects while traditional project planning focuses on large scale projects.

Development Model

Agile planning follows an evolutionary delivery model. Its concept delves into evolving changes and collaborative effort to bring out results rather than a predefined process. Rather, for traditional planning, it follows a life cycle model. Every project follows the same life cycle which includes the same stages.

  1. User Requirements

In agile planning, there is constant interactive input from clients and users to be incorporated into the project. Whereas, in traditional planning, user requirements are clearly defined before the project or implementation. 

Characteristics of Agile Planning

Short turnover times 

This means more frequent deliveries and fast feedback loops. When the feedback taken is reflected in the next version of the plan, it improves the likelihood of a successful project closure. 

Customers prefer to have an early preview of results to ensure that the project does not deviate too much from what they expect. Receiving and implementing feedback early in the cycle early prevents wastage of time and resources. 

Work oriented self-organising teams

In agile planning, it’s the flow of work that matters. Even if each worker is not necessarily utilized to 100%, it’s alright to give teams some autonomy to self-organize. These teams will decide how best to accomplish their work rather than being directed by others outside the team. 

“Quality Assurance” phases are exceptions 

In agile planning, teams “build quality in”. This means that no time should be spent fixing a part of the project after it has been implemented. 

Teams strive for quality during the execution phase of the project and usually try to avoid a final “Quality Assurance” phase as schedules are tight. Everyone in the team should play an equally important role in building quality into the final product. 

Plan only the major deliverables.

With a solid plan of all major deliverables, it is easy to break tasks down and delegate to various teams. No start or end dates are attached to each task unless necessary. 

This allows teams to take on new work when they have the capacity to. By detaching the planning from the execution, it meets the time and commitment requirements of agile planning while allowing your teams to make optimal decisions. 

Use of historical data in future planning

Statistical methods such as Monte Carlo Simulations are widely employed in data-driven forecasting for Agile planning. These simulations use historical data as input to generate thousands of possible outcomes for your project. 

After the assessment of all possible outcomes, the simulation will provide information about the project’s potential completion dates with a probability attached to the forecast.

6 Levels of Agile Planning

Strategy

Strategy is at the top of the Agile planning onion because it defines what the company is, and what it wants to become. Here, the senior management team will be laying out the blueprints and specifying how they are going to achieve corporate objectives. 

The overarching question here is “How do we achieve business goals and objectives?”

Portfolio

What products and services will help achieve the strategy? 

This layer represents the overall product offering that supports the realization of the corporate strategy. Similarly, the responsibility of this layer lies with the senior management team in the organization. 

 

Product

What requirements will a product fulfil? What features will it have?

The product layer represents teams who own one or more related products. Here, each team decides on a product vision and outlines the roadmap for their products within the product suite. Teams involving project managers, product managers, research managers, etc. plan how the products will evolve and change in the medium term. 

Release

What product features will be delivered in this release? 

A release represents a prioritized backlog of product features that encompass smaller plans that drive toward the product vision. In this layer, product managers start by working to define and prioritize a set of features that are then estimated by the team. 

Iteration/Sprint

What features will be developed during this product iteration?

This is where smaller teams of developers, designers, testers, etc. start coming together. This phase requires all team members to know what needs to be achieved during the iteration/sprint. In this layer, features are time-boxed and planned such that deliveries are made in two-week increments. 

Sessions are also scheduled for re-planning and performance assessment at the start and end of each iteration. 

Daily

What features are done? Which ones will be done today? Is anything blocked?

Leaders need to understand what each team member has achieved, what’s planned for the next day and assess any problems members are currently facing. To do so, stand-up meetings are conducted where the team will get together to communicate their individual progress towards the completion of a specific iteration. 

It is also the Project Manager’s role to facilitate the session and ensure that the team’s progress is on track.

Transitioning to Agile Planning in Your Organization?

In this section, we will be explaining some aspects you can focus on to smoothen your transition from traditional project management in an agile project management process. 

Focus on workflow efficiency.

The emphasis in agile planning is to “manage the work and not the people”. When you optimize workflow efficiency, teams can value-add and continuously reduce waste to deliver value more quickly. 

A good way to optimize workflows is to visualize all the activities in the process. This allows teams to see immediately the whole process and what action needs to be taken to create a smoother process flow. 

Implement Work In Progress (WIP) Constraints

One of the best ways to manage queues efficiently is to adopt WIP constraints. WIP shows the number of work items a team is currently working on. A team with too many WIP tasks increases the risk of rework and generates overall waste in your process. 

A solution to this issue is to set and adjust WIP limits in various work stages. Limiting WIP helps to align a team’s capacity with the actual number of work items that need to be completed at a given moment. 

Switch to decentralized decision-making

Successful agile implementation requires a decentralized decision-making process to deliver value with the shortest lead time. If every decision needs to go through several approval processes, it results in massive delays and will deteriorate team morale. 

This also gives teams a sense of belonging and power. As a result, they are more likely to contribute to the overall project success as they will feel more like valuable assets than expendable resources. 

Improve the Efficiency of Your Agile Project Management Processes 

Switching from traditional project management workflows to an agile one takes time. Hence, investing in ScrumGenius, a platform that helps to automate organizing and implementing stand-up meetings helps to boost productivity. 

Here are 3 reasons why:

  • Reduced meeting times, higher engagement rates. With automated reports and incremental updates, ScrumGenius helps to reduce time wasted in long and tedious stand-up meetings. 
  • Data insights and bird’s eye view on team progress and productivity. ScrumGenius allows you to quantify progress and visualize engagement and key information of multiple teams. 
  • Goal and blocker training. A feature unique to ScrumGenius, it allows you to see if your team achieves their daily goals regularly, and spot recurring obstacles impeding progress. 

Efficiently Manage Your Agile Workflows with ScrumGenius Today.

With ScrumGenius, you can understand each member’s workflow more thoroughly and identify problems before they arise. Improve team productivity and remove inefficient workflows and processes with ScrumGenius now.