Agile Project Planning Process From Start to Finish (Guide)

The philosophy of agile project planning separates projects into smaller work sessions, beginning with the design phase, and ending with testing for quality assurance.

The fundamental principles of agile project planning surfaced during the mid-20th century, and during the early 21st century, agile project planning saw a rise in popularity, especially with I.T. ventures.

Short, 2-4 hour work sessions that occur over days or weeks are commonly referred to in agile planning as “sprints”.

Agile project planning is a collaborative and repetitive mindset that aids the structure and development of a project. Each stage of agile project management includes review and critique by the agile team to gain insight into the project’s next stage.

Common fields that utilize agile project planning include:

Benefits of Agile Planning

A key benefit of practicing agile project planning is the system’s ability to fix and correct problems efficiently as they arise through continuous review of the project’s sections.

Via review, agile project planning raises the likelihood of a company delivering a project on time, and under budget.

Efficiency in agile project planning is marked by its demand for teams to constantly evaluate time and cost in their projects. Welcoming changing requirements, even late in development, agile project planning strives to create a sounder final product.

How Agile Planning Measures Progress

Following the completion of a sprint, the agile project planning team releases the segment for review which reflects the project’s status, allowing issues to be addressed in a time-efficient manner.

Burndown Vs. Burnup Charts

Traditionally, Gantt charts and project milestones are used to track the progress of a project. Agile project planning uses velocity, burndown, and burnup charts to measure work progress.

Burnup and burndown charts reflect output in relation to the development team’s cumulative effort.

Here’s an example of a burndown chart:

burndown chart example

(Burndown Chart Example From Luis Goncalves, https://luis-goncalves.com/burndown-chart-ultimate-guide/)

burnup chart example

(Burnup Chart Example Taken From pm.stackexchange.com)

Velocity charts reflect the amount of value delivered in each sprint which aids the team in evaluating how much work can be achieved in the next sprint.

velocity chart example

(Velocity Chart Example Taken From https://resources.collab.net/agile-101/agile-scrum-velocity)

Burnup and burndown charts reflect output in relation to the development team’s cumulative effort.

Contrary Method to Agile Planning

Project planning managers play a major role in project development when companies use more traditional development strategies such as the waterfall model.

The waterfall model is a linear and sequential process of managing a project. Each phase of a waterfall model is to be fully completed before moving on to the next sequential phase.

Contrary to agile planning, waterfall project management does not allow you to return to a previous step without starting from scratch.

waterfall project management chart

Goal Designation

Project goals for agile project planning are established by a product owner. Agile project planning does not require the presence of a project manager, as the project’s responsibilities are divided between team members.

However, project managers are still occasionally used in agile project development, specifically in more complex projects – they act as a coordinator working beside the product owner.

Agile Project Planning Steps

Let’s take a look at each step in the agile planning process:

Step 1: Set Your Vision In Stone With a Strategy Meeting

What is the mission of your project? What’s the big picture? Refer back to this starting point as the root of your agile plan.

Similar to a who, what, when, where, and why scenario, the questions you’ll want to answer upfront during this step include who your target demographic is, the product category, the benefits, what sets this product apart, as well as a final statement on the product as a whole.

Step 2: Assemble Your Product Map

A product roadmap is a detailed view of your project that includes a loose time frame of development – make sure your roadmap is goal/themed based before you begin.

Each segment should feature the name, date, goal, features, as well as metrics measuring and contributing to the project’s growth.

Metrics include business data in relation to the product’s market and are measured by mentioned burndown, burnup, velocity charts, as well as sprint feedback.

Step 3: Establish a Release Plan

An important element of agile project planning includes a project’s release plan. A release plan creates a timetable that includes the inclusion of sprints designed to determine the date of each release.

Release plans layout the vision of the product, and include multiple elements that need to be established such as the schedule of the product owner, a monitored backlog that is reviewed by the project owner, assigned team members, and stakeholders, as well as team location and availability.

Step 4: Task Planning After the Release Plan Layout

Prior to each sprint, a meeting occurs between the product owner and the development team members. User stories and backlogs are reviewed to determine what can be achieved during the sprint.

The aforementioned planning stages are designed to foster a higher level of attention to detail. Assignments are separated during task planning to be taken on by each team member.

Task designation in agile project planning is characterized partly by breaking down larger duties that may take longer than 24 hours into smaller tasks, giving a more accurate sprint estimate.

Agile estimating relies partly on past successes as a way to calculate sprint estimates, including implementing a realistic perspective with goals vs. an overly optimistic outlook. Most of the time, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, so it’s better to prepare for the worst than to expect the best.

Step 5: Communication In Agile Planning

The user stories development phase relies on frequent communication with customers and unified ownership to deliver more reliable results.

Agile collective ownership means the entire team is responsible for the work (i.e. no individual is better than the team).

Backlog management is separated into two categories:

Both of these backlogs rely on customer feedback to give teams direction.

A product backlog is the main list of things needed to be implemented into the project. An Iteration backlog is a reference list of priority elements that need to be built during a current sprint.

Agile scheduling is the most managerial element of an agile project. Scheduling focuses on immediate tasks, the involvement of the entire team, design, and testing, as well as a demo meeting.

Uncertainty has the potential to play a role in the development of a project. Agile project planning meets this challenge of uncertainty through sprints, forecasting potential problems through continuous feedback, and adaption.

Agile project planning leans on teamwork and collaboration. While the project manager owns the plan, the team holds most of the power of the plan in terms of meeting requirements and deadlines.

The juxtaposition of teamwork and individual interaction that agile project planning provides lessens the burden and isolation that a project manager would face through a more traditional project planning strategy.

Step 6: Team Organization/Review

Teams that utilize agile project planning often use Smartsheet as an organizational tool for a project’s planning.

Smartsheet is a spreadsheet inspired platform that emphasizes collaboration and communication, matching agile project planning’s philosophy. With Smartsheet, users can track deadlines and project details in a more efficient manner.

After each sprint, review is key. Refer back to your initial plan to make sure all requirements were met. The product owner will then approve or reject deliverables created during the sprint.

Step 7: Deciding On The Next Sprint

Be sure to include retrospective details of the previous sprint when planning your next sprint. The retrospective review is an extension of the previous review with stakeholders and product owner(s).

Agile Project Plan Example

Planning the release of an agile project involves creating an all-inclusive timetable featuring multiple sprints that determine when each release will occur.

Below is an example featuring some of the first steps in a typical agile project.

agile project plan example of first steps

Agile Long Term Planning

Long term agile planning calls for increased levels of coordination between multiple teams.

The philosophy of agile planning is conducive to a long term project that requires increased levels of coordination due to agile’s ability for many teams to respond to changes quickly.

An article on Atlassian centered on long term agile project planning states that it’s important to keep your project details and task estimates in line with your project roadmap.

But here’s a question for you:

How can you create a realistic long term project forecast with agile planning’s constant element of change?

Let’s find out:

Agile Long Term Planning Broken Down

Step one of long term agile planning includes defining the big picture of the project.

Following the designation of themes and items, a long term agile team will break down the work of the overarching project vision into smaller initiatives. This action will create a clearer perspective on the necessary steps to achieve the project vision.

After breaking down the project vision into smaller initiatives, teams will have a more solid foundation to draw time estimates from regarding sprints. Agile project teams often refer to this as a roadmap.

Increasing Efficiency Through Agile Planning

A project’s long term efficiency relies on smart releases. A long term project requires a rough roadmap of releases to keep the project on track, whereas shorter-term projects simply release at the end of each sprint.

These roadmap estimates help predict release dates for the quarter. In addition, it’s important to state that releases in long term agile planning are characterized by scope more than strict deadlines.

After Project Estimations

Now that the hypothetical agile team has estimations regarding the backlog, releases, and team members, the team will have a far easier time establishing what they wish to accomplish, the time it will take, and resources the project will require, all of which will lead to a more accurate project forecast.

Project forecasts are additionally created by referencing an estimated backlog vs. a team’s velocity/progress.

Team validation plays a vital role in long term agile project planning. Teams can use this opportunity to create time estimates for segments within larger initiatives.

Implementing outside elements such as schedule conflicts will create a clearer timeline for teams. Following team validation, stakeholders often examine the forecasts.

It’s important to note that no project is ever completely finished, as continual improvement is emphasized in long term agile project planning ideology, which focuses on optimization and is solidified through customer feedback.

Is Long Term Agile Planning Right For Your Project?

Agile project planning is often considered a better fit for longer-term projects as opposed to shorter ones as shorter projects don’t provide the opportunity for agile teams to settle into the rhythms necessary to employ the mindset.

With long term projects, the cost is a huge factor. Agile planning for long term projects serves as a more efficient option for stakeholders as the agile mindset is less prone to errors and segment re-runs because stakeholders are continuously involved.

Not all projects call for an agile planning mindset. Projects that require a strict sequence of requirements will not be conducive to the constant element of change that agile planning is conducive to.

A way to circumnavigate project format uncertainty can be creating a hybrid model of agile planning, with more traditional methods such as the waterfall method.

More traditional project methods such as waterfall can serve the establishment of project infrastructure well, whereas agile planning can serve the other half of the project in regard to configurations.

Additional Agile Planning Statistics

Below are some statistics published in 2017 on agile project planning for additional knowledge! (Source: https://blog.capterra.com/agile-project-management-statistics-for-2018/)

The evolution of artificial intelligence will foster the continuation and increase the efficiency of agile practices as Smarter With Gartner predicted by 2030, artificial intelligence will automate 80% of routine agile work.

Since the agile mindset relies more on team members as opposed to project managers, the average salary of an agile developer is roughly 26% higher sitting at around $100k a year.

Try Preceden Today for Free to Create a Timeline