Organizing tasks to meet strategic objectives and long-term goals is one of the many things a company has to go through. Failure to come up with better plans may result in massive losses, a tarnished reputation and, in worst scenarios, the collapse of a company.
But while project planning is a tough job, you can always look for solutions in the IT sector. So it humbly presents Agile, a relatively well-equipped planning methodology with unlimited capabilities.
Research shows that at least 7 out of 10 best-performing companies have adopted the methodology. A whopping 60% of those who use it have recorded an increase in profit. That is an admirable figure, and, on that note, let us dive into Agile planning, define some terms, break down how it works and finally give you a couple of its benefits.
What Is Agile planning?
Agile is a management technique that helps teams working on certain projects deliver results with few hurdles. Instead of relying on a one-time meteoritical launch, teams break down a project into material and digestible bits “increments” that add value to a customer. Adaptive planning, swift response, problem understanding, and early delivery are among the many things teams work on along the way.
At the core of Agile Planning is timeliness, i.e., delivering a project within a required time frame or “Sprint”. And to achieve that, the methodology focuses on two key aspects; Releases and Sprints.
What is a release?
In the course of a project, developers work on a specific goal, known as a release. A release can be a fully or partially completed work phase. However, not all partially completed phases do not qualify as releases.
A segment qualifies as a release when substantial updates are made. In better terms, a release is, therefore, a completed phase of a product that can be presented to customers to show how you are faring with the project. Also, it can be used to imply substantial updates on an already completed project.
Release and Sprints have a direct relationship. To understand how you can use them hand in hand, let us define the latter.
What is a sprint?
A Sprint is a set of activities that work with cross-functional teams and involves planning, designing, analysis, testing, and delivery. It is at the heart of Agile methodology, and getting it right will help you iron out future problems.
Normally developers allocate a maximum of one-month time frame to each sprint to create a product of the highest value and a minimum of one week. Completed projects are then reviewed by the entire team, who review the progress concerning objectives. Before moving on to the next sprint, teams will discuss the previous sprint’s challenges. This is often called a retrospective.
Addressing challenges is crucial to ensure you are at par with customer desires and needs…
Also known as iterations, several sprints form a release.
Breaking down work
To further your understanding of this futuristic management strategy, here are more things you should understand.
What is a task?
Every project has its principles, baselines, and, of course, objectives that teams will act upon. If you break down teams farther, you will remain with individual developers who work on a specific task.
A task typically means something like testing data or validating assumptions. Depending on the complexities of a task, members may pair up within a team to gang up on a task(s) to complete it within the shortest possible time, probably within a day.
To reduce the risks of mishaps, your tasks should be SMART.
S - Specific
You will be successful when your task requirements are clear and understandable. This prevents tasks from overlapping and blurring goals.
Measurable tasks provide answers to the question, “what should I do and for how long?”
A - Achievable
Though you should strive to provide the best, allocate tasks according to the abilities and the capacity of your members. You should also leave an open channel for help to pass through.
R - Relevant
Every task must meet the least requirements of a project.
T - Timely
It is possible not to adhere to a certain timetable and stick to it for the rest of the project. Therefore, tasks should at least have a formal estimation of when you are expected to complete them.
What is an objective?
When you want to achieve something, you should come up with goals based on predictable outcomes. In Agile projects, these goals are known as objectives. They clearly describe the intentions and functionality of a system.
When setting objectives, they should be memorable and qualitatively describe what you want to achieve at the end. Most importantly, agile objectives must be a source of inspiration to teams and pose challenges as well. Remember to keep them simple and precise to reduce outcome discrepancies.
What is a story?
Usually, before you start a project, you must consult all parties involved, including and most importantly your end-users. This is very important to ensure every area is covered and reduce the need for unnecessary and frequent updates.
Users craft their needs in the form of a narrative known as a story. A story details user requirements for teams to work on in a sprint.
A large project can contain several stories, provided user needs differ at each stage of production, or there is a shift in customer needs.
What is an epic?
When various stories accumulate together, they form an epic. Therefore, an epic is a larger piece of work that takes longer to complete. But, it will be broken down into stories and tasks.
Epics not only share a high-level unified view on a project but also helps in organizing work into a hierarchy whose objective is to develop shippable projects regularly.
What is an initiative?
To achieve a bigger goal, you must come up with several big goals. The bigger goal, in this case, is an initiative, while big goals are epics. So, a collection of epics makes an initiative.
An organization working on the same objective will collect epics from different teams and compile them to form an initiative. This process may take months or even a year.
Well, structured initiatives are potent symbols of a company headed to a global goal. With the help of various epics and initiatives, Agile teams can realize what is needed to achieve a high-level goal.
Benefits of Agile planning
Barely two decades since it made a triumphant entry, Agile planning has evolved to be one of the most critical management tools. Here are some of its benefits.
- Improves Quality of the Final Product
Agile planning incorporates clients’ involvement and testing in various phases of a project which improves the overall quality of the final product. Since also Agile is a long-term learning process, teams can adopt new strategies to keep up with dynamic market demands. This encourages growth and continuous improvement.
- Increases Customer Satisfaction
As teams collaboratively work with customers during all stages of production, they meet their demands and ensure the final product is genuinely according to their expectations.
Another advantage is the time it takes a product to go to the market reduces significantly. This allows a customer to capitalize on the proverbial saying, “the early bird catches the worm,” and rake in profit on fresh demand.
- Improves control over a project
The most important aspect of Agile is breaking down a project into different bits of tasks. Managers can quickly take control of each task from the early stages. Then, as the project matures, you can trace improvements and control outcomes to your advantage.
Alternatively, managers achieve control by the daily reporting of happenings which helps them locate a troubled area. Later on, a manager may implement policies that will mitigate the problem, thereby taking back the control of a project.
- Reduces risks
Theoretically, Agile planning covers all areas of a project to minimize the possibility of risks. Furthermore, it works with sprints and tasks, so the teams can focus on others to evade the risk if one task fails. And apply learnings to get back on track.
In a nutshell
Agile project management sets the table for increased productivity. For example, breaking down a project into digestible bits allows delivery of a project within the required time frame. Therefore, this fast delivery creates value since customers are satisfied, reduces risk, and increases return on investment.
There are several Agile frameworks. They include Scrum, Crystal, XP, Bimodal, Lean, Hybrid, and Kanban. These frameworks are bound to work in tandem to improve your project work experience. Therefore once you understand these methodologies, it becomes easier to organize an Agile project.
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