Understanding Agile Planning and How it Can Help You

Agile planning is all about understanding how long it’s going to take to perform a specific task and to execute an overall project. In order to do this, it takes a project and breaks it down into sprints that represent a total of approximately 1-3 weeks’ worth of work. Each aspect of the agile planning process looks at a sprint and determines the specific tasks and necessities to create that sprint. From there, it creates an overall process that can be repeated again and again to achieve similar success in the future. But what does that mean for your business and your success?
Understanding Agile Planning and How it Can Help You

Does it Work?

With approximately 71% of organizations using this method it definitely seems to be doing something and more than that, it seems to be showing immense success because projects that use it get to the market faster 90% of the time. That’s definitely a good reason to be more closely considering it and adding it to your business as well. But not everyone understands agile marketing or just how it could be making a difference in your business. The numbers sound great, but how does it really all happen?

The Vocab You Need

Let’s take a quick look at some of the vocab you might need to know more about before we dive into what agile planning is and how you can actually use it within your system. You’ll want to know what these words mean because we’re going to use them throughout the rest of this guide. If you get stuck or you forget what we’re talking about you can take a look back up here and see what each of these words means.

Agile Planning – Process of understanding how quickly a specific team can create finished products as a result of user stories that are received by the team.

User Stories – The problems that users are experiencing and need to have resolved so that they can achieve the success they want.
Master Story List – The to-do list on an agile planning project that explains everything that needs to be completed.
Story Point – Number given to the complexity of the process involved in creating a user story and resolving the story itself.

The Components of an Agile Plan

The first thing we’re going to talk about is what actually makes up agile planning. It’s actually broken down into only four aspects, which makes it a lot easier to look at, evaluate and fully understand. After all, it’s going to be all about making things simpler in your business. A plan that is too complex or that actually makes things harder is not going to get implemented and if it is, your employees are definitely not going to want any part of it.

1. It’s Broken Into Sprints

First, an agile plan is broken into smaller sections that are called sprints. Each of these sprints is representative of a length of time, not a specific number of tasks. This means, as long as the tasks can be done within the 1-3 work time period, there can be any number of tasks in a single sprint. The tasks, also called user stories, within the sprint, however, need to be identified and decided upon at the time that the sprint is created. They can’t be added after the fact or moved around to make things easier as the team moves along.

2. User Stories Create the Plan

Those user stories, which are the tasks within the sprint, focus on the needs of the customer or end-user who will be using the product when it’s completed. The idea is to focus on the user themselves and to figure out how to create what is needed in order for that user to get the end result they need. The only documentation needs to be around what that need is and how to achieve the need. Throughout the entirety of a sprint, the entire group is looking for a way to make sure that the need is met and that it’s done comprehensively and effectively.

3. The Process is Completely Iterative

Essentially, a sprint in agile planning should be something that can be repeated over and over again. That means it’s really only created a single time and from there the team can continue to execute the same process. This isn’t the same as necessarily creating a project. Rather, the iteration and the sprint refer to a process of getting to the end result or forming a conclusion. The iteration process allows the entire team to learn more about what they can accomplish and just how they can accomplish it as well as determining and resolving problems along the way.

4. It’s All About the Team

Agile Planning Process

The team is overall responsible for planning out everything and for estimating how to get everything done and when. They don’t have someone else overseeing their process or overscheduling what they are trying to do. Rather, the team is able to make sure that the plan that they are creating is going to work for them and then they can assign story points and create a comprehensive system that is designed to work for the user story and improve the situation. 

How it All Works – The Release Planning Process

In order to utilize agile planning, it’s important to have a proper plan in place. The actual process of using this method can be a little involved for some and that’s where gantt charts come in handy. This program allows for progress tracking on anything and everything that the team is working on. Whether they’re just getting started on a project or they’ve been working on it for a long time, this system allows for workload management, baseline tracking and a whole lot more. But it means looking at each of the steps we’re going to mention below as well, which are all a part of the release planning life cycle.The release planning process is based on items that are going to be developed within the sprint. In this process, it’s important to create an overarching vision that is going to guide the rest of the project and make sure that everything is being executed at the right level to achieve the goals that the client has for the project. The idea here is to create a timetable that will focus on the iterations necessary so that it can be determined when delivery will be possible. It doesn’t have to be a complex process, but it does need to evaluate things like:

  • Is the product owner going to be available?
  • Has the backlog been prioritized by the product owner?
  • Have team members and stakeholders been identified?
  • Are team members available and within the right zone?

In order to execute the release planning process there are a series of steps that need to be followed:

  • Figure out what the features are in order to achieve the end goal.
  • Figure out the details that each of the features are going to require to be successful.
  • Recognize how much effort each team is capable of executing toward the sprint.
  • Understand what exactly the stories are within the process.
  • Figure out the iteration within the plan.
  • Determine the stories relative to the iteration within the plan.
  • Account for all stories with iterations or remove user stories to get a one-to-one ratio.
  • Utilize a system to provide the plan to others and to get the idea out to every member.

How it All Works – The Sprint Planning Process

  • The first step is to conduct a meeting where any previous sprints are discussed so that all members of the team understand what was learned and what can be done to make this process even easier.
  • Next, a planning meeting should be used to figure out what the final plan is and to make sure that all information is up to date. This should include any priorities that exist as well as any features that need to be added in.
  • User stories need to be evaluated next to make sure that each of them has enough detail that something can be done to work on them and something can be done to make sure that they are fully resolved.
  • Each of the user stories should then be fully broken down so that tasks can be determined and each of those tasks can be assigned to different members of the team that is going to be working on the sprints.
  • This is where the tasks should be assigned and it should be done in a way that each person who is assigned a task will have no problem actually accomplishing that task within the timeline that they have been given.
  • For some, writing out the tasks in a physical way makes it easier to keep track of who is doing what and to see what stages need to be followed in order to get to the end result that everyone is looking for.
  • It’s always a good idea to use a planning system like Instagantt to keep track of who’s doing what and whether they’ve accomplished all or some of the projects that they need to. It’s all about paying attention to the stages and Instagantt is all about doing just that.
  • Time tracking through Instagantt also allows for velocity tracking and makes sure that management and other leadership can see exactly how well the project is going and if everything is going to be completed on schedule.
Understanding Agile Planning

Measuring Team Performance

When it comes to measuring the performance of the team within the project it’s important to look more closely at some specific aspects. Here we’re going to talk about the functionality as well as things like the burn rate. Each of these aspects allows the team to better understand what went well as well as what areas could use additional help and support in the future. By utilizing this process it’s possible to prepare a team for future agile planning processes and to ensure that sprints are being used effectively and that they are developed to the best possible standard.

Burn Rate – This is where the team evaluates just how much money was spent as well as how quickly it was spent. Costs are definitely going to be an important part of the process and those involved need to be able to explain what they spent on and why so it can be determined if the investment was worth the potential return.
Delivered Functionality – There are different ways to evaluate the overall deliverables that come about as a result of this process, however primarily it happens by 1) measuring velocity, or the number of user stories that were improved through the iteration; 2) measuring defects, or the number of bugs that were discovered through the process of development; or 3) measuring the burndown chart, or the amount of work that will still need to be done in order to be finished with the project.

What it Takes to Make it Work
Overall, it’s essential that everyone who is working on the agile planning process be a part of a team. Everyone can be assigned to work together but if they aren’t actually doing it then the process is never going to be successful. Each member of the team needs to recognize that they are all important and that only through everyone executing their tasks can the project ever be a success. Each member is a vital part of the process and each person also has a very important task (or several tasks) within the sprint that needs to be completed.
When the team is able to collaborate and explain or express themselves to one another in a positive and effective way it is better possible for the whole unit to achieve the end goal. If parts of the team are secretive or don’t want to open up to the rest of the group it can undermine the level of success and it can dramatically decrease the capabilities of the company as a whole. By working together, understanding the teamwork process and efficiently communicating each person in the team will grow and the end result will be even better in the long run.
In order to truly exercise the collaboration and communication necessary it is also essential to host consistent meetings that allow each member of the team to interact and to voice their thoughts, concerns, and comments throughout the process. In fact, the best way to go about this is to make sure that meetings are happening each day, whether these are short and informal meetings or longer and more extensive meetings. The point is simply that everyone needs to have an opportunity to get together and to communicate about the process and everything that’s happening.

Understanding Agile Planning

Daily Meetups

These daily meetings should take the form of a short meeting unless there is a major issue or concern that needs to be addressed. One way to be sure this happens is to host standup meetings, where there are no chairs and every individual does just that, stands up. This encourages the idea of a short meeting since no one wants to remain standing for an extended period of time. In fact, there should be a time limit so that the meeting itself doesn’t take any longer than 15 minutes. This should be enough time for each member of the team to speak as long as they are keeping it short and simple.
With this meeting, each member of the team is still required to speak, however. This means that everyone needs to get a turn and everyone else needs to listen while that person is speaking. The topic of conversation should be what was done the day before as well as what is going to be done during that day. Each member may also want to discuss what they need in order to achieve their next goal. The key is to keep the statements short so that they get to the point. There’s no making excuses or backing off on a goal or task. It’s just about the facts.
The idea is to determine what still needs to be done and just how long it’s going to take to execute the task. From there, each member of the team can determine how long it’s going to take for them to execute their next task. Objectives should be set and each member of the team should be held to the specific deadlines that they are setting for themselves. If there are any problems along the way the scrum master is the one in charge or resolving those problems or finding out what is needed to resolve those problems.

The Reason You Need Instagantt

For those who are considering a task management system but who don’t quite know where they should start or what they should do, Instagantt provides a host of different services and capabilities, which make it a great choice. With this system, you’re going to have all of the features that you need in order to get your projects up off the ground and make sure that they’re running smoothly within the team.

Understanding Agile Planning
  • Drag and drop your dates, lengths, and dependencies to make the entire chart/schedule creation process extremely user-friendly.
  • Use the scheduling features to build out the ideal timeline using milestones, dependencies and even start & due dates.
  • Create both overarching tasks and subtasks to make sure that every aspect of the project is planned out and organized.
  • Track the progress of every task as well as every subtask and even create estimates for hours and costs or risk and priority.
  • Manage the workload for the entire team by locating critical time periods and providing each member of the team with an identifiable task list.
  • Utilize as many baselines as you want in order to track all of the changes to the schedule as well as any delays that may occur.
  • Collaborate with everyone involved in the process from the team creating it to the clients who are looking to get answers and feedback.

The key features of Instagantt (gantt chart maker) are designed to make sure that everyone using it can do so easily and effectively. There is no steep learning curve as with some tracking systems and instead, it’s super simple to import everything that you need to keep track of and then start in. It’s also easy for anyone within the team to control their own aspect of the gantt chart software and to make sure that their work and tasks are being updated frequently with the completion level. The overall idea is simply to make planning and project management an easier task than ever before.

When it comes down to it, agile planning can be an extremely efficient and effective way for any company to execute a new process and to put something new into action. By utilizing the right tools for the job, including Instagantt to keep track of the processes and the tasks being completed, it’s possible for the company likewise to ensure that everyone knows what they are doing and pulls their own weight. It’s possible to achieve success for all user stories, but it requires communication and teamwork at every stage of the process.

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