The concept of planning within the agile methodology has often been misunderstood. Due to the commonly known statement “We value responding to change over following a plan” most of teams starting agile think that they will no longer need to plan for the future. Contrary to this popular opinion, planning plays just as big of a part in agile as it does in any other project management approach it is simply a little different.
In its essence agile is built to cater the environments with constantly changing requirements and goals. Which means that the traditional planning model, of just setting something in motion at the beginning of the project, is no longer viable. Instead, the planning needs to cater to the changing circumstances and help the team navigate them in the best possible way. To achieve this, the agile planning is organized in different scopes, where each of them are equally important and carry value towards the end goal.
First comes the product vision. This is the largest scope of the project planning and is usually handled by the management. They have to define what the project is all about, what is it they are trying to achieve and for which purpose. While this may seem perfectly clear for the top management, without communicating such information to the people involved in a simple and concise way, the project may run off the desired course very quickly. Therefore to have a clear product vision is essential to any agile team.
Second – a product road map. The next largest scope of agile planning, helps to clarify which steps need to be taken to achieve the defined product vision. Simply put, the product roadmap is made up out of all the features that are required out of the finished project. Based on their importance and priority they are put in a specific order and represent how the product will be built. This planning scope is particularly important for products that span over a longer period of time and have multiple releases.
Similar to the product road map, the next scope of planning is all about the release plan which defines how many releases the product will have. The release plan is not focused on features or dates, but ties directly with the scope of work to be completed. This planning step is important as it gives the teams more incentive to finish a specific product version, ensures the management of the progress and allows for larger fund and effort allocation.
After defining the vision, roadmap and the release plan for the project, the agile planning turns back to the teams completing the work. The next planning scope is on them, with a commonly known sprint planning. Contrary to the previous planning scopes, this is done more frequently and directly relates to the day to day tasks of each employee. With that, it is also a more flexible planning event that (within the allocated borders) allows the team to react to any changes in requirements and circumstances and move forward to the project completion.
The fifth and the absolute smallest scope of agile planning is the daily standup. While some may see it just as an update, this is a planning event as well, defining the goals for the next day. This small planning event helps to ensure that the sprint plan is being executed well and that the team is not forgetting the overall vision of the product.
The planning of agile projects is different from the traditional waterfall planning we are used to having. Just like the methodology it is designed for change and for frequent updates. The different scopes of this planning approach ensures the team has clear goals set for the overall project and can easily plan their day to day work.