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What is Agile Planning: Step by Step Guide

19th Feb, 2024
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    What is Agile Planning: Step by Step Guide

    Agile has significantly improved how businesses operate. According to McKinsey and Co. research, the advantages of Agile methodologies are indisputable. Agile organizations have reported notable improvements compared to non-Agile teams, with 93% indicating enhanced customer satisfaction, 76% experiencing improved employee engagement, and 93% reporting superior operational performance. 

    However, despite the undeniable benefits, many companies still grapple with implementing the Agile approach for optimum results. So, based on my extensive experience using the approach, I have curated this blog to help businesses, leaders, and teams understand and implement Agile planning in their workflows.

    What is Agile Planning?

    Agile planning is a project management method that is done step-by-step and progressively. Instead of beginning with a detailed plan that is typically product-related, Agile allows for required changes throughout the project and relies on regular feedback from end customers. 

    Agile planning's ultimate goal is to have a clear image of the project vision, production roadmap with agility schedule, and business interests. The following planning characteristics should be mentioned to understand what the agile planning process entails fully:

    • The first step is the release. It is something the Agile team works on. 
    • The release plan is divided into sprints, each specifying a specific set of tasks to be accomplished. 
    • Such tasks are known as user stories. 
    • You then create a plan based on these user stories describing the end-user's requirements.  
    • The team then collaborates to identify the best approach to address these user stories.

    The sprint is the foundation of Agile planning. All the Agile sprints have the same duration and are repeated until a working feature gets rolled out for the end user. Because of the iterative nature of a sprint, a group will be able to determine effectively how long user stories will take over time.

    Six phases of Agile planning

    The six phases of Agile planning provide a structured approach to guide teams through development. 

    Vision (Strategy and Portfolio) 

    This initial phase involves defining a strategic direction for the project. The Strategy step outlines the overall plan, while the Portfolio aligns projects with organizational goals. It involves creating a clear and inspiring vision statement that outlines the desired future state of the organization. Vision planning sets the direction and purpose, guiding decision-making and actions throughout the company. It typically answers the question: "Where do we want to be in the future, and what do we want to achieve?" 

    Key Steps in Vision Planning. 

    • Conduct a SWOT analysis to identify areas for improvement before creating a vision. Vision planning involves key stakeholders for diverse perspectives and a comprehensive vision. 

    • Develop a concise, ambitious, and realistic vision statement serving as a guide for decisions. 

    Once the vision is established, the next steps involve developing strategies and managing portfolios to achieve the envisioned future. This process is integral to turning the abstract vision into actionable plans. 

    Strategy Development 

    • Alignment with Vision- Strategies should align closely with the vision, ensuring that each strategic initiative contributes to the realization of the long-term goals. 

    • SWOT Analysis- A detailed SWOT analysis informs the development of strategies by identifying internal strengths to leverage, weaknesses to address, opportunities to pursue, and threats to mitigate. 

    Portfolio Management 

    • Project Prioritization- Organizations often have numerous projects and initiatives. Portfolio management involves prioritizing projects based on their alignment with the vision, potential impact, and available resources. 

    • Risk Management- A well-managed portfolio considers risk factors and incorporates mitigation strategies to ensure the successful execution of initiatives.


    The roadmap phase follows the vision, creating a high-level plan that outlines significant milestones and deliverables over time. It acts as a strategic guide, helping teams navigate from conceptualization to implementation by highlighting critical stages of development. 

    Developing a product roadmap involves four logical steps. 

    • Identifying the requirements for your agile product. 

    • Organizing agile product features into thematic groups. 

    • Estimating and prioritizing the features of the agile product. 

    • Establishing high-level timeframes for agile development. 


    Release Planning 

    Once the roadmap is in place, teams move to Release Planning, focusing on specific features and functionalities for an upcoming release. Prioritization and scheduling ensure that the most valuable features are delivered in each release cycle, aligning with overall project goals. 

    Iteration Planning 

    Agile projects are organized into iterations or sprints. During the Iteration Agile Planning phase, the development team breaks release features into smaller tasks, assigns responsibilities, and sets goals for the upcoming iteration. This detailed planning ensures incremental progress. 

    Daily Planning 

    Daily Planning occurs at the start of each day during an iteration. Team members collaborate to review progress, discuss any challenges or impediments, and plan their daily tasks. This daily synchronization fosters communication, adaptability, and alignment within the team. 

    Utilizing an Agile project management tool for automated daily Stand-ups streamlines the team's reporting process. Members answer three pivotal questions. 

    • What tasks were tackled today? 

    • What is planned for tomorrow? 

    • Are there any obstacles hindering progress? 

    This efficient approach fosters clear communication and ensures the team stays well-informed about daily accomplishments and challenges. 

    Collectively, these phases contribute to Agile's iterative and adaptive nature, allowing teams to respond effectively to changing requirements and deliver value incrementally throughout the development process. To hold a grasp of these components, go for Agile certification

    What are the Essential Agile Components?

    1. User Stories

    A user story is merely high-level terminology for work requests. It comprises plenty of details for the team to generate a realistic time frame to complete the job. This brief, straightforward description is crafted from the customer’s perspective and stresses what the client is asking for (their objectives) and why.

    2. Sprints

    Sprints are short iterations of one to three weeks in which teams work on activities determined at the sprint planning session. As you progress, the goal is to keep repeating these sprints until your product is feature-complete. After the sprint, you’re responsible for checking and seeing what is and isn't working, fabricating changes, and starting different sprints to improve the product. 

    3. Stand-up Meetings

    Daily stand-up meetings, also called "daily Scrum meetings," are an excellent way to keep everyone on track and notified. These daily communications are known as "stand up" meetings because attendees must remain to stand, which helps keep meetings brief and to the point.

    4. Agile Board

    An Agile board keeps your team updated on the status of your project. A whiteboard with sticky notes or a basic Kanban board can serve this purpose.

    5. Backlog

    When project requests are added via your intake system, they become outstanding stories in your backlog. Your team will assign story points to each task through Agile planning sessions. Stories from the backlog are moved into the sprint for completion. In an Agile environment, project managers must manage their backlog.

    Step-by-Step Guide to Agile Planning Process

    Agile project management strives for faster development cycles and more frequent product releases than the waterfall method for project management. Small time frames enable project teams to respond more effectively to customers’ requirements. 

    As previously stated, you can use a variety of Agile frameworks, the most common of which are Scrum and Kanban. However, every Agile planning follows a similar basic process, including the following steps:

    1. Project Planning

    Before beginning projects, your group must know the ultimate result, the value to the organization or client, and the process to accomplish the same. 

    An individual can develop project scopes here, but it should never be ignored that the motive of using Agile project planning is to mandate quick resolutions of amendment of the project, so the project scope should not be deemed unchangeable.

    2. Product Roadmap Creation

    Individuals must document their workflows visually for team accountability, better understandability, and to recognize and eliminate constraints.

    3. Release Planning

    Conventional waterfall management includes only one deadline given when a complete project gets developed. However, Agile allows your project to have many small development cycles (known as sprints) with features produced at the end of every cycle.

    Develop a high-level plan for feature releases before releasing the project, which should be revised and (if needed) before every sprint.

    4. Sprint Planning

    Before each sprint starts, stakeholders must retain a sprint planning session to establish what each person will work on during that sprint, how it will be achieved, and assess the task load. The workload should be allocated evenly among the team members for better results.

    You will also have to visually document your workflow to ensure team transparency and shared understanding and identify and remove bottlenecks.

    5. Daily Stand-Up

    Conduct daily meetings to assist your team in completing their work before the sprint ends and discuss any possible modifications. During these meetings, each team member will give a brief overview of what they completed the previous day and what they plan to work on the following day. 

    To keep these meetings brief, some teams will hold them standing up. These daily stand-ups shouldn’t last longer than 15 minutes. They are not intended to be lengthy problem-solving conferences.

    6. Sprint Review and Retrospection

    Following the completion of each sprint, one’s team will conduct two meet-ups: the first will be a sprint review, including project participants, to show them the result. A face-to-face or video meeting will enable both parties to establish a rapport and discuss potential product issues. This is an essential part of maintaining open communication with stakeholders. 

    Second, you will hold a sprint observational meeting, including the stakeholders, to talk about everything that happened during the sprint, what can be changed, and what was accomplished. 

    You shouldn't ignore this significant meeting if you are unfamiliar with Agile project management. Using it, you can determine the most effective sprint length for the next projects and the total task a team can cover in each sprint.

    Agile Planning Template

    The agile planning template makes the deliverable and its review more predictable. Moreover, it serves as a container for the outcomes of your sprint plan meetup. The team gets a sense of the bigger picture: they may discuss any new developments that may affect the sprint, and the time frame, verify team's potential, and whatnot.

    1. Agile Kanban Boards

    Agile sprint planning begins in the Kanban board view. While scrum teams are likely to prefer the board view, others on your project team may prefer a more traditional sprint planning and tracking approach.

    2. Developers' Task Lists

    The development team may prefer another project view, such as a list view. All their work is visible to them in one place, including the priority and proportion of the task completed. They can even make their to-do list to effectively manage the work assigned to them in the agile sprint plan.

    3. Gantt Charts for Tracking Improvement

    The stakeholders often prefer to see the Gantt chart. In addition to showing who sprints are often used with waterfall and other traditional methodologies. You can add columns on the Gantt timeline or switch to a sheet view.

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    Best Practices in Agile Project Planning

    Below are the best tips to consider in Agile planning. 

    • Prioritize user stories based on customer value, ensuring the most critical features are addressed early in the project. 

    • Embrace continuous planning agile, breaking the project into short cycles to allow for continuous adaptation to changing requirements. 

    • Encourage collaboration among cross-functional teams, fostering open communication and shared understanding of project goals. 

    • Conduct regular retrospectives to reflect on the team's performance, identify areas for improvement, and implement changes for future iterations. 

    • Seek and incorporate feedback from stakeholders and end-users throughout the development process to ensure alignment with expectations. 

    • Use visual tools like Kanban boards and Gantt charts to provide a clear and transparent overview of project progress and priorities. 

    • Establish a clear definition of what is done for each user story or task, ensuring a shared understanding of what constitutes completion. 

    • Foster a continuous learning and adaptation culture, encouraging teams to learn from successes and challenges. 

    • Embrace change and be adaptable to evolving requirements, understanding that flexibility is a core principle of Agile methodologies. 


    In wrapping up, I firmly believe that Agile planning acts as a dynamic compass, skillfully guiding us through the intricate terrain of project management. With its invaluable step-by-step guide and template, we equip our teams with a structured approach that fosters adaptability, collaboration, and a relentless pursuit of continuous improvement. Emphasizing iterative development cycles, clear communication, and a keen responsiveness to change, Agile planning emerges as a robust methodology, proving indispensable for achieving project success in today's fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape. 

    The guide and template shared here aren't just theoretical concepts; they're practical insights that empower us to proactively tackle challenges. They enable our teams to deliver value incrementally, ensuring resilience in the face of evolving project requirements. 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. What are the 5 levels of agile planning?

    Originally described by Hubert Smits in his whitepaper, the following are the five levels of agile planning: 

    • Vision 
    • Roadmap 
    • Release 
    • Iteration 
    • Daily Stand Up

    2. Why is agile planning important?

    A key benefit of agile planning is that it provides insight into risks built into the project. As soon as the team comprehends the potential risks, it is easy to eliminate and prevent them.

    3. What is the Agile lifecycle model?

    As a product moves from beginning to end, it goes through a structured series of stages called the agile software development life cycle. The six stages are concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement. 


    Simran Kaur Arora

    Trainer & Consultant

    Experienced Senior Content Developer with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. Enthusiastic and dedicated person in the field of Computer Science. Skilled at my work area and believe in working with passion and work ethics. Have a good understanding of programming languages, operating systems, and databases. I have good communication skills and interested in staying updated with technology and learning new things.

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