Do Not Underestimate the Need of Planning in Agile

Do Not Underestimate the Need of Planning in Agile

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When Agile methodology came into practice, the first thing to be tossed out of the window was project planning. Project managers could not spare the required time when there were tight deadlines to meet and sprints to be completed. Planning stage itself went on for months under Waterfall, whereas Agile designates only a couple weeks to each sprint. In such a scenario, planning process took a back seat and slowly disappeared into the oblivion.

Managing several parallel sprints, continuous feedback loops, voluminous data without strategic planning takes a toll on the quality of end product. Lack of a documented planning creates immense ambiguity around a project’s objectives and leads to badly defined, overly-restrictive goals. It becomes problematic to handle a project’s scope, leading to failure in prevention of scope creep. A no-plan-only-action strategy and random prioritizing without using appropriate methodology blurs the lines around a project’s scope, resulting in missed deadlines, inability to meet the desired criteria, and subpar quality. To be concise, utter chaos ensues!

In order to be truly Agile, whether in terms of business processes or software development and testing practices, planning is critical for identifying the right controls to effectively manage and measure change. Planning in Agile is anything but redundant. All that the organizations need to do is change their approach and outlook. Instead of planning to succeed, Agile requires planning to fail – quick, fast, and often. This means, organizations need to eliminate pre-defined outlines and restrictive definitions. They should provide the room for mistakes, feedback, and rectifications by following an adaptive and flexible style in project planning.

Transcending the misconceptions around Agile planning

Contrary to popular belief, planning and Agile blend well together. Agile planning puts a clear picture of the project goals in minds of the entire team, so that they all can work in synergy to achieve a common objective. Absence of a plan leads to a lot of vagueness surrounding the project requirements and thus, decisions have to rely on assumptions rather than facts. Without a planned resource allocation, there is a chance that the team will quickly burn out.

Having a plan in place imparts organizations the ability to effectively deal with frequent changes and incorporate them in the next sprint. Meticulous planning enables project managers to distribute funds and resources wisely and implement the right framework and tools for ideally fulfilling the project necessities. Agile project planning empowers the sprint teams to well-coordinate with each other and deploy releases within the scheduled timeframe.

Looking at the bigger picture to plan small

Long-term goals in Agile may seem impractical due to frequent change in requirements, approaches, and strategies. However, having a rough layout of the upcoming release schedules help teams steer in the right direction at the right pace for the right purpose. Developing an overall product vision and a roadmap is critical for understanding the ground on which an organization is standing. It helps in determining the bumps and potholes in the way. Additionally, it is important to analyze where the ground is firm and where it might subside.

Documenting all these observations and expectations offer equips the Agile teams to set metrics and benchmarks, define project scope, chart the course of action, and stick to it as much as possible. A documented Agile plan also makes for a quick reference point to clear any confusion or ambiguity regarding the project goals. It lifts the cloud of uncertainty, enhances participation and commitment in the team members.

Sprint planning and review sessions offer end-to-end visibility and improve transparency of the entire process. By obliterating the restrictive goals, the Agile teams can explore the potential to bring in an innovative solution to reach the desired outcomes.

Think Agile, Think Integration.

Adoption of Agile requires change and process disruption at the organizational level – top-down and bottom-up. Going beyond the hierarchal boundaries, Agile planning requires inputs from the entire team including developers, testers, project managers, as well as project owners.

Active planning steers the success of Agile development processes and requires a comprehensive, collaborative, and continuous approach. With such an integrated Agile planning strategy, every sprint can result in practical, defect-sans, production-ready software within the expected schedule.

The GIST of Agile Planning

In his recent eBook on “Adding Agility to Project Planning”, Zach Brown provided an solution for incorporating velocity in planning for Agile enterprises. GIST – Goals, Ideas, Step-projects, and Tasks, is an efficient way around the complex, cumbersome, and tiring project planning processes. The GIST concept promotes collaboration among teams and offer a platform to share and discuss ideas. It propagates the adoption of rapid and continuous testing that allows disposal of useless ideas and pursual of viable ones.

  1. Goals: Set attainable goals without vague statements and pre-defined solutions
  2. Ideas: Capture all the ideas that are potential solutions from all the stakeholders. Prioritize them using data and evidence.
  3. Step-projects: To develop and test goal-oriented ideas to see which one is a viable solution or contributor to the overall goal. With each step, the idea is developed further or discarded based on success or failure.
  4. Tasks: Set task for each step-project to determine success or failure in its completion.

Test Planning in Agile

Planning for Agile software testing allows the QA teams to prioritize the high-risk requirements and provide the necessary attention at the time of testing. Not having a test plan in Agile hinders the testing and subsequently release of a quality product, defying the whole purpose of developing it.

Agile testing methodology takes a continuous and parallel approach, which makes advance planning and communication of goals more critical. By spending the time in planning, an Agile testing process becomes more efficient in terms of criteria-fulfillment and goal-achievement.

The importance of testing in Agile environment is indispensable and so is the criticality of planning for Agile test management. Cigniti has developed a matured and proven test approach that has the ability to seamlessly integrate with client’s agile development processes or hybrid development processes. This methodology ensures that testing is complementing development, helping in the early adoption of automation through Continuous Integration and implementation of testing techniques (TDD, BDD et al). The Agile testing approach not only helps achieving time to market but also reduces defect slippage. Connect with us today.