Agile Project Management For Dummies, 3rd Edition
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Agile project management is becoming agile product development. Products are considered long-term, value-creating assets requiring permanent teams who interactively elaborate, design, develop, test, integrate, document, and even support products until business outcomes are achieved.

Agile product development focuses on continuous improvement, scope flexibility, team input, and delivering essential valuable outcomes. Agile development approaches include scrum as a framework for exposing progress, extreme programming (XP) for building in quality upfront, and lean thinking to eliminate waste. These and many other tools and techniques help organizations, teams, and individuals adhere to the Agile Manifesto and the 12 Agile Principles, which focus on small, long-lived, self-organizing teams, effective communications, continuously releasable product, and flexibility.

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Manifesto for Agile Software Development

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development, commonly known as the Agile Manifesto, is an intentionally streamlined expression of the core values of agile project management and product development. Use this manifesto as a guide to implement agile practices into your products.

“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work, we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

©Agile Manifesto Copyright 2001: Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie van Bennekum, Alistair Cockburn, Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, James Grenning, Jim Highsmith, Andrew Hunt, Ron Jeffries, Jon Kern, Brian Marick, Robert C. Martin, Steve Mellor, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, Dave Thomas.

This declaration may be freely copied in any form, but only in its entirety through this notice.

12 Agile Principles

The principles behind the Agile Manifesto, commonly referred to as the 12 Agile Principles, are a set of guiding concepts that support product teams in implementing agile product development and project management techniques. Use these principles as a litmus test to determine whether or not you’re being agile in your product work and thinking:

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

The Platinum Edge Roadmap to Value

The Roadmap to Value, shown in the following figure, is a high-level view of an agile product development cycle.

The Roadmap to Value.
The Roadmap to Value.

Following is a description of the stages of the Roadmap to Value:

  • In stage 1, the product owner identifies the product vision. The product vision is your product’s destination or end goal. The product vision includes the outer boundary of what your product will be, how the product is different than the competition, how the product will support your company or organization’s strategy, who will use the product, and why people will use the product. On longer development efforts, revisit the product vision at least once a year.
  • In stage 2, the product owner creates a product roadmap. The product roadmap is a high-level view of the product requirements, with a general time frame for when you will develop those requirements. It also gives context to the vision by showing the tangible features that will be produced during development. Identifying product requirements and then prioritizing and roughly estimating the effort for those requirements allow you to establish requirement themes and identify requirement gaps. The product owner, with support from the development team and stakeholders, should revise the product roadmap at least semiannually.
  • In stage 3, the product owner creates a release plan. The release plan identifies a high-level timetable for the release of working functionality to the customer. The release serves as a mid-term boundary against which the scrum team can mobilize. A product developed using agile techniques will have many releases, with the highest-priority features appearing first. You create a release plan at the beginning of each release, which are usually at least quarterly. Releases can also happen more frequently. Some organizations release multiple times every day.
  • In stage 4, the product owner, the development team, and the scrum master will plan iterations, also called sprints, and start creating the product functionality in those sprints. Sprint planning sessions take place at the start of each sprint. During sprint planning, the scrum team determines a sprint goal, which establishes the immediate boundary of work that the team forecasts to accomplish during the sprint, with requirements that support the goal and can be completed in the sprint. The scrum team also outlines how to complete those requirements.
  • In stage 5, the development team has daily scrum meetings during each sprint to coordinate the day’s priorities. In the daily scrum meeting, you discuss what you completed yesterday that will impact the work to be done today, what you will work on today, and any roadblocks you have, so that you can address issues immediately.
  • In stage 6, the scrum team holds a sprint review at the end of every sprint. In the sprint review, you demonstrate the working functionality to the product stakeholders.
  • In stage 7, the scrum team holds a sprint retrospective. The sprint retrospective is a meeting where the scrum team discusses the completed sprint with regard to their processes and environment, and makes plans for process improvements in the next sprint. Like the sprint review for inspecting and adapting the product, a sprint retrospective is held at the end of every sprint to inspect and adapt the team’s processes and environment.

Agile Product Development Roles

It takes a cooperative and collaborative team of people to successfully develop a product. Agile product teams are made up of many people and include the following five roles:

  • Product owner: The person responsible for bridging the gap between the customer, business stakeholders, and the development team, facilitating collaboration between all three roles. The product owner is an expert on the product and the customer’s needs and priorities. The product owner works with the development team daily to help clarify requirements and shields them from business prioritization noise. The product owner, above all, should be empowered to be decisive, making tough business decisions every day.
  • Development team members: The people who create the product. Developers, programmers, analysts, testers, designers, writers, engineers, editors, and anyone else with a hands-on role in creating the product are development team members. Development team members are cross-functional and have multiple skills they contribute to the product development work. Most importantly, development team members are versatile, able to contribute in multiple ways to the product’s goals.
  • Scrum master: The person responsible for supporting the development team, clearing organizational roadblocks, and helping the team and the organization embrace and enable agile values and principles in their practices and processes. Scrum masters are servant leaders, and are most effective when they have organizational clout, which is the ability to influence change in the organization without formal authority.
  • Stakeholders: Anyone with an interest in the product. Stakeholders are not ultimately responsible for the product, but they provide input and are affected by the product’s outcome. The group of stakeholders is diverse and can include people from different departments, or even different companies. For product development efforts to succeed, stakeholders must be involved, providing regular feedback and support to the development team and product owner. This role is outside the scrum team, but we explicitly acknowledge the role’s involvement to improve scrum team success.
  • Agile mentor or coach: Someone who has experience implementing agile product development techniques and can share that experience with an organization. The agile mentor can provide valuable feedback and advice to new teams and to teams that want to perform at a higher level. Although agile mentors are not responsible for executing product development, they should be experienced in applying agile principles in reality and be knowledgeable about many agile approaches and techniques. This role is outside the scrum team, but we explicitly acknowledge the role’s involvement to help improve team success.

Agile Product Development Artifacts

Product development progress needs to be transparent and measurable. Agile product development teams often use six main artifacts to enable transparency, inspection and adaptation, as listed here:

  • Product vision statement: An inspirational elevator pitch, or a quick summary, to communicate what your product will be and how your product supports the company’s or organization’s strategies. The vision statement must articulate the goals for the product. This artifact is outside of scrum but improves scrum team success.
  • Product roadmap: The product roadmap is a high-level initial view of the product backlog needed to achieve the product vision. It also enables a scrum team to outline a general timeframe for when you will develop and release those requirements. The product roadmap is a first cut and high-level view of the product backlog that identifies gaps and feature affinities, enabling funding committee decision-making with a reasonably complete picture. This artifact is outside of scrum but improves scrum team success.
  • Product backlog: The product’s to-do list — a full list of what is in the scope for your product, ordered by priority. After you have your first requirement, you have a product backlog.
  • Release plan: A high-level timetable of the next set of functionality for release to the customer. This artifact is outside of scrum but improves scrum team success.
  • Sprint backlog: The goal, user stories, and tasks associated with the current sprint.
  • Increment: The working product functionality, demonstrated to stakeholders at the end of the sprint, which is potentially shippable to the customer.

Agile Product Development Events

Most products navigate various levels of planning. Agile product development efforts include seven recurring events:

  • Product planning: The initial planning for your product. Product planning includes creating a product vision statement and a product roadmap, and can take place in as little time as one half of a day. This event is outside of scrum but improves scrum team success.
  • Release planning: Planning the next set of product functionality to release and identifying an imminent product launch date around which the scrum team can mobilize. With agile product development, you plan one release at a time. This event is outside of scrum but improves scrum team success.
  • Sprint: A short cycle of development, in which the team creates potentially shippable product functionality. Sprints, the scrum term for iterations, typically last between one and four weeks. Sprints can last as little as one day, but should not be longer than four weeks. Sprints should remain the same length throughout product development, which enables teams to plan future work more accurately based on their past performance.
  • Sprint planning: A meeting at the beginning of each sprint where the scrum team commits to a sprint goal. They also identify the requirements that support this goal and will be part of the sprint, and the individual tasks it will take to complete each requirement.
  • Daily scrum: A 15-minute coordination and synchronization meeting held each day in a sprint, where development team members state what they completed the day before that affects the work to be done today, what they will complete on the current day, and whether they have any roadblocks.
  • Sprint review: A meeting at the end of each sprint, introduced by the product owner, where the development team demonstrates the working product functionality it completed during the sprint to stakeholders, and the product owner collects feedback for updating the product backlog.
  • Sprint retrospective: A meeting at the end of each sprint where the scrum team inspects and adapts their processes, tools, environment, skills, communication, and distractions; discusses what went well and what could change; and makes a plan for implementing improvements in the next sprint.

Agile Product Development Resources, Organizations, and Certifications

A big agile product development world is out there. Here are a few useful links to members of the agile practitioner community:

  • Scrum For Dummies: In 2018, we published the second edition of Scrum For Dummies (Wiley) as a field guide not only to scrum but also to scrum in industries and business functions outside information technology (IT) and software development. Scrum can be applied in any situation where you want early empirical feedback on what you’re building or pursuing.
  • Scrum Alliance: The Scrum Alliance is a nonprofit professional membership organization that promotes the understanding and usage of scrum. The alliance achieves this goal by promoting scrum training and certification classes, hosting international and regional scrum gatherings, and supporting local scrum user communities. To find a scrum user group in your area, search your location.
  • Agile Alliance: The Agile Alliance is the original global agile community, with a mission to help advance the 12 Agile Principles and common agile practices, regardless of approach. The Agile Alliance site has an extensive resources section that includes articles, videos, and presentations. Find an index of independent and local agile community groups across the world.
  • International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile): ICAgile is a community-driven organization helping people become agile through education, awareness, and certification. Its learning roadmap provides career path development support in business agility, enterprise and team agile coaching, value management, delivery management, human resources, agile engineering, agile testing, and DevOps.
  • Mind the Product & Product Tank: Mind the Product is the world’s largest community of people passionate about product. They also founded ProductTank meetups to bring product leaders to connect, share and learn from each other. With over 150,000 members worldwide, they offer blogs, global, regional and local events, local meetups and training from the leading product management experts from all over the world. The resources at ProductTank tend to be high quality, and the content is both unique and relevant to the issues facing agile product development teams. Find a local ProductTank meetup in your area.
  • Lean Enterprise Institute: Lean Enterprise Institute publishes books, blogs, knowledge bases, news, and events for the broader community of lean thinkers and practitioners. As you pursue agile product development, remember to incorporate lean thinking in all that you do. Lean.org is a good launching pad for you to explore the lean topics relevant to your situation.
  • Extreme Programming: Ron Jeffries was one of the originators of the extreme programming (XP) development approach, along with Kent Beck and Ward Cunningham. Ron provides resources and services in support of XP’s advancement on his ronjeffries.com site. The “What Is Extreme Programming?” section of the site summarizes the core concepts of XP. Other articles and extreme programming resources are also available in wiki format.
  • PMI Agile Community: The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the largest nonprofit project management membership association in the world. With nearly 3 million members in most countries throughout the world. PMI supports an agile community of practice and multiple agile certifications, including the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) and a series of Disciplined Agile (DA) certifications.
  • Platinum Edge: Formed in 2001, Platinum Edge is one of the original agile transformation Their blog provides insights on practices, tools, and innovative solutions emerging from their work with clients and the broader agile community. You can also learn about the following services to help make your transition successful:
  • Agile audits: An assessment of your current organizational structure and processes to create an agile implementation strategy. This assessment may include providing feedback on your current agile transition efforts to help you gauge whether the investment you’ve made is generating the expected results.
  • Recruiting: Help you finding the right people to bootstrap your scrum teams, including scrum masters, product owners, developers, and agile mentors.
  • Training: Public and private agile and scrum training and certification including Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified Scrum Developer (CSD), LeSS, [email protected], SAFe approaches to scaling, and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) test preparation.
  • Transformation: Nothing is a larger factor of future success than proper As a follow-up on agile training, professional agile mentoring and coaching are embedded in your organization to ensure that the right practices occur in the real world.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Mark C. Layton, "Mr. Agile," is an executive and BoD advisor. He is the Los Angeles chair for the Agile Leadership Network, a certified scrum trainer, and founder of Agile transformation firm Platinum Edge. Mark is also coauthor of Agile Project Management For Dummies. Steven J Ostermiller is a community builder, Agile trainer and coach helping organizations and people become more agile. Dean J. Kynaston is a coach, certified Agile scrum professional, and organizational Agile transformation leader.

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