Agile scope planning in software projects

I’m sure you know that Agile methodologies are proven to drive efficiency and effectiveness to software projects. I also think that going the extra mile for understanding Agile principles grants another real opportunity for improvement. Mainly, when it comes to scope planning, Agile turns to be the best tool to do this job. Here below are a few suggestions on Agile scope planning that can help propel your new software projects forward.

At Digi117, our team takes project scope planning very seriously indeed, and the results of applying Agile principles speak for themselves. Our approach boils down to posing the right questions about what the client expects of the project while gaining a 360-degree understanding of user perspectives, to ensure user-driven product design and development. Our satisfied customers are precisely the reason why the Agile approach lends itself so well to support the development process. Hopefully, my suggestions in this article will help you plan your projects for better.

Project scope – what is it?

In project management, the term “scope” refers to the amount and the quality of work to perform throughout a given project.

As a process, project scope aims to plan and document the resources and activities needed to complete the project goals and get the expected deliverables. It helps state the boundaries of a project, the tasks and responsibilities of a team, and the process by which the project will be verified and approved.

Depending on the preferred methodology, project scope can result in some necessary paperwork such as a statement of work (SOW) or terms of reference (TOR) that will help the team stay focused on their tasks and duties throughout the project. Besides, this project scope paperwork will serve as a guideline for the project manager to address changes and risks.

Why choose Agile for project scope planning

In a nutshell, Agile works well for scope planning in software projects because it establishes:

  • high-level requirements first
  • and finer details later.

Be aware that often the eagerness to start the project right away without a clear statement of work in place can get the worst of the most ignorant project managers. You won’t get on and convert your energy into tangible results right away. You want to instill your team and yourself for a basic level of discipline at early project stages. This discipline will help you create an Agile statement of work, without overburdening the project scope with unnecessary detail.

Following Agile principles is the right way to foster teamwork and avoid scope creep. The agile approach delivers a highly efficient and productive framework for project scope, giving decision-makers the correct impetus. It ensures a 360-degree understanding of client needs both from the outset and as they evolve, paving the way for an excellent end-product.

Why choose Agile for project scope planning

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

At its core, Agile project scope boils down to consultative questioning and listening. This process entails more than regular communication with the client and the team as well as documenting user stories.

Scope planning is going to be intensive and purposeful and aims to help you figure out what tasks and responsibilities the team will be performing and how to control this performance.

Agile project scope planning will result in:

  • Deeply specified and clarified project requirements, both in terms of business need and user expectations
  • Clearly defined objectives that will deliver the most meaningful change
  • Well-established change management for reducing friction and inefficiency in the development process
  • Documented critical success factors with budget forecast and timescales

Here below are three more reasons to use Agile for planning the scope of a project.

#1. The agile approach facilitates long-term product growth starting from early project stages

The scope statement is one of the steps in the project planning process that represents essential things to share and discuss between internals teams and the client. Software developers, business managers, and non-technical roles all join together in scoping sessions to translate technology parameters and underlying workflows into a long-term product growth strategy for the client.

Business managers and marketing experts involved in the project are frequently surprised at the level of detail they are invited to share, but naturally, they are not supposed to do technical assessments and conclusions. Their engagement helps not threaten the client by hard lines of questioning and endless estimates behind seeking a solution.

In this regard, Agile ensures testing assumptions and refining high-level requirements before the delivery phase – that would otherwise be blindly accepted at face value. Agile project scope planning facilitates collecting business needs from the client and wrapping them up into well-defined project requirements, without getting software developers bogged down in too much detail.

#2. Agile software development adapts to changes and keeps your project on track 

It may sound contradictory, but having a lean route map at the start of a long-distance journey turns out to be the optimum way to progress most software development initiatives. This approach allows for flexible change management at every step of the way.

In software development, it is far more efficient and effective to be fluid and go with the flow of changes than to accommodate your project scope in response to the rapidly evolving market situation.

The Agile approach accepts inevitable changes. Unlike traditional, waterfall-like project management methodologies, it teaches you not to box your project scope into a corner and stay on track whenever whatever change happens.

Be ready to capitalize on the opportunities that Agile has to offer. You can minimize the potentially harmful impact of change by incorporating Agile principles at the scope planning stage as well as throughout the rest of the project.

#3. Control change to deal with scope creep

In project management, a situation when the work does not go as planned is called scope creep that results in duplicated efforts, a drop in team morale, delays, and other harmful effects.

Even though you plan out things in detail and keep every single task on track throughout the project, you may have to deal with changes that can break your project.

Reasons may be different — for example, the client requesting extra work or setting new priorities for the end-product, or else. Regardless of the reason, the project will take a different path comparing to the original scope of work, and your job – as a project manager – is to address the effect on the budget and deadline and to ensure successful project delivery. Effective change control is the optimal way to deal with unexpected inflation of work requirements – that is scope creep.

Agile helps address changes and their effects thanks to the following:

1. Sprint-based incremental delivery. The development team is encouraged to have a sprint-focused attitude so that they take care of ongoing tasks and do not warrant lots of attention to future stages. This approach allows sudden changes to project scope to be nondisruptive.

2. Flexible workload management. Imagine a situation when the client requests to change one of the core requirements – for example, use a custom CMS instead of WordPress in an eCommerce website development project. If you were to manage this project using a formalized and procedure-driven approach like Waterfall, you had to deal with a new critical path resulting in delays and increased costs. But the impact would be less for Agile development environments.

Dmytro Bogdanov

Project management is about sharing my passion for perfection in anything I do. It helps bridge the gap between what I want and what I actually get. I’m sure it will remain the hottest trend in digital marketing and beyond for years ahead.

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