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Agile Encyclopedia: The Terms You Need to Know

In this Agile encyclopedia, we will explain 37 Agile terms to help you understand what the Agile approach to software development and project management is. 

Agile and agility are gaining popularity across a range of industries, businesses, and fields. As a result of such success and fame, misinterpretation and misinformation spread equally fast. To rule out any misconceptions, we carefully crafted a list of the key Agile terminology. 

Agile Terms - Complete Glossary

Agile Software Development   

Agile software development is a project management approach that helps development teams and organizations become more flexible, responsive, and adaptive to changes. The Agile way to software development is based on the 12 principles defined in the Agile Manifesto. Agile software development revolves around frequent and continuous delivery of valuable software, the incessant flow of feedback, communication, and self-organizing teams.  

Agile Project Management  

Agile project management is an approach to managing work in various fields and professional domains. It is based on the Agile Manifesto’s 12 principles of Agile that help organizations become more inclined to satisfy the customers’ requirements, more adaptable to changes, deliver more cost-efficient value, and realize faster ROI. Agile project management is a modern-day approach applied equally to the knowledge work of engineering as well as production companies.

Agile Portfolio Management  

Agile portfolio management is the Agile way of managing multiple projects, products, or programs. The three main pillars of Agile portfolio management include establishing a shared understanding of the strategic goals achieved through cross-organizational transparency; evaluating if projects and initiatives align with the strategic plans achieved through small experiments and fast feedback; aligning strategy with execution achieved through frequent feedback and learning.  

Agile Manifesto  

The Agile Manifesto is the bible of the Agile ways of working, built on the basis of shared understanding, values, and principles. The Manifesto was signed in 2001 through a discussion between 17 prominent software engineers. The Agile Manifesto includes 4 values and 12 principles of software development established through mutual agreement.  

Agile Mindset  

Agile mindset refers to the cultural shift in thinking, and leadership toward nurturing agility across all levels of an organization. The Agile mindset is rooted in the principles and values of Agile defined, in the Agile Manifesto to software development. Cornerstones of the Agile mindset are individuals and interactions, collaboration with the customers, and the flexibility to respond to changes swiftly.   

Business Agility 

Business agility is the state of adaptability to changes on a business level. The process of adopting the Agile thinking model is also referred to as an “Agile transformation.” The process entails a cultural shift toward flexibility, customer focus, and increased quality of the delivered value. Business agility is a continuous journey centered around learning and people.  

Agile Team  

An Agile team is a cross-functional group of people who work in a flexible manner, are adaptable to changing customer needs, and share a common goal. Agile teams are self-organized, collaborative, practice shared leadership, and are inclined toward mutually agreed-upon objectives.   

Agile Themes  

Agile themes or initiatives are long-term objectives that impose a significant impact on business performance. Agile themes are a collection of epics. Their execution happens by breaking them down into smaller collections of work items (epics) and further specific tasks (user stories).  

Agile Epics  

Epics are collections of work supporting higher level initiatives or projects. These large work items are divided into smaller and more manageable tasks or user stories. The series of work items all relate to the same goal of the epic. Epics improve the organization of the work, create clear priorities, and help to align all work with the strategic goals (themes).  

Agile User Stories  

User stories in Agile are small work assignments or tasks that drive the progress of each epic or project and contribute to the execution of greater themes and initiatives. They can contain multiple tasks and subtasks. User stories are focused on creating value for the customer by considering their requirements.   

Agile Planning  

Planning in Agile is an iterative approach to delivering customer value in the knowledge work domain. The process is highly adaptive to changes where detailed plans are only made for a short-term period. Agile planning is widely applied in modern-day project management.  

Agile Metrics  

Metrics in Agile are performance indicators that are linked to outcomes, enabling teams to evaluate their process and decide how to proceed. They are beneficial to analyze and understand how work flows in a system, discover flaws, and improve it. Some Agile metrics include lead/cycle time, throughput, work in progress, velocity, and planned capacity.  

Agile Estimation  

Agile estimation is an approximation of the effort required to complete a specific work item (a project, epic, task, etc.). Teams following prescriptive frameworks such as Scrum normally use story points as a size measurement for the stories in their product backlog. Other methods, such as Kanban, rely on historical data to arrive at probabilistic forecasts for a work item’s duration.  

Agile Events/Ceremonies  

Agile ceremonies or cadences are various types of meetings prescribed by a specific Agile methodology. Teams that follow the Scrum framework include the following events: Sprint with a fixed length, Sprint planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective. Other Agile methods such as Kanban introduce team-level cadences (Team Replenishment, Team retrospective) and service-oriented cadences (Workflow replenishment, Flow Review, Blocker Clustering). The goal of the Agile events is to ensure the team is delivering value in the most efficient way.  

Agile Retrospective  

Retrospectives in Agile are team meetings that are held at the end of a sprint or at regular intervals. The goal of the Agile Retrospective meeting is to inspect in detail the work process, solve existing problems, and identify improvement opportunities. A retrospective should be attended by the entire team, including the Agile coach, team leader/manager, and the product owner.  

Agile Methodologies/Frameworks  

Agile methodologies are work management methods and frameworks applied by organizations to maximize efficiency, eliminate waste from the work processes, and keep a productive delivery pace. Some of the most prominent Agile methodologies include Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, Kanban, Feature-Driven Development (FDD), and Crystal.  

Definition of Done (DoD)  

The term "definition of done” refers to agreed-upon evidence that a process, activity, or objective has been completed. It is also used as a checklist of conditions that must be present or activities that must be performed for an assignment to be finished. In software development, “definition of done” is perceived as meeting the quality measures required for releasing a product, feature, service, etc.  

Information Radiators  

Information radiators are means of visual representations of information in a single hub available to every team member. Information radiators, such as Kanban boards, help share critical data related to work progress, create transparency across the organizational levels, and boost team members’ self-organization and ownership.   

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)  

Minimum viable product (MVP) is a concept promoting the creation of a version of a product with minimum features that can be used by early customers in order to provide feedback. The MVP originates from the product development field, where the received customer feedback is applied to improve product development. MVP helps to test a product with minimal resources, accelerates the learning process, and is used as a foundation for other products.  

Agile Spike   

Spike is a term used in Agile software development that refers to a supporting work item or a proof-of-concept such as technical research, building a prototype, or a design. Agile spikes can be in the form of user stories that aim to execute research to gather learning, so a problematic work item can be completed or a known risk - mitigated. 

Scrum

Scrum is a prescriptive framework used in Agile product development and other knowledge work. The four main principles of Scrum are empiricism, transparency, inspection, and adaptation. The Scrum teams work in short iterations called sprints with a fixed duration. At the end of each sprint, a product increment is delivered to the customers so they can provide feedback to the team.  

Acceptance Criteria

The acceptance criteria are the conditions that a product or service must meet in order to be accepted by a customer or stakeholder. In software development, the acceptance criteria define what makes the work item, story, or task valuable for the customer.  

Iteration

An iteration in software development is a term used to indicate a period of time during which development activities take place. Agile teams determine how long an iteration should last.  

Increment

An increment represents the work that has been completed within an iteration by a Scrum team. A product or a service is the sum of all increments.  

Story Points  

A story point is a measurement unit used by Agile software development to size a specific work item (user story). Story points are indicators of the work’s complexity and therefore how long it will take to be completed.  

Product Backlog  

Product backlog is a list of prioritized work items such as new product features, changes to existing features, and any other activities that may be delivered by an Agile team. The product backlog represents all functional or non-functional customer requirements of a system, product, or service. In Scrum teams, the product backlog is prioritized by the Product Owner.  

Burndown Chart

Burndown charts are used by Scrum teams to track the amount of work done for a given period of time (iteration). The chart facilitates the tracking of how many story points have been completed based on the remaining time until the end of the iteration.  

Product Owner

Product Owner is a role defined in the Scrum framework that ensures the team delivers the desired results. Product Owners are responsible for prioritizing and maintaining the product backlog according to the customers’ requirements.  

Agile Coach

The Agile Coach is responsible for helping individuals, teams, and organizations to adopt the Agile mindset. Agile coaches have extensive practical experience as well as profound knowledge of Agile values, principles, and best practices. They're facilitators and experts in a certain methodology or framework as they aim to integrate it within the team's processes as well as scale its adoption.  

Velocity

Velocity is a metric utilized by Scrum teams that represents the sum of estimated effort and completed user stories during a specific iteration. Story points and user stories are used as measurement units in velocity charts.  

Kanban Method

Kanban is a Lean and Agile approach to workflow management for defining, managing, and improving services that deliver knowledge work. The method helps in visualizing work, maximizing efficiency, and improving continuously. Kanban is based on 6 main practices, including:

  • mapping the workflow   
  • limiting the work in progress   
  • managing the flow   
  • making work process policies explicit   
  • implementing feedback loops   
  • improving collaboratively.   

Work in Kanban is represented on Kanban boards facilitating the work delivery across multiple teams and allowing to manage complex or multiple projects in a single environment.  

Scrumban  

Scrumban is an Agile methodology that combines practices from the Kanban method and the Scrum framework. Scrumban applies the Kanban practices of work visualization, limiting work in progress, and work prioritization. Unlike in Scrum, the Scrumban teams do not estimate work and eliminate the Sprint Planning event altogether. Scrum teams following the Scrumban hybrid approach integrate the principles of “pull” into their work process. 

DAD (disciplined agile delivery)  

Disciplined agile delivery (DAD) is an Agile framework for software development that helps teams to make simplified process decisions, deliver quality value faster, and enables scaling. It is a hybrid approach that combines practices of Lean software development, Scrum, Agile Modeling, XP, and Kanban. The determinants of success that DAD identifies are people-first, learning-oriented, and goal-oriented mindsets.  

LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum)  

LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) is an Agile framework designed to help scale Scrum across multiple teams that work on a single service or product. The approach applies the ideas behind Scrum on a large-scale using clear rules and guidance. LeSS includes a basic LeSS framework for 2-8 teams and LeSS Huge framework for 8+ teams.   

Test-Driven Development  

Test-driven development (TDD) is an Agile software development approach where all requirements are converted into unit tests and the solution is repeatedly tested against the created test cases. TDD promotes simple designs and it is related to the test-first concept of XP (extreme programming).  

Pair-Programming  

Pair-programming is an Agile software development model where two programmers work at the same workstation. The two programmers have different roles – the “driver” writes the code while the “observer” reviews it. The two programmers switch their roles frequently. The approach improves the code quality, encourages knowledge sharing and the transfer of skills, and improves work coordination.  

XP  

XP (Extreme Programming) is an Agile software development framework intended to produce higher quality software through frequent releases and to increase the team’s flexibility toward changing requirements. The five values of XP are communication, simplicity, feedback, courage, and respect. The framework is applied through 12 practices divided into 4 groups: fine-scale feedback, continuous process, shared understanding, and programmer welfare.

In Summary

Understanding the key Agile terms gives you a solid foundation on where to start and how to benefit the most by applying Agile and agility to managing work in every business domain.

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