Does Agile Development Need Planning?

For decades, software developers have struggled with the most efficient and effective means of managing software teams to deploy software that meets defined user requirements.

  • How do we manage the teams?
  • How do we engage clients / customers?
  • How do we deploy in appropriate chunks of functionality?
  • How do requirements get established and controlled?
  • How do we avoid long, painful implementation debacles?

In 2001, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was published.  In the Manifesto, the following core values were established:

  • We value individuals and interactions more than processes and tools
  • We value working software more than comprehensive documentation
  • We value customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • We value responding to change over following a plan

Unfortunately, in many circles Agile was used to justify a lack of planning.  In these companies, Agencies, and industries; there has been an explosion of individual projects with little strategy and planning driving the integration of the many pieces to achieve the big picture goals.  In short, the intent behind Agile has been misinterpreted, and organizations are paying the price.

The reality is that the authors of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development were not against planning.  They were just against plans that never got used.  In fact, they just wanted to focus more on the outcomes than the process ... makes sense!

We embrace modeling, but not in order to file some diagram in a dusty corporate repository. We embrace documentation, but not hundreds of pages of never-maintained and rarely-used tomes. We plan, but recognize the limits of planning in a turbulent environment.
— Jim Highsmith, History: The Agile Manifesto

We sat down with some of our Agile specialists and asked them what they needed from the planners.  Specifically, we wanted to know what the planners should have already completed, so that the Agile specialists would have an easier time and could be successful.  We got an earful.  Here are the top ten things that our Agile specialists say they truly need from the planners.

  1. System or product vision
  2. High-level roadmap
  3. Business value of features and priorities
  4. Architectural principles, guidelines, standards
  5. What already exists for re-use
  6. What business services are impacted
  7. Inconsistencies in business processes
  8. Master data locations / stewards
  9. Enterprise implications to new requirements
  10. Sequencing of requirements and big picture goals