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Agile Inception. Answering the questions What, Why and How?

Ana Aranda Diaz

Ana Aranda Diaz

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In the field of agile project management, Agile Inception is a crucial process that takes place at the beginning of a project to create a shared understanding among the project team and stakeholders. In this article, we will explore What? is Agile Inception, its main purpose, its Why? and I will provide you with concrete examples to illustrate How? we can carry it out in Agile projects.

What is Agile Inception?

Agile Inception is a collaborative and participatory event that helps establish the foundations of an agile project. It focuses on defining and aligning the vision, objectives, requirements and key expectations of the project among all team members and relevant stakeholders. Helping to establish a common understanding and clear framework for the project from the outset, which facilitates agile decision making throughout the project lifecycle.

agile inception
Agile Inception: Answering the questions What? Why? and How? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

What is the purpose of Agile Inception - Why?

There are many purposes it covers, let’s list the most important ones:

  1. Establish a Shared Vision: Agile inception allows the team and stakeholders to define, understand and share what the vision of the project is. What do we get? Align efforts and establish a clear goal from the beginning.
  2. Define Objectives and Requirements: During agile inception, the key objectives and requirements of the project are identified and clarified. This helps us to make a correct prioritization having a clear direction of the project.
  3. Identify Constraints and Risks: Agile inception helps identify constraints, risks and potential challenges associated with the project. This allows the team to develop appropriate strategies to mitigate these risks and address the constraints early on. Remember: Fail Fast! A key principle in the agile approach that aims to identify potential errors, failures or risks early, to minimize the impact and costs associated with potential mistakes or wrong decisions, while encouraging learning and continuous improvement.
  4. Establish Collaboration and Commitment: Agile inception fosters collaboration and commitment among team members and stakeholders. This promotes a cooperative work environment, based on transparency, and contributes to a greater likelihood of project success.
  5. Product Definition: During agile inception, the team and stakeholders work together to clearly define the product. This involves establishing, as mentioned above, the initial requirements, as well as the product’s key features and success criteria.
  6. Establishing the Product Backlog: In agile inception, collaboration takes place to identify and prioritize the elements of the product backlog. This helps establish the initial list of user stories to be addressed during project development.
  7. Planning and Estimating: During agile inception, initial project planning is conducted and the resources and time required are estimated. This provides a general idea of the project duration and scope.
  8. Stakeholder and Role Identification: Agile inception involves identifying relevant stakeholders and their roles in the project. This helps ensure that the right stakeholders are involved and a collaborative environment is established from the outset.

How to do it? Toolkit of Tools

In an Agile Inception, several tools and techniques can be used, here are some of the most common ones:

1. User Story Mapping:

This tool allows you to visualize and organize the product’s key functionalities and features in the form of user stories. It helps establish a clear understanding of the customer’s needs and priorities, and facilitates project planning and estimation.

Agile Inception: Answering the questions What? Why? and How? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

2. Personas Study (Personas Empathy Mapping User Personas):

The persona study helps to better understand the end users of the product or service. A fictitious user profile is created, including demographics, goals, needs and challenges. This tool helps to orient product design and development towards the real needs of the users.

agile inception
Agile Inception: Answering the questions What? Why? and How? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

3. Event Storming:

This collaborative technique brings together technical and non-technical stakeholders to explore complex environments, and visually identify and model key project-related events and workflows. It helps to discover new ideas, identify dependencies and understand the system as a whole.

The event storming method was introduced and publicized by Alberto Brandolini in Introducing EventStorming. It is a form of group learning to integrate development and product teams in a fun way to create solutions together.

agile inception
Agile Inception: Answering the questions What? Why? and How? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

4. Design Studio:

It is an idea generation technique that involves different team members in the rapid generation of solutions and prototypes. Structured work sessions are used to encourage creativity and the exchange of ideas among participants.

5. Impact Mapping:

This tool is used to establish a clear relationship between business objectives, product features and user stories. It helps to visualize how product features contribute to the achievement of strategic objectives and allows to better prioritize and align the team’s work.

agile inception
Agile Inception: Answering the questions What? Why? and How? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

6. Business Model Canvas:

The Business Model Canvas is a tool that allows you to define and visualize the business model of a project. It helps to identify customer segments, value propositions, distribution channels, revenue sources and other key areas of the business.

agile inception
Agile Inception: Answering the questions What? Why? and How? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

These are just some of the tools that can be used in an Agile Inception. The selection of specific tools will depend on the needs of the project and the preferences of the team. It is important to adapt the tools according to the context and ensure that they facilitate collaboration and shared understanding among all involved, which are the truly important objectives of these sessions.

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About the Author

Ana Aranda Diaz

Ana Aranda Diaz

Ana Aranda, PMP®, PMI-ACP®, SAFe® SPC, AgilePM® and PRINCE2® Instructor, is a Lead Expert and Operations Manager for Netmind's US office. With more than 25 years' experience in Product Management, Project Management, and business development , she is comfortable helping others overcome challenges and manage cultural diversity. Ana has worked as a business consultant as well as an instructor in various multinational companies across the globe. She is passionate about fostering an organization's Project Management culture and improving their human skills aspect. Ana telecommunication engineer with an executive Master's Degree in Human Resources Management. She has strong business and technical background that allows fast learning and enables immediate value generation. Connect with Ana on LinkedIn.

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