The Art of Agile Project Initiation

Most of the agile framework focus on delivery part and provide little guidance on project initiation part. This leaves many questions unanswered and leads to lack of solid foundation to lay the bricks of agility. For examples, we need to ponder on - What are right questions to ask when we are in very first meeting with the sponsor? How to guide the sponsor through a process of converting high level business idea into a vision and go about chartering exercise? How to effectively conduct project initiation workshop and start with a discovery exercise that sets the scene for a project and produces an initial backlog? These are some of the concerns that I would like to address in my session.

Without this solid foundation there is huge risk of we running into problems later on, causing rework and delays. Also, we could end up building the wrong product and realize it quite late. I have learnt this hard way when my initial basic scrum experiments ran into problems and like to share my learning and experiences. I am not suggesting to move away from basic agile frameworks & principles like scrum, xp, lean/kanban but adding more tools / practices to it which are truly in line with values & principles of agile.

I will use many real life examples and analogies to explain some of the best practices which have worked well for me in pre-project / initiation stage.
A previous version of similar presentation was delivered in Discuss Agile Delhi2016 & in Agile NCR 2016 conferences and was very well received. It will be new for Hyderabad based agile community and I will add more based on further experience gained in past 2+ years.

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Outline/Structure of the Presentation

Introduction; Case study - meeting with a businessman with start-up idea; Inception Process including Initial Preparation, Expectation Management, Activities to build business and project context, Solutionizing & getting initial product backlog and high level planning. This would include examples, case studies to engage the audience in a conversation while explaining the ideas.

Learning Outcome

Agile project initiation and dealing with stakeholders

Process of leading the stakeholders with a collaborative process to build business & project context to eventually get product backlog, high level tech architecture and high level plan.

Multiple agile facilitation games and concepts (eg product in a box; cover story; role modelling, story mapping, business model canvas, engines & anchors etc)

Target Audience

All agile enthusiasts who are involved in end to end project delivery.

Prerequisites for Attendees

Basic agile concepts like what is a user story or epic

schedule Submitted 6 months ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker
  • Peter Stevens
    By Peter Stevens  ~  5 months ago
    reply Reply

    I like these aspects of the submission, and they should be retained:

    • pragmatic approach

    I think the submission could be improved by:

    • making it clear how you address typical themes like reducing time to market, reducing risk on building the wrong thing
    • making it clear how this is agile, that is looking for better ways. How is this different that what you were doing five year ago?
    • Kshitij Agrawal
      By Kshitij Agrawal  ~  5 months ago
      reply Reply


      Thanks for your valuable feedback. I have slightly edited the proposal inline with your suggestions. But just to share my perspective quickly.

      a) "making it clear how you address typical themes like reducing time to market, reducing risk on building the wrong thing"

      Strong foundation created by good initiation naturally reduces risk of rework later on which would not only impact time to market but also have risk of building the wrong product. I will keep that in mind editing the presentation and creation speaker notes to highlight specifically.

      b) "Making it clear how this is agile, that is looking for better ways. How is this different that what you were doing five year ago?"

      All along with talk about customer value, collaboration so this is very much inline with agile values and principles. I will share some of my real life experience. Previously I started with basic scrum which started with sprint planning. Lack of focus on initiation (visioning, backlog creation etc) & release planning resulted into lot of rework later on.

    • Madeeha Khan Yousafzai
      By Madeeha Khan Yousafzai  ~  6 months ago
      reply Reply

      I have reviewed the slides and will look forward for updates as per your experience.

      My suggestion is to please ensure the length of content and delivery value for given content in specified time.

      All the best. 

      • Kshitij Agrawal
        By Kshitij Agrawal  ~  5 months ago
        reply Reply

        Thanks Madeeha for your feedback. I have previously presented similar presentation so I know by experience that we can finish well within 45 minutes of allotted time including Q&A. I will recheck it again through some mock presentations before the final one.

    • Saket Bansal
      By Saket Bansal  ~  6 months ago
      reply Reply

      Thank you for adding your talk here and I see your talk can help many agile practitioners, especially its an experience report. 

      I suggest sharing a set of evolving practices and share the idea behind thous practices like you learned things from the given project situation.

      Maybe you want to cut down the content and take specific practices and story behind them in detail. This will help participants to take something away.

      Just sharing my ideas, see what all make sense.

      • Kshitij Agrawal
        By Kshitij Agrawal  ~  6 months ago
        reply Reply

        Thanks for the feedback and will surely keep these points in mind while preparing an updated version of previous presentation. In fact I have similar thoughts to cover some of topics such as product visioning, story mapping and high level release planning etc in greater details. I could use some examples like Amazon internal press release to create a compelling customer centric product construct. Some other topics such as business model canvas can be just skimmed through quickly just to give some hints for further read.

    • Liked Sathya Jayapaul

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      These are critical platforms as 1 in 4 of all payments in the UK are processed by RBS' payment systems, with the total value of RBS UK & International payments in 2016 being around GBP 55 trillion.

      RBS has embarked on an audacious journey to change their way of working through the adoption of Agile and DevOps in their legacy mainframe applications, and in this session, we will speak about the challenges we faced, the approach we took and the progress we have been making.

    • vinaya muralidharan
      vinaya muralidharan
      Agile Coach
      schedule 6 months ago
      Sold Out!
      20 Mins

      Product Owners and others responsible for creating and maintaining the Product Backlog often focus on functional items.

      With good engagement in the Backlog Management process from the Development Team and Architects, technical and architectural items also find their way into the Product Backlog.

      But what about the human-centric items related to accessibility, inclusivity, internationalization and sustainability?

      Through the talk and with the help of several supporting examples and a short exercise, I would like to highlight the importance of addressing these aspects in the Product Backlog. The examples will include examples of good and bad backlog items and design decisions.

      I will also share some tips on how Product Owners and supporting roles can work these aspects into the Backlog Management process. These will include some ideas from Design Thinking but will not be limited to that.