Failing to plan is planning to fail. This is why it is imperative for businesses to have an effective planning process in place so goals can be met. Whilst a traditional planning method may work well for some companies, there are a set of challenges unique to remote teams that do not make it a good fit.
The lack of physical contact makes it crucial for remote teams to build trust, have flexibility, and collaborate to foster a happy and productive environment. The linear style of traditional planning can make this difficult to achieve, which is why agile planning reigns supreme in work from home companies. Notably, thanks to its focus on consistent communication, collaboration, and flexibility. Let’s find out more.
What is Agile Planning?
Agile planning is an iterative and flexible approach to managing projects. It breaks them down into several phases and puts an emphasis on constant collaboration and improvement at every stage. To achieve this, agile planning utilizes self-contained work units called releases and sprints. Collaboration tools are utilized to assist in tracking, planning, file sharing, and communication.
What are releases and sprints?
A release is a new product or substantial update to an existing product. The release is then broken down into iterations called sprints. You can think of these as a timeframe in which tasks related to the release are completed. Sprints are split into four main categories - planning, development, deployment, and evaluation. Throughout sprints, teams will work collaboratively towards the deadline.
The categories of sprints (Source: Krusche Company)
Sprints typically last for 2 to 4 weeks and a team will focus on a small set of tasks that aim to improve the end user's experience - referred to as user stories. A key feature of the agile methodology is that the planning and estimation of tasks within a sprint are informed by the team members themselves. It is not dictated to them by management as you would find in a traditional planning structure.
During the sprint, daily meetings are held so that progress can be communicated, and issues can be raised and subsequently solved. This ensures that by the end of the sprint there will be working features that are ready to be rolled out. The final stage is to then have a retrospective look at the sprint to assess it and identify room for improvement.
Agile Planning Process step-by-step
(Source: N Task Manager)
Why We Use Agile Planning at Boost
As a work-from-home team, agile planning is extremely useful at enhancing our output in two major ways.
Helps us overcome the challenges of being a remote team
Being a remote team, we lack physical contact with each other. As we are not bound together in an office setting where we can be supervised, knowing the progress of tasks and productivity can be a bit of a challenge. That being said, we also don’t want to micromanage the employees. We all enjoy the independence of working from home and want to build an environment where we feel trusted to complete our work.
With the agile planning framework, we can stay on top of the progress of tasks without being overbearing. As the planning and estimation of tasks are done by the members, we have control over our work. Regular meetings ensure that management is kept up-to-date with the advancement of projects and thus can predict the timeline.
Another great characteristic of agile planning is its emphasis on collaboration through regular communication. Remote work life can be a lonely place, in fact, it is a challenge faced by 20% of WFH employees. This isolation can cause workers to feel desolate, out-of-touch with the company, and can negatively impact morale.
Staying connected with your colleagues is key to overcoming the issues of remote work.
The agile planning methodology involves deep interactions between team members in the form of short, daily stand-ups where concerns, thoughts, and comments regarding tasks can be voiced. The planning, review, and evaluation elements of sprints are also collaborative efforts. All of our employees are highly engaged during every part of the project which helps us stamp out the isolation associated with remote working, and allows each member to feel like a vital part of the project.
Additionally, the collaborative tools necessary for agile, fast-paced projects help us function as a team better. Document sharing tools allow team members to collaborate on a task in real-time. Collaborative dashboards make work highly visible and provide an all-encompassing picture of the project for colleagues. Moreover, project managers can use progress monitoring tools to assist in planning and keeping the team on schedule.
Increases the quality of our product
At Boost, we pride ourselves on providing the best possible product that our customers will love. Thanks to the stellar skills of our team, we’ve been able to become the number one filter and search app in the Shopify store. Coupling top-tier talent with agile planning has gone a long way in helping us achieve this milestone.
As agile planning is iterative, our team is able to continuously learn what they are capable of and adapt processes quickly so that subsequent projects are carried out more effectively. This evolving knowledge trickles down into the end product, making each release better each time.
Agile planning also helps us to reduce the risk of failed tasks, projects, and releases. Consistent feedback means issues can be identified and rectified before they balloon into bigger problems. If needed, additional resources can be allocated with greater immediacy. Plus, team members can efficiently respond to changes and plan their affected interrelated tasks so that the project isn’t impeded.
We’re also able to maintain the competitive edge that has caused our app to shoot to the top spot on Shopify. Agile planning is inherently fast-paced - releases are brought to market in a matter of weeks! But these releases aren’t produced at top speed, they’re also of top quality.
Part of the evaluation stage is the analysis of end-user data. This data is used as a basis to make improvements to our product for the next release. As this is done in a shorter timeframe than found in traditional planning processes, we can respond to this data much faster than our competitors. This puts our app in a prime position when it comes to performance, relevance, and customer satisfaction.
We are constantly learning to bring our customers the best product.
Furthermore, breaking down complex projects into sprints helps us prioritize the most pertinent tasks in producing a superior product at every step.
How We Implement Agile Planning
Now that we’ve sung all the praises of agile planning, it’s time to break down exactly how we customize it for our work-from-home culture to give you an idea of how it could come into action for your team.
Software for agile planning
First, let’s start with software as it is crucial in enabling the collaborative nature of agile planning - particularly for a remote team.
ClickUp is our software of choice largely due to its multi-functionality. Not only does it allow us to plan and track multiple tasks at a glance, but it also makes collaboration on tasks a breeze. Documents can be created and/or shared, they can be worked on together in real-time, and comments can be left against them. It’s also great for goal tracking, workload tracking, and task prioritization. What's more, ClickUp is absolutely free.
Our agile planning step-by-step process
Now, let’s see our agile planning process in action.
Sprints at Boost last for 2 weeks. We start with a meeting to reflect on previous sprints and plan for the next one. As our team is based globally and we wish to be sensitive to everyone's schedule, this initial meeting occurs on the Thursday or Friday of the second week - whichever is best for the whole team.
On the first Monday of the sprint, there is a whole team meeting. During it, each team leader will give an update on the status of their team’s big tasks. We also discuss critical numbers related to performance like the number of support tickets, the ranking of the app, and the current number of customers.
The next big meeting occurs on a Wednesday. It is a cross-team meeting with team leaders only. We use this time to clarify any requests or collaborate on tasks as we reach the end of the sprint.
Between the beginning and end of the sprint, each team has daily standup meetings. These short and sweet sessions give each team member the chance to provide an update on the status of their tasks.
There you have it, our agile roadmap to successful projects at Boost!
Is it time for your team to give agile planning a shot?
Agile project planning works wonders for remote teams. It helps them collaborate effectively and have a full-scope view of projects and their progress.
Whilst remote work is convenient and rewarding in so many ways, it does come with its fair share of challenges. Having an agile approach has allowed us to negate many of the issues associated with WFH teams, making our work environment engaging and efficient for all.
Most importantly, it’s given us the power to bring our valued customers an app that they love that is consistently evolving to meet their needs. So why not give it a try, we couldn’t recommend it enough!
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