The Agile Process Map–Initiating Process Group

In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, in the second chapter called “Introducing Agile Project Management”, he tries to strip down the essentials of what constitutes agile project management into something he calls the “Agile Process Map”.    In the third chapter, on “Initiating Projects”, he explains that portion of the overall agile process that deals with the initiating process group, the first of five process groups which include

  • Initiate
  • Plan
  • Iterate
  • Control
  • Close

The Agile Process Map

First of all, let us review the overall agile process map, which at a macro level flows from the first steady state to a transition state and then to a second steady state.
Steady State Graphic

Steady State #1

Here are the elements that comprise Steady State #1, labeled whether they are people or documents (“artifacts” in the language of agile)

  • Product Owner (person):   this person receives, analyzes, and prioritizes product features required for a successful solution to the requirements given by the customer
  • Product Backlog (artifact):  this is where the product features are listed by the Product Owner
  • Iteration Backlog (artifact):   this is where the product features are chosen out of the Product Backlog that the Team will work on during the iteration.
  • Team (persons):   this is the group of people that will take the features listed in the Iteration Backlog and develop them during the next Iteration.

The reason why this is referred to as the Steady State #1 is because the list of product features in the Iteration Backlog does not change during the iteration.

The Product Backlog

Essentially the initiating process group takes you to point of developing Steady State #1.   You take input from stakeholders and set priorities according to their values.   In order to accomplish this, you need to engage stakeholders in to have them articulate those values.   The output of this stakeholder engagement process is the PRODUCT BACKLOG.   The product backlog represents the vision for the entire product as decided by the customer/proxy (aka the Product Owner in the language of Scrum).   This is a “living document”, which means it is continually being improved as new insights are gained.

The Iteration Backlog:  Step 1–Soft Commitment

From the PRODUCT BACKLOG, the next process is selecting a portion of the product backlog for the ITERATION BACKLOG.   It is the product owner who describes what can and should be included in the iteration.   The product owner takes the user stories and assigns a size to them based on those stories that have high priority.   The product owner also should develop a definition of done for each story that includes acceptance criteria.  Based on a mutual understanding of what the product owner sets forth in the iteration backlog, the team makes a soft commitment to a specific set of features for the iteration backlog.

The Iteration Backlog:  Step 2–Hard Commitment

After the soft commitment completed in step 1, the team discusses how to create the deliverables, decomposes the user stories (the equivalent of “work packages” in traditional project management) into tasks, and performs an detailed estimate of each task in terms of how long it will take.   Once the team has finalized their analysis and agrees that they can succeed, they make a hard commitment to the specific set of features that will be delivered to the Product Owner at the end of the iteration.

This is the portion of the overall agile process map that takes place during the initiating process group.

The next post will list the agile project management processes that come under the 7 knowledge areas in the initiating process group.   Please note the difference between the overall agile process, which shows how the entire project flows, and the 87 individual agile PM processes, which are essentially the detailed tools and techniques you use in the overall agile process.


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