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Agile Project Management - What is it and how to get started?

How agile methodologies can work for your software team

Browse topics

Get started free with the jira project management template.

Manage activities across any project with powerful task management and easy prioritization tools.

What is agile project management?

Agile project management is an iterative approach to managing software development projects that focuses on continuous releases and incorporating customer feedback with every iteration.

Software teams that embrace agile project management methodologies increase their development speed, expand collaboration, and foster the ability to better respond to market trends.

Here is everything you need to know to get started or refine your agile project management practices. 

Agile project management articles

Agile vs. waterfall project management.

Agile project management is an incremental and iterative practice, while waterfall is a linear and sequential project management practice

Get started building an agile workflow

Agile process flows help bring structure to scale your software development process. Learn more about workflow management to support your agile program.

Epics, Stories, Themes, and Initiatives

These popular agile methodologies help teams strike a healthy balance between structure and flexibility

An epic is a large body of work that can be broken down into a number of smaller stories. Learn more about how to organize an agile workflow with epics.

User Stories | Examples and Template

User stories are system requirements often expressed as “persona + need + purpose.” Learn how stories drive agile programs & how to get started.

What are story points and how do you estimate them?

An inside look into secrets of agile estimation and story points. Good agile estimation lets product owners optimize for efficiency and impact.

Five agile metrics you won't hate

Learn how to use agile KPI metrics like sprint burndown, epic and release burndown, velocity, control charts & the cumulative flow diagram.

Learn scrum with Jira Software

A step-by-step guide on how to drive a scrum project, prioritize and organize your backlog into sprints, run the scrum ceremonies and more, all in Jira.

Gantt Charts

A Gantt chart is a project management tool that illustrates a project plan. Learn how they can help and see an example of Gantt charts

A brief history of agile project management

Stemming from Toyota's lean manufacturing concept of the 1940s, software development teams have embraced agile methodologies to reduce waste and increase transparency, while quickly addressing their customers' ever-changing needs. A stark change from waterfall project management that focuses on "big bang" launches, agile helps software teams collaborate better and innovate faster than ever before. 

Traditional agile project management can be categorized into two frameworks: scrum and kanban. While scrum is focused on fixed-length project iterations, kanban is focused on continuous releases. Upon completion, the team immediately moves on to the next. 

Agile project management framework 1: Scrum

Scrum is a framework for agile project management that uses fixed-length iterations of work, called sprints. There are four  ceremonies  that bring structure to each sprint.

It all starts with the backlog, or body of work that needs to be done. In scrum, there are two backlogs: one is the product backlog (owned by the product owner) which is a prioritized list of features, and the other is the sprint backlog which is filled by taking issues from the top of the product backlog until the capacity for the next sprint is reached. Scrum teams have unique roles specific to their stake in the process. Typically there's a scrum master, or champion of the scrum method for the team; the product owner, who's the voice of the product; and the scrum team, who are often cross-functional team members in charge of getting s@#$ done.

The four ceremonies of scrum

Scrum board example | Atlassian agile coach

The scrum board

A scrum board is used to visualize all the work in a given sprint. During the sprint planning meeting, the team moves items from the product backlog into the sprint backlog. Scrum boards can have multiple steps visible in the workflow, like  To Do, In Progress , and  Done . Scrum boards are the key component for increasing transparency in agile project management. Get started using a scrum board with our free Jira scrum template .

Agile project management framework 2: Kanban

Kanban is a framework for agile project management that matches the work to the team's capacity. It's focused on getting things done as fast as possible, giving teams the ability to react to change even faster than scrum.

Unlike scrum, kanban has no backlogs (usually). Instead, work sits in the To Do column. This enables kanban teams to focus on continuous releases, which can be done at any time. All work is visible, scoped, and ready to execute on so that when something is completed, the team immediately moves on to the next. The amount of work is matched to the team's capacity through  WIP limits , which is a predefined limit of work that can be in a single column at one time (except the To Do column). The kanban framework includes the following four components:

The four components of kanban

Kanban board example | Atlassian agile coach

The kanban board

A kanban board is used to visualize all the work that's being done. It's also used for planning resources allowing project managers to see the work and develop timelines accordingly. A kanban board is structured into columns and lanes that stories pass through on their way to completion. Stories sit in the To Do column until the WIP limit allows for the next task to be worked on. The list of work should be split into relatively small issues and organized by priority. As you can see in this example, lanes can help keep the higher priority items separated from "everything else." Get started using a kanban board with our free Jira kanban template .

Responsibilities of agile project managers

Whatever agile framework you choose to support your software development, you'll need a way to see your team's progress so you can plan for future work or sprints. Agile project estimating helps both scrum and kanban teams understand their capacity. Agile reports show the team's progress over time. And backlog grooming helps project managers keep the list of work current and ready for the team to tackle.

Agile project estimations | Atlassian agile coach

Agile project estimating

Project estimating is an extremely important aspect of both kanban and scrum project management. For kanban, many teams set their  WIP limit  for each state based on their previous experiences and team size. Scrum teams use project estimating to identify how much work can be done in a particular sprint. Many agile teams adopt unique estimating techniques like planning poker, ideal hours, or story points to determine a numeric value for the task at hand. This gives agile teams a point of reference to refer back to during sprint retrospectives, to see how their team performed. Jira Software can be customized to capture your teams' unique  project estimations .

Agile reporting example | Atlassian agile coach

Agile reporting

Project estimations come into play at the beginning and end of each sprint. They help teams determine what they can get done at the beginning of the sprint, but also show how accurate those initial estimates were at the end.  Agile reports , such as Burndown charts, show how many " story points " are completed during the sprint. Jira Software offers dozens of out-of-the-box reports with real-time, actionable insights into how your teams are performing. Having data to support your retrospectives is an invaluable way for agile teams to improve.

Agile backlog example | Atlassian agile coach

Backlog management and grooming

A product backlog is a prioritized list of work for the development team to do that comes from product roadmap and its requirements. The development team pulls work from the product backlog for each sprint.  

Grooming and maintaining your backlog helps teams achieve their long-term goals by continually adding and removing items based on the team's long-term capacity and changing business objectives. Jira Software lets teams groom huge backlogs with multi-select ranking and order user stories and bugs by dragging and dropping issues. You can also filter with Jira Software's flexible search to find a particular user story or bug.

Agile example | effective stakeholder communication

Effective stakeholder communication

Agile project managers also have to report the right amount of context to different stakeholders and teams - including senior leadership - on the status of the projects they’re responsible for.

With Atlas , project managers can share curated weekly updates on the progress of work, where it's happening, and call out key blockers, changes, and updates.

Claire Drumond

Claire Drumond is a marketing strategist, speaker, and writer for Atlassian. She is the author of numerous articles published on the Trello and Atlassian blogs and is a regular contributor to various publications on Medium including HackerNoon, Art+Marketing, and PoetsUnlimited. She speaks at tech conferences around the world about agile, breaking down silos, and building empathy.

Scrum - a brief introduction to scrum methodology

In scrum, a product is built in a series of fixed-length iterations called sprints. Learn how the scrum methodology can impact the software development.

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The Ultimate Guide to Implementing Agile Project Management (and Scrum)

🎁 Bonus Material: Free Agile Project Management Checklist!

Ultimate Guide To Implementing Agile

Step 7: Decide what to focus on next in your sprint retrospective

One of the core principles of Agile project management is that it’s sustainable. This means you should be ready to start on the next sprint as soon as the previous one ends.

To make sure you’re actually learning from each release (and not just moving forward blindly), you need to dig in with a sprint retrospective .

After you show off the release, a retrospective is a moment to think back on the process of the previous sprint.

Did everything go as planned? Was the workload manageable? Where could you improve your process or planning? Did you learn something during the sprint that changes your initial timeline or vision for the project?

Don’t simply plan, but also take this time to discuss how the previous sprint went and how you could improve in your next one.

The retrospective is a natural extension of the review, and so while your stakeholders can leave, the rest of the team should be involved and giving their insights.

It makes the most sense for your sprint retrospective to happen right after your sprint review.

Again, keep it short and sweet. An hour or two max is probably all you’ll need to debrief and plan for the next brief.

What happens after the sprint retrospective?

By the end of the sprint retrospective, your team should have a list of imporvements and changes you can implement in your next sprint. And then the sprint process starts over!

Bring your learnings into the next sprint planning session and keep shipping functional software.

Getting started with an Agile workflow: How to pick the Agile methodology that’s right for your team

As we said earlier, Agile is more of a set of philosophies and principles rather than a perscriptive set of rules. As such, you can apply Agile principles in a number of different ways depending on how your team best works together.

These are called Agile methdologies. And while they’re pretty similar, they have their own unique practices, terminilogies, and tactics.

Let’s take a look at the top 3 most popular Agile methodologies and break down how they’re different:

Agile project management with Scrum

Scrum is probably the most well-known Agile methodology thanks to its simplicity, proven productivity, and ability to act as a catch-all framework for the various practices promoted by other Agile methodologies.

Like other Agile methodologies, Scrum relies on a set of time-bound sprints. However, Scrum is a bit more perscriptive on how you structure your sprints. Each Scrum sprint features four “ceremonies” that help your team move forward.

  • Sprint planning: A team meeting to decide what to include in the current sprint. Once the team has decided on what to include in the sprint nothing else can be added except by the team.
  • Sprint demo: A sharing meeting where the team shows off what they’ve shipped.
  • Daily Standup: Regular 10–15 meetings to sync up and talk about progreess and roadblocks.
  • Retrospective: A review of the results of the previous sprint to tweak your process.

Along with these ceremonies, teams will use a dedicated “Scrum board” that mirrors the process. During the sprint planning meeting, the team will move any active issues to the board.

As they work through them, the issues will move through the workflow from To Do to In Progress, Code Review, and Done (or however your team chooses to organize their board). The Scrum board is a powerful tool for adding transparency to your project management process.

Like Scrum, Kanban is an Agile methodology built around continual delivery, while keeping things simple and not overburdening the development team. However, rather than use tightly time-bound sprints, Kanban teams organize around a limited number of “work in progress” tasks and can release at any time when they’re ready.

There are a few other core principles that help differentiate Kanban from Scrum:

1. Visualize your workflow on a ‘board’ While the Scrum board is a nice-to-have, Kanban relies on a visual board to keep all your Sprint’s tasks visibile and show progress. Kanban boards are also great tools for helping project managers manage resources and set priorities.

Kanban Board – Todo, Doing, Done

Project Management Magic: 8 Persuasion Tricks For More Team Performance

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Agile planning: a step-by-step guide and template

agile project management business plan

Overwhelmingly, the world is going agile – a whopping  71% of organizations  have adopted agile planning methodologies, and 60% of those companies increased their profits after doing so.

In this article, we’re going to dive into what the approach is and its processes so you can apply it to your own workflows. Looking for an answer to a specific question? Click the links below to navigate to the following sections:

+ What is Agile planning?

+ 4 essential Agile components

+ The agile planning process: step by step

+ Agile planning template

For those wanting more of a step-by-step guide, let’s first define the term.

What is agile planning?

Agile planning  is a project management style with an incremental, iterative approach. Instead of using in an in-depth plan from the start of the project—which is typically product related—Agile leaves room for requirement changes throughout and relies on constant feedback from end users.

Over a defined period of time, cross-functional teams work on product iterations and achieving OKRs (objectives and key results), organizing their work into backlogs that focus on delivering value. The ultimate goal of each iteration is to produce a working project.

One of the most popular agile planning strategies is Scrum. Next, we’ll quickly go over Scrum and what it means.

Don’t miss more quality content!

The scrum approach to planning—how to start thinking in an agile way.

In this section, we’ll touch lightly on Scrum. You’ll see plenty of overlap between Scrum and Agile, so we’ll keep it brief here.

As mentioned above, Scrum follows the Agile planning methodology.

The main difference between Scrum and Agile is that while Agile is a project management style, Scrum is just one of various approaches to following that framework. Just as with Agile planning, its goal is to create a functional product that delivers value to the user.

In the Scrum approach, there’s plenty of room for continuous change and adaptations to user’s needs and changing markets. Here’s a short intro into how it works:

Scrum relies on sprints (more on this below) to work on product fixes, updates, new features, requirements, and so on. Just as in agile planning, this is called the product backlog. Every few weeks, the team chooses a few items from the backlog they’ll work on during the next sprint. Throughout the sprint, the team participates in events (called ceremonies) where the team:

  • Plans each sprint and decides what to accomplish in the next sprint
  • Gets team members on the same page and voices any concerns that may block progress
  • Comes together at the end of the sprint to see a demo and what they accomplished
  • Meets after the end of each sprint to talk about what worked well and what didn’t, so they can improve the process moving forward. This is called the Retrospective.

We’ll get into some of these stages below as we explore Agile more in depth in the following sections, starting with its essential characteristics.

4 Essential characteristics of Agile Planning

Before using any project planning method, such as Kanban boards, Gantt charts or Scrum, it’s important to understand the basics. Here are the four essential characteristics of Agile you need to know.

1. An agile project plan is divided into releases and sprints

Agile planners define a release as creating a new product or substantially updating an existing product. Each release is broken down into several iterations called  sprints . Each sprint has a fixed length, typically two weeks, and the team has a predefined list of items to work through in each sprint. The work items are called  user stories .

The release plan is broken down into several iterations (sprints) that include user stories (items).

illustration of woman climbing ladder composed of boxes that are red, yellow, and green

2. Planning is based on user stories

As mentioned above, a  user story   is an item that caters to users’ needs. For example:

  • “As a team member, I need to know which tasks are currently assigned to me.”
  • “As a team leader, I need to receive an email notification when a task is stuck or behind schedule.”

Unlike in traditional  project management methodologies  like  waterfall , in which teams would create detailed technical specifications of exactly what they would build, in agile planning, the team only documents  what the user needs . Throughout the sprint, the team figures out how to address that specific need in the best way possible, which brings us to the next characteristic.

3. Planning is iterative and incremental

All sprints are of equal length, and an agile team repeats the same process over and over again (such as the ceremonies we outlined in the Scrum section) in every sprint. Each sprint should result in working features that can be rolled out to end-users.

An iterative process allows the team to learn what they are capable of, estimate how many stories they can complete in a given timeframe,   and discover problems that impede their progress. These problems can be taken care of in subsequent sprints.

4. Estimation is done by team members themselves

A core ethic of agile planning is that development teams should participate in planning and estimation, instead of management deciding on the work scope. In this spirit stage, agile planning allows teams to determine the complexity of user stories to carry out a plan. In  agile methodology , the process of defining work complexity is called a story point.

For example, a team can assign 1 point to a simple user story, 2-3 points for moderately complex, and 4-5 points for a big story – based on their understanding of the work involved.

Now that we know which elements you need for an Agile plan, let’s go through how you’d create yours.

The agile project scheduling process

To better understand how you’d go about creating an agile project schedule or plan, we created a step-by-step list of what you’ll need to do. After discussing the goals for the release— what problem do we want to solve or how will we improve the user experience?—you can use the following to plan your release.

  • Discuss the needed  features   to address the goals. What components would make the product even more user-friendly? What are users missing? What would they like to see?
  • Discuss the details  involved in each feature, and factors that can influence delivery. This would include the infrastructure required, risk, and external dependencies. Features with highest risk and highest value should be planned early in the release.
  • Decide how much work  you can commit to as a team in each sprint. This is usually based on the team’s velocity in previous sprints. You should take into account existing work on infrastructure or tools, and known interruptions such as support work.
  • List the stories and epics  for the release by their size. An  epic  is a larger dev task broken down into several user stories.
  • Add an iteration  to the plan so teams know what they’ll work on for the following two weeks.
  • Add stories to the iteration  until it reaches the maximum capacity.
  • Add more iterations  until all user stories are covered, or remove lower priority user stories to adapt to the required time frame for the release.
  • Share the plan  using your  agile management software of choice  and ask for feedback to get commitment from all team members, product owners, and other stakeholders.

The above is all about deciding on the schedule, but you’ll still need a plan of attack for the actual sprints. Let’s look at what that entails.

Sprint Planning Process

Here is how an agile team plans a new sprint, as part of an existing release plan:

  • Hold a retrospective meeting  to discuss the previous sprints and lessons learned .
  • Run a  sprint planning  meeting  to analyze the release plan and update it according to velocity in recent sprints, changes to priorities, new features, or idle time that wasn’t planned for in the release.
  • Make sure user stories are detailed enough  to work on. Elaborate on tasks that are not well defined, to avoid surprises.
  • Break down user stories into specific tasks . For example, the user story “view tasks assigned to me” can be broken up into UX design of a “my tasks screen”, back-end implementation, and front-end development of the interface. Keep the size of tasks small, no more than one workday.
  • Assign tasks to team members  and confirm that they are committed to performing them. In the  agile/scrum framework  this is done by the Scrum Master.
  • Write the tasks on (physical) sticky cards  and hang them up on a large board visible to the entire team. All the user stories in the current sprint should be up on the board.
  • Track the progress of all the tasks  on a grid, by recording who is responsible for completing each task, estimated time to complete it, remaining hours, and actual hours used. This time tracking should be updated by all team members and visible to everyone.
  • Track velocity using a burndown chart.  During the sprint, use the team’s time tracking to calculate a chart showing the number of tasks or hours remaining, vs. the plan. The slope of the burndown chart shows if we are on schedule, ahead, or behind schedule.

Burn down chart of an agile iteration's progress

During the sprint, you need to ensure everyone is on the same page and teams communicate issues or potential issues. This is the purpose of the Daily Standup Meeting.

Daily Standup Meeting

Once you have the schedule down and you’ve planned your sprint, from the very beginning of the sprint you’ll gather the entire team and have every team member report on their status. There are a few components to these meetings:

  • Daily agile planning meetings  are typically  standup meetings , to encourage brevity.
  • They have a maximum duration of 15 minutes.
  • Each member has no more than one minute to report “what I did yesterday,” “what I’ll do today,” “what’s in my way” from accomplishing the task on time.
  • The task status can only be “done” or “not done,” and if it’s not done, team members should state how many hours remain to finish up.
  • Obstacles encountered by team members should be briefly stated and discussed later in the relevant forum.
  • The Scrum Master or release manager is responsible for coordinating and helping team members overcome obstacles.

We threw a lot of information at you regarding scheduling, planning, and running standups during your sprint. That’s a lot to take in, yet alone visualize how it could look. That’s why many teams use a Work Operating Software (Work OS) to help them run their projects, communicate with team members, and track all updates in real-time.

Using a team management tool for agile planning

A team management tool can help you define the user stories in the release, organize them into sprints, assign them to team members, and track progress in real-time, from anywhere. Here’s a quick visual of what this could look like in a work OS.

board for helping to execute the current sprint iteration

Though monday.com is more than a team management tool, thousands of teams rely on our Work OS as their main  agile project management tool to run all kinds of projects transparently and seamlessly. They use monday.com’s  Work OS  to:

  • Get a clear understanding of priorities and estimates, easily tracking transformation into reports and dashboards
  • Plan sprints realistically with a number of visual options to help them see team capacity, individual capacity, user story statuses, and more.
  • Know at a glance if something’s stuck, in progress, or behind schedule with colorful and customizable statuses.
  • Sync entire teams on timelines and milestones, allowing anyone to tag another teammate to a user story or status so everyone stays in the loop.
  • Visualize ownership of bugs and features with customizable boards that lets you filter by person, item, date, bug, and so on.
  • Attach all documents, materials, and useful notes to one board, giving everyone one source of truth.
  • Easily shift tasks around using our drag and drop functions as needed to reflect user requests or product changes.

All of the above is just the beginning of what you can achieve on monday.com.

Use monday.com for effortless agile planning

Agile planning’s structure and iterative approach to work makes it the perfect complement to product teams and various industries alike, though any team can use this method.

Once you have an understanding of how to use and maintain this methodology, take your agile planning to the next level on  monday.com ‘s Work OS—not only will you always have a clear view into each sprint, but you’ll be able to reinforce Agile principles such transparency and agility every step of the way.

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Agile Project Management: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Read about the history of Agile project management, its benefits, potential challenges, principles, and methodologies to learn how to become an Agile project manager.

[Featured Image]:  Agile Project Manager, wearing a plaid shirt, is analyzing information with members of the team.

Agile project management is often used in software development that focuses on collaboration and constantly improving a product or service. This methodology was used for software development as early as the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 2001 that a group of software developers published the Agile Manifesto, which established the 12 principles and four values of Agile. 

Agile isn’t only meant for software developers, though; it applies in other fields such as marketing, HR, and finance. The Project Management Institute reports an increased demand for Agile project management across industries, with a median salary of $78,279 for a project manager with less than three years of experience and $138,000 with 20 or more years of experience [ 1 ].

Read more: What Is Agile? And When to Use It

What is Agile project management?

Agile is a project management approach that uses short cycles, or sprints, to develop a product or service. In Agile, the team plays a large role. The project’s tasks or conditions often change, and the project team produces more frequent deliverables. The Agile method moves more fluidly and quickly than other approaches to project management. 

Agile project management principles

Agile promotes 12 principles. These principles show the importance of customer collaboration and responsiveness to change, or agility [ 2 ]:

1. “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

2. “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.

3. “Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

4. “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. Build projects around motivated individuals.

5. “Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

6. “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

7. “Working software is the primary measure of progress.

8. “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

9. “Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

10. “Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential.

11. “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. 

12. “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Agile also has four values:

Emphasis on the importance of individuals and interactions rather than processes and tools

Valuing working software over documentation

Valuing collaboration with the customer instead of contract negotiations

Responding to change rather than sticking to a plan

Who is part of an Agile project management team?

The roles on the team depend on which methodology is used, which include Scrum, Kanban, Crystal, XP, Lean, and others. The project or program manager is a key figure on an Agile project management team. Scrum roles are Scrum Master, product owner (or product manager), and the development team, for example. 

The Agile method emphasizes face-to-face communication, so many teams work in one location, though some organizations have a remote workplace with team members in various locations. Agile teams should contain motivated individuals with the resources needed to fulfill their roles. The roles within the team depend on which Agile methodology an organization uses.

Common Agile project management methodologies

Agile teams benefit from using one workflow. Some Agile teams use Scrum, while others prefer Kanban, Lean, or other methods. Some teams combine Agile with the Waterfall approach, which means they may use a traditional workflow for stakeholders, but the team uses a Scrum approach for its work. 

Scrum is a framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex projects. Scrum, which got its name from rugby teams in training, emphasizes cross-functional teams who are self-organizing and open-minded. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland developed Scrum in the 1990s and wrote the Scrum Guide to help others use this project management framework. 

The theory behind Scrum is leanness and empiricism: the idea that true knowledge comes from actual, lived experience. The five values of Scrum are commitment to achieving goals, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

Scrum requires the roles of Scrum Master , product owner, and the development team. A Scrum Master is the person on the team who helps everyone understand and implement Scrum, and the person is responsible for the Scrum team’s effectiveness. The Scrum Master: 

Coaches the team on self-management

Helps the organization implement Scrum

Helps team members remove impediments

Facilitates communication with stakeholders

Makes sure meetings are productive and positive

Supports the product owner in efficiently maintaining the product backlog

Helps teams focus on completing high-quality project outcomes

Read more: What Is a Scrum Master (and How Do I Become One)?

The product owner maintains the product backlog, which is the living document that contains a prioritized list of features for the product or service. It lists the value, order, description, and estimate of effort for each item. The product owner will refine the backlog regularly so that the Scrum team can work effectively.

Kanban is another framework used in Agile and DevOps software development. Kanban emphasizes transparent visual feedback, real-time communication, and maximized efficiency. Work tasks are shown on a Kanban board, which is created using project management software such as Jira. Each column on the Kanban board represents the phases or steps tasks must pass through from to-do to completion. Each task or item on a Kanban board is represented on its own card that shows its critical information, including possible screenshots. Kanban templates allow users to customize their dashboards and have views such as a flow diagram, charts, and other reports. 

Toyota began using the Kanban method in the 1930s in its car factories, and today it can be applied to any industry. Software teams use the same principles to match the work in progress (WIP) to the team’s capacity. 

Lean is a collection of tools that help teams improve their processes. In Lean, the goal is to cut out waste and inefficiency. According to the Project Management Institute, the difference between Lean and Agile is that Lean has more structure: “Lean’s focus on continuous process improvement, based on an analytical systems and process analysis of performance adds significant value to the generally more informal, single project focused intuitive approach of Agile” [ 3 ].

Benefits of Agile project management

Agile is useful because it applies to nearly every industry. Agile helps organizations work more efficiently by streamlining processes. There are many benefits to Agile project management methodologies.

Pros and cons

Agile project management allows for continuous improvement, and the process is flexible and adaptive. Incorporating feedback throughout the process means software customers, for example, won’t have to wait until the end of a project to see the results—reducing the likelihood they won’t like the features. Agile also helps reduce waste and inefficiencies and problems are often caught early.

One downside to Agile project management is that if team members such as the Scrum Master don’t effectively perform their roles, the project could veer off track, causing delays or other risks. It’s also crucial for teams to work together without conflicts in all Agile project management methodologies. Mistakes like being too aggressive with the workload, resisting compromise, not connecting emotionally with team members, or making assumptions are also threats to the Agile team.

Hear more about some of the benefits of Agile from a technical program manager at Google:

How to become an Agile project manager 

You can become an Agile project manager through various paths. These include obtaining a bachelor’s degree, gaining professional experience at a workplace, completing a master’s degree, or pursuing certifications.

Earn a bachelor’s degree.

Many Agile project management jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher. While some universities have specialized degrees in project management, many students choose to study business or fields such as construction management, software engineering, information technology, marketing, health care administration, and other specialized fields.

Gain professional experience. 

Another way to get your foot in the door is to work as part of an Agile project management development team, whether through an internship or entry-level job. Exploring various work environments through internships lets you see which fields you want to enter in the future.

Consider earning a master’s degree.

A Master of Science in Agile Project Management (MS/APM) helps position you for leadership roles in the future. It can also help you stand out in the job candidate field. Another option for a related degree is an MBA . An MBA program prepares you for the Project Management Professional (PMP) and Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) exams. Master’s programs in the fields you want to work in are also beneficial, whether that’s marketing, health care, or any other industry.

Get certified. 

Organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI), APMG International, the International Consortium for Agile, and Scaled Agile Academy offer certifications and credentials for Agile project management. Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) is the certification program from the PMI. 

Read more: 6 Popular Agile Certifications

Ready to become an Agile project manager? Start with one of the paths listed above. As you do,  explore the many courses, Guided Projects, Professional Certificates, Specializations, and other products on Agile on Coursera.

For example, the Google Project Management Professional Certificate can help lay the foundation for a successful career in Agile project management. It contains six courses, including Agile Project Management.  

Article sources

Project Management Institute. " Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey—Twelfth Edition (2021) , https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/pmi_salary_survey_12th_edition_freeversion_final.pdf?v=53b1371a-42f5-43d4-af9f-8e2bc7fa4c0b." Accessed September 27, 2023.

Agile Manifesto. " Principles behind the Agile Manifesto , http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html." Accessed September 27, 2023.

Project Management Institute. " Agile and Lean Project Management: A Zen-Like Approach to Find Just the "Right" Degree of Formality for Your Project ."https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/agile-lean-project-management-formality-7992 Accessed September 27, 2023.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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A Best Practices Guide to Agile Planning for Project Managers

By Kate Eby | July 12, 2016

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Agile is not a “top down” activity. Instead of a project manager handing out assignments and overseeing the work, performing estimates and developing the plan on their own, the process is derived from the team as a whole. For example, estimates of how much time it will take to complete a task are provided by the Agile team that will perform the task and features to be implemented within a sprint are decided by the team in the sprint planning meeting, where the product backlog is discussed and concerns are voiced.

Agile methodologies are collaborative practices that differ from traditional project planning. The following is a discussion of planning best practices for Agile project managers.

Agile Release Planning

Agile release planning differs from traditional project planning in that it is based on a selection of features that are developed during a specific set of time (the sprint). The ultimate purpose of Agile release planning is to achieve the product vision - the high-level goal for the product and how it aligns with a business strategy.

An Agile project’s release plan is the all-encompassing timetable focused on planning multiple iterations in an effort to determine when each release will be delivered. In order to achieve the product vision, there are several details to consider prior to building a release plan, including:

  • Availability of the product owner
  • Prioritized backlog that has been reviewed by the product owner
  • Identified team members and stakeholders
  • Team member locations and availability

Each iteration or sprint will also have its own plan.

Agile Project Management E-book

How can Agile PM help you do more with less?

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Sprint/Iteration Planning

In Agile project management, the product itself is developed in sprints. The goal of sprint planning is to determine the features and functionality that will be included in the next iteration. Before each sprint begins, a sprint planning meeting takes place between the product owner and development team members. The user stories and backlog are reviewed to determine the tasks that can be completed during the sprint. These plans deliver a finer level of detail (compared to the high-level release plan), including which tasks are to be performed by which team members and how long each task will take.

Activities that occur during the Agile planning process include:

Task Planning: Agile team members break the features down into tasks and then team members take those tasks on. As a matter of best practice, look at the time estimates and try to break any task that may take longer than a day down into smaller tasks. This helps to reduce uncertainty and foster successful task completion. It also feeds into the job of estimating, as it is much easier to estimate the time required to complete a smaller task.

Agile Estimating: It’s true, estimating the time to completion can seem like a matter of voodoo more than science, but some principles can help to make it seem less like guesswork. As a best practice, rely on past success to estimate a particular effort. For example, rely on past feature delivery velocities to plan future velocities. If the team was able to deliver X features in the previous iteration, then plan to deliver X features in the current cycle. In Agile Release Planning By Example , Brian Stallings and Valerie Morris provide the following useful practices for estimating time to completion:

  • Reference historical data – Team specific
  • Be realistic, not optimistic
  • Estimate based on smaller units of work rather than larger ones. Estimates based on tasks rather than features, therefore, are going to be more accurate

User Stories Development: The Declaration of Project Principles states, “We deliver reliable results by engaging customers in frequent interactions and shared ownership.” By communicating with the customer, you can determine the overall goal for the project and, in turn, an overall goal for the sprint/iteration. Rely on that goal to develop your feature/user story priorities and then allow your priorities to guide the selection of which features/user stories to develop during the iteration.

Backlog Management: There are two types of backlogs to consider:

  • The Product Backlog is the master list of things to be built into the product.
  • The Iteration Backlog is the list of priority items to be built during the current iteration.

The key to managing backlogs is managing priorities. Work with your customers to ensure that the most important features are delivered. Again, as the Declaration states, “We deliver reliable results by engaging customers in frequent interactions and shared ownership.” The customer can tell you which backlog items have the highest priority, and which backlog items have the highest priority at that time. Priorities can shift, so be sure to check with customers periodically to make certain that the next iteration is still being planned appropriately.

Agile Scheduling: Agile scheduling is perhaps the most “project managerial” of project management activities. The following are some useful guidelines for managing scheduling:

  • Schedule in detail only for the immediate iteration: Sprints/iterations are useful for managing uncertainty, but it is adaptability that drives sprints/iterations. Scheduling too far in advance prevents you from being nimble and responding to changing priorities.
  • Involve the entire team: Scheduling is a team activity that is driven by estimates, so the team should be involved in the entire process, not merely for accurate scheduling, but also to promote buy-in.
  • Design and testing are also part of development: Keep the time for these required activities during sprints/iterations in mind as you build estimates and schedules.
  • Include time for the demo meeting: The demo is an important part of the release, and should be part of the schedule.

According to the Declaration of Project Principles , “We expect uncertainty and manage for it through iterations, anticipation, and adaptation.” One primary constituent of uncertainty are dependencies. To avoid this pitfall, Agile seeks to limit dependencies through sprint/iteration planning because tasks are not developed with an overarching project in mind, but in a more granular form in which a set of features can be developed in parallel and delivered in working order during the one to four week period that typically defines a sprint/iteration. As a matter of best practice, plan your sprints/iterations to avoid dependencies.

Agile Metrics

As the Declaration of Project Principles states, “We boost performance through group accountability for results and shared responsibility for team effectiveness.” Metrics are the means by which results and effectiveness are measured. 

Some valuable metrics for measuring team performance include:

Burn rate: The rate at which a project’s budget is being spent. The cost of the project is something that will be requested and must be measured against the expected return. This is simply a matter of business value.

Delivered functionality: An Agile team’s purpose is to deliver functionality at the conclusion of every sprint/iteration. Three ways to measure this are:

Velocity: The number of features/user stories that are worked on during a sprint/iteration.

Defects: How effective the development was based on the number of defects or bugs discovered.

Burndown chart: The amount of work that needs to be completed before the end of the project.

Effective project management is about helping the team meet goals by identifying and eliminating obstacles. To that end, keep the following in mind:

Agile is about individuals and interactions: Metrics are good at providing an overall picture, but they don’t provide all of the details. So, when a metric says there is a problem, talk to the team members to find out what is happening.

Watch the trends: If defects are high but declining over time, then the team is solving problems. If defects are holding steady, it may be that the team is not managing the defects at all. This requires further investigation.

Agile Planning is About Teamwork and Collaboration

Agile projects are managed by the entire team, primarily at the iteration level. The team must work together to select features from the backlog that will be built into the current iteration, estimate time, schedule work, and drive the project towards the product vision. The project manager maintains the plan, but it is really the team that owns the plan and is responsible for meeting plan requirements and deadlines.

Agile is about individuals and interactions, but it is also about teamwork and team ownership. In traditional project management, it can feel as though the project manager is in a lonely position, gathering data to put together a plan that is then handed down to task owners.In Agile the project manager is a task owner among task owners and everyone contributes.

Why Smartsheet is an Effective Agile Planning Tool

From simple task management and project planning to complex resource and portfolio management, Smartsheet helps you improve collaboration and increase work velocity -- empowering you to get more done. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.

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