Collaborating and Communicating Agile Requirements Class Outline

1. Agile Overview
More than simply a methodology or approach to software development, Agile embraces a set of principles that drive more effective software development. Agile focuses on the customer, embraces the ever changing nature of business environments and encourages human interaction in delivering outstanding software. In this introduction, we’ll discuss the following:
a. Agile Manifesto
b. Agile Principles
c. Agile Methodologies
d. Agile Benefits

2. Project Initiation
Among the key contributing factors leading to project failure is poor communication between the customer and developer groups. As Mike Cohn puts it, “software requirements is a communication problem”. It is critical, therefore, that each successful project start out right. In this section we’ll cover the following topics.
a. Project Charter
b. Project Roles
c. Project Planning
d. Communication

Class Exercise – Working in small teams, you will establish a project charter including goals and objectives for a sample project. You will participate in defining key roles for project team members and set clear expectations for project communication.

3. Focus on the Customer
It is critical that the customer be the focus of a product throughout the development lifecycle. Every requirement should bring some value to the customer. Therefore, prior to defining requirements, it is important to define the customer. This will include the following topics:
a. Customer Involvement
b. Customer Roles
c. Creating and Using Personas
d. Constraints

Class Exercise – Within your teams you will brainstorm some customer roles for your example project. From the brainstorming, you will consolidate the larger list of roles into key roles that will be the focus of your sample project, For each of the key roles, each team will create personas and share them with the class.

4. User Stories
User stories are a way to capture requirements from a customer point of view. Stories do not capture all of the detailed requirements, but require enough information to estimate and plan. A proven tool used in Agile teams to capture initial requirements, in this section we will explore the following topics:
a. INVEST Model (Bill Wake, ~2003)
b. Goals and Objectives
c. Acceptance Criteria and Acceptance Tests
d. Non-user Stories

Class Exercise – Led by the instructor, the class will come up with some user stories for a sample project. We will discuss how to determine as a team what is appropriate for your user stories to be effective.

5. Product Backlog
The Product Backlog is the complete list of desired elements, or requirements, for the product. It is NOT a Requirements Specification, but a high level identification of what the software may satisfy. In this section we will discuss effective means of creating, prioritizing and maintaining the Product Backlog. We will peruse the following topics:
a. Who owns the Product Backlog?
b. Functional and Non-functional Requirements
c. Story-Writing Workshop
d. Prioritizing the Product Backlog
e. Maintaining the Product Backlog

Class Exercise – In small teams identified previously, you will engage in a story-writing workshop as a means of building a product backlog for your sample project. Subsequently, you will participate in prioritizing your product backlog and present the highest priority stories to the class.

6. Estimating and Planning
Among the greatest challenges in developing software and delivering against stakeholder expectations is estimating accurately and subsequently planning how those expectations can be met. Agile cannot make that challenge disappear, but offers some very helpful tools that enable teams to set and meet the appropriate expectations.
a. Relative vs. Actual Estimating
b. Using Story Points
c. Planning Poker (Grenning 2002)
d. Five Levels of Planning in Agile
e. Estimating Team Velocity

Class Exercise – Using the estimating techniques taught using story points, you’ll enjoy a few rounds of Planning Poker, a fun and very effective method of relative estimating, with your team to establish estimates for your highest priority stories. This is certain to be a valuable tool for you to incorporate into your estimating process.

7. Release Plan
The release plan identifies a goal for the stories that will be included for a release of the software. Through the prior processes, the team will have prioritized the stories and estimated the team velocity. These key elements will come together to give the team a level of confidence that they can deliver the necessary requirements for a product release in what is normally a fixed timeframe. We’ll examine the following topics:
a. Iteration Estimates
b. Prioritization Revisited
c. Ownership and Participation
d. Communication

Class Exercise – Each team will establish a release plan for their sample project incorporating priority, estimates and velocity as appropriate. We’ll discuss how real experiences of fixed time and requirement projects working well with an Agile release plan.

8. Use Cases
At the appropriate time, prior to entering into the development of a story, requirements will need to be discussed in more detail. Use cases are a proven method for documenting the appropriate detail from a user interaction point of view. In this section, the instructor will introduce use cases and discuss some of the foundational elements that support the development process.
a. Use Case Advantages
b. Use Case elements
c. Success Path
d. Alternate Paths
e. Exceptions

Class Exercise – Teams will discuss and document use cases, including alternate paths and exceptions, for some of their high priority stories. As a class we’ll discuss the relationship between use cases and stories, and how they complement each other

9. Iteration Plan and Execution
An iteration is a fixed amount of time in which stories/requirements will be developed, tested and ready for release. Because the requirements communication process takes you into each iteration throughout the product release, we’ll explore the iteration planning and execution process. During this section we will discuss the following topics:
a. Iteration Planning
b. Defining “Done”
c. Test-Driven, Test Often
d. Demonstrate Working Software (Delivered Requirements)
e. Inspect and Adapt applied to Requirements

10. Retrospective on
Communicating Requirements
Using Agile Methods – Retrospectives are a key practice in Agile. We will take an opportunity to review our learning collectively and how we can improve. Each participant will identify one or two things that they will adapt in their working environment based on their learning. The instructor will also identify any elements of the course that should be adapted for a better learning experience, thus benefiting future course participants.


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