The Agile Project Kick-off Kit
By Nick Butler in Agile on March 14, 2017
Fast, fiercely focused on your customers’ priorities, and fun for the whole family; in Agile you kick off a project the way you plan to carry on.
Is your internal team starting an Agile project? Maybe you wonder what to expect when you start working with an Agile development company? Find out how a Project Kick-off workshop can set you on course to deliver a product your customers will love to use.
The Kick-off Kit
This post is the first in a series detailing the tools and templates you can use for a Project Kick-off. In later posts we’ll run through an example agenda showing how and why we use these tools and templates (as well as other options worth considering). The kit covers the approaches that work for us; you’ll be able to experiment to find what works for you.
Sample Project Kick-off agenda
- Vision presentation
- Press release
- Elevator pitch
- Success sliders
- Story mapping
- Story writing
- Team charter
It’s just a sample because different projects need different agendas. Bigger projects are likely to require longer and more involved Kick-offs for example, or, if the team hasn’t worked together before, you might spend more time on icebreaker exercises. And, because continuous improvement is at the heart of Agile, we’re always trying out new tools and techniques.
The purpose of the Project Kick-off
An Agile Project Kick-off is designed to:
- build a shared understanding of the Project Vision: what you’ll deliver for your organisation and your customers
- bond the team as a collaborative unit aligned behind the Vision
- ruthlessly prioritise only those elements that will deliver these outcomes
- let you set expectations about what will be delivered within your organisation
- do all this quickly with a view to delivering a working product as soon as possible.
It’s often the first time people have met so it’s a chance to get to know each other. Everyone has input and works together to give the project the soundest foundation possible.
Who comes to the kick-off?
The guest list is all about combining your organisation’s customer insights with the technical expertise of the development team. You’ll want:
- the Product Owner
- stakeholders who understand the customers
- some real live customers if possible
- the team (everyone needed to do the work and no-one who isn’t)
- the facilitator (often an Agile Coach or Scrum master)
Like the Product Owner, the stakeholders from your organisation should have a really good idea about what your customers are going to want from the product and what problems you’re trying to solve.
This means the best candidates are often people who regularly deal with customers, like your call centre, help desk, front of house or sales mavens. These people are also most likely to be able to recruit actual customers to come along. User research or analytics experts are also good candidates. If you can get diverse bunch, all the better. The Kick-off makes use of the Wisdom of Crowds and the wisest crowds are often the most diverse. Most importantly, whoever attends needs to be engaged, open to all ideas and ready to contribute.
You’ll also want to make sure the whole team has a shared understanding of Agile.
Product owner brings the vision
For the Product Owner, the most important prep is getting ready to present the Product Vision: how the product helps deliver your organisations’ strategic goals, and how it helps your customers, now and in the future. How does the product enhance your digital relationships with your customers?
The team will ask questions and this starts the conversation that will continue throughout the project. The importance of the Vision to the Kick-off underlines the level of involvement a successful product owner will have with the project and it’s a good prompt for you to clear your calendar for the daily 15 minute standups you’ll be having once the project starts.
You might like to check out Roman Pichler’s tips for coming up with a vision.
What’s in a name?
You might also see the Project Kick-off called things like Project Discovery, Project Initiation and Project Inception. We go with Kick-off because Discovery seems too narrow, Initiation too reminiscent of painful rites of passage and, ever since the movie came out, Inception too synonymous with turning your brain to spaghetti.
We also like the way Kick-off conjures up the pleasures and rewards of team sport. “Project kick-offs are exciting things to be part of,” says our Agile Lead Gavin, “they’re lots of fun.”
The Kick-off Kit
Read about the Project-Kickoff for our Scrummaker project