First Things First – What is Agile?

Chances are, you downloaded AgilePress because you already know about Agile, and maybe Scrum and/or Kanban as well. Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a total newbie, we’d like to provide you with an overview of the process with a slant toward the AgilePress method.

In 2001, a handful of software developers put together the Agile Manifesto, an expression of values in software development that emphasized:

  • Individuals and Interactions more than processes and tools
  • Working Software more than comprehensive documentation
  • Customer Collaboration more than contract negotiation
  • Responding to Change more than following a plan

Out of this movement, the idea of agile development evolved, along with tools – such as AgilePress – designed to better facilitate such projects.

Basic Elements

[post-sticky note-id=’146′]There are four basic elements that make up AgilePress, which are taken from the Agile product/project management methodology. Let’s look at each…

Products

A product is what you’re trying to produce.  While Agile was designed for software development, it can be used for any number of things… from building a deck to paying off your bills to a personal health-improvement plan.

In AgilePress, your product appears in the familiar format of a WordPress post, sans the big box where you normally enter post content.  Because things in Agile are broken down into small elements, AgilePress uses the smaller “excerpt” box for its main content area.

Stories

Often referred to as a “user story,” an Agile story is a working tool used to decide what features are important for your product. It’s something that a person will use your product might say, such as “I want to be able to sit on my new deck in the rain without getting soaked,” or “I would like to be able to bench-press my own weight.”  In software, this might be “our new accounting software should remind us of important tax filing dates in advance” or “users of our web site should be able to reset their own passwords.”

Agile collects these user stories into a Product Backlog, a place where they can live before prior to being scheduled for actual work.  AgilePress uses a Backlog Board to house these stories.

Sometimes a story is very large in scope; we call those “epics.”  Smaller stories should be made from epics in order to make them more manageable.

Tasks

If a story is the “what” (the user wants), a task is the “how” (we’re going to make it happen).  An automobile owner might want her oil changed (a story); a mechanic knows that this means removing the drain plug to get the old oil out of the engine, replacing the oil filter, etc.  Those are tasks, the “to-do” items on one’s checklist.  A single story might have a number of associated tasks.

Kanban

Kanban is a Japanese word that means, literally, “signboard” or “billboard,” but in Agile we use the term to refer to a multi column “board” with a minimum of three columns: “to do,” “in progress,” and “done.”  (AgilePress uses an “in testing” column as well because no matter what you’re building, there’s always that point between when we stop working on something but can’t call it “done”  yet because the customer hasn’t signed off.)

Kanban is an easy way to get started with Agile, and it might be the best choice for tracking personal-use or other single-person projects.

Sprints

Once you have Stories and Tasks, you may elect – particularly if you’re doing a team-based project such as software development – to use the Scrum methodology.  In Scrum, work is done in short periods called “sprints,” which are generally never shorter than one (1) week and never longer than four (4), with two (2) weeks being somewhat typical.

In order of priority, items are selected from the product backlog and moved to the sprint backlog.  In AgilePress, the sprint backlog is the first column of the Scrum board, and it has special behavior compared to other columns.  Only that which can feasibly be done within the defined sprint time-frame should be included.

When the work begins, tasks from the “to do” column get moved to “in progress,” and then to “done” when the work is finished.

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