Kanban. Agile Manifesto. Daily Stand up. Scrum. Whhhhhaaattt? If you’ve recently entered the world of Agile project management and software development, you’ve probably noticed that Agile has a language all its own. Even seasoned professionals encounter new agile terms on a regular basis.
Why all these specific terms? In the last 20 years, agile project management has become a go-to approach for software development teams. Agile methods focus on delivering value to customers through iterative development, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Teams using Agile project management are able to respond quickly and effectively to changing requirements and customer needs, while delivering high-quality software on time and within budget. Through the process of developing these approaches over the last two decades, agile practitioners have naturally developed a terminology for Agile that is all its own.
For finding out what all these terms mean, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s a glossary of some of the most common agile terms that you will encounter, including links to related articles to help you dig deeper. We’ve also included some terms that aren’t necessarily specific to Agile, but are often used by agile teams. We hope this list can help get you started on your own path to “continuous improvement.” See what we did there?
Glossary: 50+ Agile and Agile-related Terms
- Acceptance criteria: A set of requirements that a product or feature must meet in order to be considered complete and accepted by the customer.
- Agile: An iterative and incremental approach to project management and software development that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, customer satisfaction, and continuous improvement.
- Agile manifesto: A set of guiding principles for Agile software development, emphasizing values such as individuals and interactions, working software, customer collaboration, and responding to change. The Agile Manifesto provides a foundation for Agile project management practices and helps teams stay focused on delivering high-quality software that meets the needs of the customer.
- Agile release train (ART): A framework for coordinating the delivery of large-scale software projects by aligning multiple agile teams towards a common goal. The ART typically involves several Scrum teams working in tandem to deliver a product increment during a fixed timebox or release cycle.
- Backlog: A list of features or tasks that need to be completed during a project, but that are not yet planned for completion. Backlog items are prioritized by the product owner and used to guide the development team’s work. The backlog is dynamic and can change throughout the project as feedback or new requirements emerge.
- Bottleneck: A stage or process in an agile development workflow that is unable to keep up with the flow of work. This can lead to delays, inefficiencies, and reduced productivity. Identifying bottlenecks is crucial in Agile development as they can be addressed to improve the overall workflow.
- Burn-down chart: A burn-down chart is a visual representation of how much work is left to do and how quickly it’s being completed. The chart shows the amount of work remaining versus the time remaining in the project, allowing the team to track their progress and make adjustments as needed. The vertical axis represents the number of tasks left to complete; the horizontal axis represents the time left to complete them.
- Burn-up chart: A burn-up chart is very similar to a burn-down chart. It is also a visual representation of project progress. A burn up chart tracks the amount of work completed over time against the total amount of work to be done, starting at zero and increasing as work is completed. This chart displays the work being done on the vertical axis - in story points, hours, or other work units. The horizontal axis reflects the iterations or units of time, such as days, weeks, sprints, or cycles.
- Churn: refers to the amount of work that is added, changed, or removed from the project backlog during a sprint or iteration. Churn can also refer to the amount of work that is done, but ultimately discarded or thrown away, due to changes in project requirements, misunderstandings, or errors.
- Continuous delivery: An approach in which software is developed and released frequently, ensuring that it is always ready for deployment.
- Continuous improvement: Refers to the ongoing process of identifying and implementing changes that increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of a project or process.
- Continuous integration (CI): A software development practice that involves frequently integrating code changes into a shared repository. The goal of CI is to detect and fix integration problems as early as possible to ensure that software is always ready for deployment.
- Daily stand-up: A brief meeting where team members discuss what they worked on the previous day, what they plan to work on that day, and any roadblocks they’re facing. Stand-ups are meant to be short and focused, and are often limited to no longer than 15 minutes.
- Definition of Done (DoD): A set of criteria that a product or feature must meet in order to be considered complete and ready for release. This definition helps to ensure that everyone on the team understands what is expected and what criteria need to be met before a feature can be considered "done."
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- Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM): An Agile project delivery framework that provides a set of principles and best practices for delivering software projects on time and within budget. DSDM is particularly useful for complex projects with multiple stakeholders.
- Epic: Large, high-level features or requirements that can be broken down into smaller user stories or tasks. Epics help to provide a big-picture view of the project and help the team prioritize their work.
- Extreme Programming (XP): An Agile software development methodology that emphasizes customer satisfaction, teamwork, and continuous improvement. XP involves practices such as pair programming, test-driven development, and continuous integration to deliver high-quality software quickly.
- Feature: A specific piece of functionality that a product or system provides.
- Gantt chart: A project management tool used to visualize a project schedule. It displays tasks and activities as horizontal bars along a timeline, allowing project managers to track progress and identify dependencies.
- Incremental delivery: A strategy in which a product is delivered in small, usable increments rather than all at once.
- Iteration: A short, fixed period of time (usually one to four weeks) in which a team completes a set of tasks or features. Iterations help teams to deliver working software quickly and to gather feedback from customers.
- Kanban: An agile methodology that focuses on visualizing work, limiting work in progress, and managing flow. Kanban boards typically have columns such as "To Do," "In Progress," and "Done," allowing team members to see the status of each task or user story.
- Kanban board: A visual project management tool used to track the progress of work. It consists of a board with columns representing different stages of work (such as “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Done”) and cards representing individual work items. Work item cards move across the columns to reflect which stage they are in.
- Lean: An Agile methodology that focuses on delivering value to customers while minimizing waste. It emphasizes continuous improvement, customer collaboration, and just-in-time delivery.
- Leanban: A project management methodology that combines elements of Lean software development and Kanban. It emphasizes continuous improvement, flow, and pull-based scheduling.
- Minimum Viable Product (MVP): The smallest version of a product or feature that can be released to customers in order to gather feedback. The MVP helps the team to focus on delivering the most important features first, while allowing for a feedback loop for iterative improvements.
- Pair programming: Pair programming is a practice in which two developers work together on the same code at the same time. Pair programming can improve code quality, reduce errors, and promote knowledge sharing and collaboration.
- Planning poker: A technique in which team members estimate the effort required to complete a task or feature by assigning story points.
- Product owner: The product owner is the person responsible for defining the product vision and prioritizing the backlog. The product owner works closely with the development team to ensure that the product meets customer needs.
- Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT): A project management tool used to analyze and represent the tasks and activities required to complete a project. PERT uses statistical analysis to estimate the time required for each task and to identify the critical path of a project.
- Pull-based scheduling: An approach to scheduling work in an Agile development process in which team members "pull" work from a shared backlog based on their capacity and the priority of the work item. Instead of a manager or team lead assigning work to specific team members, the team collectively decides which work items to focus on next based on their understanding of the project goals and the current state of the work.
- Retrospective: A meeting in which the team reflects on the previous iteration (sprint or cycle), release, or project; discusses what went well and what didn't, and plans improvements.
- Roadmap: A strategic planning tool that helps Agile teams communicate their vision, set priorities, and align their work with business goals. The Agile roadmap is typically created and maintained by the product owner in collaboration with the development team and stakeholders, and includes the following elements: themes or objectives, releases, and key features.
- Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe): A framework for scaling Agile software development to larger organizations. It provides a set of principles and best practices for coordinating multiple Agile teams working on a common project.
- Scrum: A framework for agile project management that emphasizes self-organizing teams, iterative development, and continuous improvement. Scrum is often considered the most widely used agile methodology.
- Scrum Master: The person responsible for facilitating the scrum process and ensuring that the team follows agile principles and values.
- Scrumban: A hybrid agile methodology that combines the practices of Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban aims to provide the flexibility of Kanban with the structure of Scrum, allowing teams to switch between the two approaches as needed. Scrumban typically involves continuous delivery, with work items being pulled from a backlog and delivered to customers in small batches.
- Sprint: A sprint is a short, time-boxed iteration or cycle in which a team works to complete a set of tasks or features. Sprints usually last one to four weeks.
- Sprint planning meeting: A meeting held by the Scrum team at the beginning of each sprint to plan the work that will be done during the sprint. Sprint planning typically involves identifying the top-priority items from the product backlog, estimating the effort required to complete them, and breaking them down into smaller tasks that can be assigned to team members.
- Sprint review: A meeting held by the Scrum team at the end of each sprint to review the work that was completed during the sprint. Sprint reviews typically involve a demonstration of the completed work, feedback from stakeholders, and a retrospective discussion to identify areas for improvement.
- Stakeholder: Any individual or group who has an interest in or is affected by the outcome of a project. Stakeholders may include customers, users, managers, sponsors, team members, or external partners.
- Story: a simple, concise description of a feature or functionality that a user needs to accomplish a specific goal or task. Stories are used in agile development to capture requirements and define the work that needs to be done.
- Story point: A relative measure of the size and complexity of a task or feature.
- T-shirt sizing: A technique used in agile project management to estimate the relative size of stories or other work items. T-shirt sizing involves assigning a size to each item, typically using a range of t-shirt sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL) to indicate the level of effort required to complete the item.
- Theme: A high-level objective or goal that a project or product team aims to achieve. Themes often reflect the overall purpose or mission of a project and are used to organize and prioritize work items.
- User story: A user story is a short, simple description of a feature from the user’s perspective. User stories are used to communicate requirements and guide development.
- Velocity: Velocity is a measure of how much work a team can complete in a given period of time.
- Weighted Short Job First (WSJF): Weighted Short Job First (WSJF) is a prioritization technique used in Agile projects to help teams focus on completing the most valuable work first. WSJF assigns a numerical value to each item in the backlog based on its potential business value, its cost of delay, and the size of the item. The item with the highest WSJF score is given the highest priority.
- Work in Progress (WIP) limiter: Limits placed on the amount of work that can be in progress at any given time. WIP limiters are often used in Agile methodologies like Kanban to help teams manage their workload and ensure they focus on completing tasks before starting new ones. The purpose of WIP limiters is to prevent bottlenecks in the workflow and ensure that the team can maintain a steady pace of progress.
- Work item: A specific task, feature, or requirement that needs to be completed as part of a project or product development effort. Work items are typically organized and managed using a backlog or other prioritization mechanism.
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- Prioritization and sizing - planned work and backlogs are clear and easy to manage through priority fields, tags, Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) estimation capabilities, T-Shirt sizing, story points, and more.
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