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Agile project management glossary

Agile terminology can be confusing. We have compiled a list of the most common agile terms you may come across, and their definitions:

  • Agile – a project management approach based on delivering requirements iteratively and incrementally throughout the life cycle.
  • Agile development – an umbrella term specifically for iterative software development methodologies. Popular methods include Scrum, Lean, DSDM and eXtreme Programming (XP).
  • Agile Manifesto – describes the four principles of agile development: 1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. 2. Working software over comprehensive documentation. 3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. 4. Responding to change over following a plan.
  • Backlog – prioritised work still to be completed (see Requirements).
  • Burn down chart – used to monitor progress; shows work still to complete (the Backlog) versus total time.
  • Cadence – the number of days or weeks in a Sprint or release; the length of the team’s development cycle. 
  • Ceremonies – meetings, often a daily planning meeting, that identify what has been done, what is to be done and the barriers to success.
  • DAD (disciplined agile delivery) – a process-decision framework.
  • Daily Scrum – stand-up team meeting. A plan, do, review daily session.
  • DevOps (development/operations) – bridges the gap between agile teams and operational delivery to production.
  • DSDM (dynamic systems development method) – agile development methodology, now changed to the ‘DSDM project management framework’.
  • Kanban – a method for managing work, with an emphasis on just-in-time delivery.
  • Kanban board – a work and workflow visualisation tool which summarises the status, progress, and issues related to the work.
  • Lean – a method of working focused on ‘eliminating waste’ by avoiding anything that does not produce value for the customer.
  • LeSS (large-scale Scrum) – agile development method.
  • RAD (rapid application development) – agile development method; enables developers to build solutions quickly by talking directly to end users to meet business requirement.
  • Requirements – are written as ‘stories’ that are collated into a prioritised list called the ‘Backlog’.
  • SAFe (scaled agile framework enterprise) – agile methodology used for software development.
  • Scaled agile – agile scaled up to large projects or programmes, for example by having multiple sub-projects, creating tranches of projects, etc.
  • Scrum – agile methodology commonly used in software development, where regular team meetings review progress of a single development phase (or Sprint).  
  • Scrum of scrums – a technique to operate Scrum at scale, for multiple teams working on the same product.
  • Scrum master – the person who oversees the development process and who makes sure everyone adheres to an agreed way of working.
  • Sprints – a short development phase within a larger project defined by available time (‘timeboxes’) and resources.
  • Sprint retrospective – a review of a Sprint providing lessons learned with the aim of promoting continuous improvement.
  • Stories – see Requirements.
  • Timeboxes – see Sprints.
  • Velocity – a measure of work completed during a single development phase or Sprint.
  • Waterfall – a sequential project management approach that seeks to capture detailed requirements upfront; the opposite to agile.
  • XP (eXtreme Programming) – agile development methodology used in software development; allows programmers to decide the scope of deliveries.

Learn more

Difference between agile and waterfall approaches to project management

Agile and waterfall approaches to project management exist on a continuum of techniques that should be adopted as appropriate to the goals of the project and the organisational culture of the delivery environment. Read more about the pros and cons of the two approaches. Read more

What are the principles of agile working?

These four principles highlight the difference between agile and waterfall (or more traditional) approaches... Read more.

Why do you need agile in project management?

Agile approaches empower those involved; build accountability; encourage diversity of ideas; allowing the early release of benefits; and promotion of continuous improvement... Read more.

Agile methods

Agile project management focuses on delivering maximum value against business priorities in the time and budget allowed, especially when the drive to deliver is greater than the risk. Read more about the methods and principles of agile...

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