By now, almost everyone has heard of the term 'Agile', and the majority are most likely becoming confused about the large number of complex terms and different versions associated with it.


The reality of Agile methodology, however, is much more simple. According to the original Agile Manifesto, there are only twelve simple principles that outline what it means to practice Agile as a discipline.


Despite this fact, Agile has undergone numerous transformations through its lifetime, each of which is in danger of carrying the phrase farther from its original intended purpose. Another unfortunate occurrence is the overuse of Agile terminology by certain organizations and the recent rise of 'Fake Agile'.


With all of the new phrases and renditions of Agile floating around, it's easy to get lost in the lingo. Below is a brief list of vocabulary to assist in a basic understand of Agile's basic terms and concepts.


Agile Pod:

An Agile Pod is the term used for a small team of individuals working as an independent Agile unit. The Agile Pod approach allows organizations to maximize flexibility in adapting to changing customer needs while maintaining communication with management and collaboration across other teams.



A backlog, often used in Scrum, is a brief list features that must be prioritized in a project to ensure that the end product is equipped with all of its required and most useful functionalities. Prioritization in project sprints and iterations is vital to ensuring that time and energy are not wasted on activities that are not necessary.



A burndown or burnup chart is a visual representation of work left to do in a project. This chart displays time on the horizontal axis and work to do on the vertical access, creating a downward-sloping graph that predicts when all work will be completed.




Definition of Done (DoD):

The Definition of Done, or the DoD, describes what is required by any deliverable to be regarded as complete and count towards the velocity of a project. This criteria must be determined for each project by the team, agreed upon, and confirmed during the planning phase for each activity, i.e., before the work is started.



Agile projects require a continuous cycle of activities from project planning to project evaluation and execution. An iteration is simply the term used for one of these cycles of activity. More specifically, iterations in Agile projects are referred to as Sprints.


Lead Time:

This is time from the initial identification of project requirements or desired capabilities until the deliverables are in the hands of the end users. One goal of Agile projects is to maximize efficiency by reducing the total project lead time.



MVP stands for minimum viable product, which is a coherent set of features used to deliver usable software. As one of the principle goals of Agile is to maintain simplicity, the goal of an MVP is to satisfy customer needs with as few features as possible, thus minimizing the execution of unneeded work.


Project Definition:

This is the initial establishment of a shared understanding of the priorities and goals with the contractor and Agile project team, as well as an establishment of how success will be measured throughout the project.


Release Plan:

This is the term used for an internal working document that specifically explains what must be done for a project to be completed. Release plans are similar to roadmaps in that they provide an overview of a project's strategy, however, whereas roadmaps serve as a broad, visual overview, release plans specifically outline the path to the first functional release of a minimum viable product (MVP).





This is the stage in the Agile development process intended for reviewing the current sprint by identifying process, approach, or solution improvements that can be learned from and later applied in following sprints.



A roadmap used in an Agile context is typically understood as an overview of a project or product’s strategy before the plan is implemented. A roadmap can be an extremely useful tool as it serves as a visual summary that briefly outlines why this project is important and what it will hopefully achieve.




It is recommended that roadmaps are created as soon as the scope and initial requirements of the project have been defined. That way, the roamap can be referenced throughout the project's entire lifetime as a guideline for the project's completion. 



A project scope provides contractors and team members with an understanding of the parameters of a particular project. Put more simply, a project's scope serves as a boundary for the work involved to ensure that every project activity remains focused and goal-oriented.



Scrum refers to one of the most popular forms of Agile that involves daily iterations of activities, called sprints, as well as roles such as the Scrum Master who is responsible for overseeing these iterations.


PO, SM, PM (team members):


PO = Project Owner, must know project objectives and outcomes in detail as well as the end user communities, business processes, and workflows related to the operational environment, as well as relationships and credibility with Business Owner(s) and broader stakeholders.


SM = Scrum Master, must have practical experience with Agile project design, development, and quality assurance. The SM is responsible for motivating other team members and facilitating both sprints and meetings.


PM = Project Manager, acts as the "glue" of a project solution, responsible for allocating tasks to team members while keeping in mind project risks and processes.




The PO, the SM, and the PM use business outcomes to define each Agile project's goals and how to measure success in each, including defining the required level of adoption by End User communities. All three roles must have previous experience successfully using Agile methodologies; preferably multiple years of experience in several different roles.


Use Case:

A use case thoroughly describes how the functional requirements of a system will be used from the point of view of the actor, or user. The use case should include all of the ways the user may wish to use the system to achieve certain goals, as well as possible issues that may arise when trying to reach those goals.


User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI):

The goal of every Agile project is to fulfill the needs of the end user, or whoever will be benefiting from the specific features of the end result of that project. User Interface therefore refers to the interactions between the customer (or end user) and the software in order to achieve an end goal, and the User Experience will be how the user feels as a result of this interface.


User Story:

A user story is a specific task or feature that is required in order to fulfill a certain customer need. This task should be written from the perspective of the end user.


Understanding Agile methodology does not necessitate the use of fancy words that no one understands for the sole purpose of looking like you know what you're talking about. However, understanding the meanings and uses of a number of common Agile terms may help to transform your project from functional to excellent.


To learn more about Agile methodology in practice, download our "Agile Practitioner's Guide."

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