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Agile Inception: align the team for success. Techniques to allow teams to align on what they are going to deliver.

The inception stage allows the team to investigate and identify the concept in more detail and make plans for how they approach implementing the solution.

The aim of the inception process is to get a collective idea, define an overarching approach and make decisions on what steps will be taken to reach a successful and strategic outcome. It explores different aspects of a project, the team, releases and time frames. Stakeholders, product owners and the development team must be present throughout the process in order for it to be effective.

The Cone of Uncertainty shows us how ‘Variability’ exists across the delivery of a piece of work, as we move left to right across the diagram confidence in the validity of ideas and delivery increases, when confidence is high, uncertainty has decreased. On the left is where we are least confident in the specifics and is where we need to perform activities to better understand what, how and when something can, could or will be delivered. Inception allows us to further reduce risk and increase confidence by defining and deciding what and when quantifiable deliveries can be made.

Even when a problem or solution seems obvious, there are always multiple perspectives to consider in order for the outcome to be successful and ultimately useful to the end user. Also, everyone might start off with different ideas of what solutions should look like, but the inception gives the project team and stakeholders the opportunity to come up with a collective plan that takes everyone’s ideas into consideration, allowing for a unified approach and vision that guarantees a better rate of success and synergy in delivery of the project.

Usually lasting up to 10% of the overall project time frame, inception helps the team to form around understanding the project delivering the right things at the right time.

Inceptions involve a series of exercises and activities that help with defining what is being delivered. During Inception, we ask and propose answers for:

  • What are we planning to build?
  • What is and is not in scope?
  • How do we prove our success?
  • At what points can we pivot?
  • How do we minimise risk?
  • When will the benefits be delivered?
  • The first release and subsequent ones

Who will be involved?

Typically inception includes representation from:

  • Project team (squad) that would potentially be doing the work
  • Product Owner
  • Scrum Master
  • Service owner or team
  • Customers or other stakeholders