While cleaning out my office in preparation for my big move to California, I ran across my Agile Program Manager “cheat sheet.” I had to laugh because as I reviewed the document, i thought to myself “This makes so much sense. How did i never get this before?”

When I first joined CodePlex, I was going out of my mind insane trying to figure out what my daily PM responsibilities were. So, in typical Sara Ford-like fashion, I told Jim Newkirk we weren’t going to end our 1-1 weekly meeting until he had outlined what was expected of me as a PM each step of the way in an agile development cycle.

3 hours later, I left Jim’s office with this document.

How Agile Works

Release Overview Diagram

Each number represents an iteration, which is a week of work. I1, I2, and I3 are the development iterations. The majority of a Program Manager’s time is spent in the pre-I1 iterations, named –3, –2, and –1.

The Epic Story – This is what goes on a sticky note on the whiteboard. For example, “Ratings and Reviews for Project releases” is an epic story with the following stories associated with it.

  1. Rate Release
  2. Display ratings and reviews on release page
  3. Display ratings and reviews on project homepage
  4. Move release metadata to new location  // also a UX improvement Epic story
  5. Releases sorted by date with release ratings  // also a UX improvement Epic story

Pre-Iteration Planning Meeting (IPM) Planning (about 10 weeks out from deployment date)

These are the series of Program Manager tasks that need to be completed in this order:

  1. Epic + Proposed Stories are written
  2. Wireframes are designed
  3. Review wireframes with team
  4. Rewrite stories based on wireframes
  5. Prioritize what gets done first in terms of dependences
    1. Think about how non-dependencies can be done later or separately
  6. Talk to developers for high-level estimates
    1. These "stories” should be in terms of < 5 days of work
  7. Talk to test team about acceptance tests

Product Backlog

  • Story must be ready at I1 (the first iteration of development work). This must be actionable work, meaning the developer can grab the story (and wireframe if appropriate) and start coding immediately.
  • Story entered as feature in product backlog
  • Have about 9-10 weeks of work in Product Backlog at all times

Iteration Planning Meeting (IPM)

  • Program Manager –> Developer translation occurs with each story
  • Developer breaks story down into their language and into their own tasks. (again, this is where the dev is in charge of the how and the PM is in charge of the what).
  • The team as a collective aims for how much work they can do in that one week. Everything beyond that is put back into the backlog for re-priorization by the Program Manager for the next IPM