Home > Articles > Software Development & Management > Agile

The Big Picture of Agile Requirements

We are now at the point in time where a number of organizations have made the transition before us and some common patterns for lean and agile software process success have started to emerge -- a Big Picture. In this chapter, Dean Leffingwell offers a quick gestalt of this new, agile, leaner, and yet fully scalable software requirements model.
This chapter is from the book
  • This would all be a lot easier to understand if you could just draw me a picture.
  • —Anonymous senior executive

Effectively implementing a new set of lean and agile requirements principles and practices in a project team, program, or enterprise is no small feat. Even the language is different and seemingly odd (user stories, sprints, velocity, story points, epics, backlog?). In addition, further "leaning" the organization often requires eliminating or reducing requirements specifications, design specifications, stage-gated governance models (with incumbent requirements reviews), sign-offs (with incumbent delays...), implementing work-in-process limits (which may seem counterproductive to those who measure "utilization"), and so on. So, there will likely be many challenges.

Even for the fully committed, it can take six months to a year to introduce and implement the basic practices and even more time to achieve the multiples of productivity and quality results that pay the ultimate dividends in customer satisfaction, revenue, or market share. To achieve these benefits, we must change many things, including virtually all of our former requirements management practices. However, many of the existing required artifacts, milestones, and so on, serve as safeguards to "help" avoid the types of project problems that software has often experienced. So, we have a dilemma—how do we practice this new high-wire act without a safety net, when the safety net itself is a big part of the problem?

Fortunately, we are now at the point in time where a number of organizations have made the transition before us and some common patterns for lean and agile software process success have started to emerge. In our discussions with teams, managers, and executives during this transition, we often struggled to find a language for discussion, a set of abstractions, and an appropriate graphic that we could use to quickly describe "what your enterprise would look like and how it would work after such an agile transformation."

To do so, we need to be able to describe the new software development and delivery process mechanisms, the new teams and organizational units, and some of the roles key individuals play in the new agile paradigm. In addition, any such Big Picture should highlight the requirements practices of the model, because those artifacts are the proxy for the value stream.

Eventually, and with help from others, we arrived at something that worked reasonably well for its purpose.1 We call it the Agile Enterprise Big Picture, and it appears in Figure 2-1.

Figure 2-1

Figure 2-1 The Agile Enterprise Big Picture

The Big Picture Explained

In this chapter, we'll explain the Big Picture in a summary format intended to provide the reader with a quick gestalt of this new, agile, leaner, and yet fully scalable software requirements model.

In the remaining chapters of Part I of this book, we'll describe the basic big-picture requirements management practices for the individual Team, Program, and Portfolio levels. In Parts II, III, and IV, we'll further elaborate on the requirements management artifacts, roles, and activities at a level of detail suitable for implementation and action.

Big-Picture Highlights

Because this picture serves as both the organizational and process model for our agile requirements practices, we'll have time throughout this book to explore its many nuances. However, from an overview perspective, the following highlights emerge.

The Team Level

At the Team level, agile teams of 7±2 team members define, build, and test user stories in a series of iterations and releases. In the smallest enterprise, there may be only a few such teams. In larger enterprises, groups, or pods, of agile teams work together to support building up larger functionality into complete products, features, architectural components, subsystems, and so on. The responsibility for managing the backlog of user stories and other things the team needs to do belongs to the team's product owner.

The Program Level

At the Program level, the development of larger-scale systems functionality is accomplished via multiple teams in a synchronized Agile Release Train (ART). The ART is a standard cadence of timeboxed iterations and milestones that are date- and quality-fixed, but scope is variable (no iron triangle). The ART produces releases or potentially shippable increments (PSIs) at frequent, typically fixed, 60- to 120-day time boundaries. These evaluable increments can be released to the customer, or not, depending on the customer's capacity to absorb new product as well as external events that can drive timing.

We'll use the generic product manager label as the title for those who are responsible for defining the features of the system at this level, though we'll also see that many other titles can be applied to this role.

The Portfolio Level

At the Portfolio level, we'll talk about a mix of investment themes that are used to drive the investment priorities for the enterprise. We'll use that construct to assure that the work being performed is the work necessary for the enterprise to deliver on its chosen business strategy. Investment themes drive the portfolio vision, which will be expressed in as a series of larger, epic-scale initiatives, which will be allocated to various release trains over time.

In the rest of this chapter, we'll walk through the various elements of the Big Picture to describe how it works. While we'll highlight the requirements value delivery stream, we'll also expose the rest of the picture including the roles, teams, and processes that are necessary to deliver value. In this way, we'll provide a systemic view of our lean and agile requirements process that works for teams and yet scales to the full needs of the enterprise.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020