A quick guide to agile terminology

Agile ways of working has its roots in software development and looks to get working software in the hands of end users as quickly as possible. This offers teams rapid feedback and helps to ensure the final result has value to the end user. These principles are transferable and can be used to deliver public services based on user need.

Applying an agile mindset and approach to a problem allows teams to deal with the complexity in an open, collaborative and iterative way.

A quick guide to agile terminology


Discovery is about understanding the problem that needs to solved before committing to building a service. It’s about learning about your users and what they want to do, what constraints you may be facing and the opportunities to improve how things are delivered today.

Alpha is about trying out different solutions to the problem you identified during your discovery phase. By the end of alpha, you should be in a position to know which, if any, of your solutions you want to take forward to your beta stage.

Beta is about taking your best idea from alpha and start to build it as a service. You’ll probably start out in ‘private beta’, testing the service on a limited number of users and getting early feedback.

Live is about supporting your new service and continuously listening to your users to make changes and improvements.

Agile Ceremonies

A standup is a daily meeting for the team to discuss what they’re working on and whether there are any problems or blockers they need help with. They should be short and focused.

Sprint planning meetings are held for the team to decide what to work on next and how they’ll do it.

A show and tell is a meeting in which team members get to demonstrate their work. They are a great opportunity to invite stakeholders, senior leaders and suppliers to find out more about the work you have been doing. You can even open up your show and tell to the rest of your organisation.

Retrospectives (or ‘retros’) are regular meetings that give the whole team chance to discuss what’s going well and what isn’t. They’re used to fix any problems and keep the focus on the things that are working.

User-stories describe a user and the reason why they need to use the service you’re building.

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