Initiating agile project : Five steps to success

  • Nick Hease
  • Published: 16 February 2024


In today's rapidly evolving financial services’ landscape, organizations are increasingly adopting Agile to execute projects to improve flexibility, collaboration, and the delivery of value to stakeholders. 

We highlight five key areas that demonstrate how the initiation phase of any project is pivotal to its longer-term success, and share learnings and real-life examples drawn from Capco’s own Agile project experiences.


Clearly define and understand the 'why'. 

The first step for any project is to establish a shared vision and agree clear objectives. This vision will encapsulate not only the end goal of the project, but the rationale that underpins it. It becomes the delivery team’s North Star, aligning direction and purpose across stakeholders, and mitigating potential miscommunications or divergence from the primary objective. Throughout the project lifecycle, dialogue in daily stand ups, workshops, and brainstorming sessions should strengthen this alignment.  

To define a project’s vision and objectives, start by setting out the business problem or opportunity such as a market gap, process inefficiency, or client pain point. Then, create a vision statement that clearly articulates the project’s aims. Identify the specific deliverables or milestones required to reach the end goal and resolve the core problem statement. Finally, create a product roadmap or delivery plan outlining the high-level features or functionalities required to achieve the project objectives – this should be dynamic and evolve as the project progresses. 

Proof point –  As part of a project for a global tier 1 investment bank, the vision was to develop a comprehensive data lineage tool to enhance transparency and ensure compliance of regulatory reporting. Through a series of vision-setting interactive workshops we facilitated discussion between senior compliance officers, IT leads and data management teams. These sessions resulted in a unified vision that all stakeholders could understand and commit to, ensuring efforts were directed towards a common goal.


Encourage members to voice opinions and share feedback.

While the power of Agile lies in its inherently collaborative nature, collaboration without clear boundaries can become chaotic. Success depends on assembling a cross-functional team of individuals with diverse and relevant skill sets who can also work towards common goals – e.g. product and software development, design, or quality assurance. 

Each team member needs to know their role, responsibilities, and whom to approach for specific challenges. This clarity allows individuals to excel in their domains, be it development, testing, or product ownership. For instance, a Product Owner becomes the voice of the customer, ensuring the backlog is groomed and prioritized, while the Scrum Master ensures the team is insulated from external disruptions.  However, each member should also be encouraged to voice opinions and share feedback, ensuring solutions are not only technologically sound but also meet business needs and regulatory constraints. Team members must embrace the Agile mindset of adaptability, continuous learning, and mutual respect.

Proof point – For our data lineage tooling project, defining clear roles was critical. The Product Owner, a senior data analyst with deep knowledge of the firm’s regulatory and data requirements, was key in defining the product backlog. The project delivery team – comprised of the PM, PMO, Scum Master and Business Analysts – focused on maintaining project momentum, governance, and reporting. Within the development team, data analysts, testing, UI developers and compliance specialists each had clearly defined roles and responsibilities to develop backlog items and the key features of the tool. 

Along with ensuring that all team roles were clearly communicated and understood, a team organisation chart and RACI matrix was produced to document team responsibilities and reporting lines for the avoidance of doubt. 


Fully understand the needs of the customer. 

A list of key deliverables, features, enhancements, and fixes required for the product, prioritised by their business value, a product backlog could span building a new booking system to digitising existing operations or building reporting solutions for new regulatory requirements. The backlog offers a roadmap for the team, laying out the tasks to be undertaken in each sprint. 

The backlog is a dynamic list, evolving as the needs of the project change to ensure the team is always working on the most value-adding aspects. A product backlog is therefore not just about listing features but understanding their value and impact. Refining and grooming the backlog is vital so that it remains relevant throughout the project's lifecycle. 

Proof point –The product backlog was the backbone of our project, and was created and maintained regular updates throughout the day as and when the status of an individual backlog item changed. It included features such as automated tracking of data changes, integration with existing reporting systems, and user-friendly interface features for audits. Backlog item’s were prioritised based on regulatory urgency and potential risk reduction. Regular backlog refinement sessions ensured that our backlog evolved with the project, remaining aligned to the overall project vision.


Continuous feedback is the lifeline of Agile projects.

Agile’s iterative nature means that at the end of each sprint the team will have produced workable chunks of the project. It is essential to establish a feedback loop early on, involving all stakeholders – e.g. through sprint reviews, retrospectives, or direct client feedback sessions. The sooner feedback is received, the quicker the team can adapt, ensuring that the project remains aligned with the vision through mechanisms such as course corrections and refined processes.  

Various Agile ceremonies can help establish the feedback loop such as sprint planning (to plan the next cycle), daily stand-ups (to check on progress and hurdles), sprint reviews (to showcase the completed work), and sprint retrospectives (to reflect on the process). These ceremonies also help engage stakeholders in regular progress updates and reviews, ensuring continued alignment with business goals. 

Proof point – we implemented biweekly sprint review sessions with stakeholders, and user group demos where new functionalities and features were demonstrated, and feedback was gathered and discussed. This continuous feedback was crucial in ensuring the final product remained aligned with the overall vision and objective.  


In Agile, change is not a hindrance but an opportunity.

Finally, working within an Agile project is to embrace a mindset of continuous improvement. The initiation phase sets the tone, but it is crucial to foster a culture of continuous improvement, including welcoming changing requirements late in development. 

After every sprint, a retrospective must be conducted to reflect on what went well, what could be improved, and how. Every Agile ceremony is an opportunity to learn and enhance and  this culture is the bedrock not just of project success but of long-term growth for the team. The team must always be looking for ways to do better, whether in relation to workflows, processes, tools, communication channels, or even the team’s dynamics and interpersonal relationships. 

Proof point – Continuous improvement was always at the heart of our project’s culture. We held regular retrospective meetings where we critically analysed workflows, collaboration efficiency and backlog feature development. For example, in one retrospective we identified the need for a more robust data simulation testing tool, which was then incorporated in the following sprint, significantly enhancing our testing capabilities.


Initiating an Agile project requires a delicate blend of vision, clarity, collaboration, feedback, and continuous improvement. Defining a clear vision, assembling the right team, prioritizing work, setting up robust feedback loops, and building a culture that embraces change is the way to set the stage for success in the later stages of delivery.