An agile process replaces upfront design with the focus on the ability to react and to decide based on the current situation. But, to take the right decision we need to be able to assess the situation accurately at all times, and given the fast development pace, we need to do it in a timely fashion, too.
In agile development, feedback is the key for dealing with change. Feedback can be obtained in multiple ways and for multiple types of problems.
A significant set of activities in agile development focuses on placing people in a room regularly to get them to talk to each other and find the best solution for the current situation. Thus, the client talks with the development team to ensure that the right requirements are implemented the right way, and the team meets regularly to discuss the progress of the project.
The premise behind this design is that the people involved possess the right information when in the meeting. This is often true, but it tends to be false when we have to deal with millions of details.
There are several distinct moments in the lifetime of an agile project that require assessment.
Let's consider a typical Scrum project.
First, rarely do projects, including Scrum projects, start from scratch. Instead, they typically build on top of existing software. Thus, before embarking on what needs to be done, we first need to understand what we are building on. This requires a strategic assessment.
Second, decisions need to be made all the time during the sprints or iterations. Decisions can be more course grained in between iterations, or fine grained on a daily basis. As the system evolves continuously, we need to stay on top of the situation to be able to react on time. Concerns that should be ensured continuously, such as architecture constraints, should be assessed daily. Problems that appear contextually should be answerable with spike assessments.
Third, before placing a product into production a final check needs to ensure that certain characteristics are met. The effort of daily assessment should already provide a wealth of input for decision making. If it is not enough, a strategic assessment can complement it.