We're doing Agile development, and even though we are not going as strict as Scrum, we'd like to keep the sprint planning meeting so that the customer is able to prioritize on business values for each iteration and possibly some feedback.

That being said, having a product owner as the customer's proxy isn't really an option because the team is not big enough to separate roles like that.

At first glance I thought about talking the customer into assigning someone from his company on his behalf who'd act as his proxy, with enough power/permissions to make decitions and prioritize business values, so that we can go with the sprint planning meetings.

The customer's company isn't that big, I'd estimate a maximum of 15 - 20 employees.

Is there a better way to handle this, maybe a different perspective? How should I approach the customer and talk him into a solution?

  • Is using an Agile approach a given? Or would you consider doing waterfall-type development if the client doesn't have the staff/time/whatever to support Agile?
    – Doug B
    Sep 21, 2015 at 14:17
  • How are you currently handling this problem? Sep 21, 2015 at 17:41
  • @DougB yes, we're pretty much figuring out what agile variant would be the best fit for the software market in our country, as software development is still on its early stage. Using waterfall would probably help, but our main objective is finding a good agile approach on the market here. Sep 21, 2015 at 18:29
  • @JeffLindsey We have repeatedly read and discussed the answers in this thread, and we're probably gonna attempt to educate the client on the meeting value. That is, of course, if the customer is willing to Sep 21, 2015 at 18:31
  • @ChristopherFrancisco - Based on my experience you may have a challenge convincing the customer that Agile is the best approach, a linear approach like waterfall is a lot easier for them to understand and therefore appears less risky. Your best bet is to avoid the buzzwords. For example, have biweekly status meetings, just turn them into de facto sprint planning meetings (show them what you've done, give them list of new pieces to add, have them choose priorities). It's like getting a toddler to eat their greens. Good luck.
    – Doug B
    Sep 21, 2015 at 19:21

4 Answers 4


Customer seems to be too busy to do regular meetings often translates into 1 of 2 things:

1) Customer not understanding value of meeting or

2) Customer has more valuable things to do

In case 1 education is required with the customer. The customer may not understand the value they provide to the rest of the participants in the meeting.

In case 2, look at the meeting itself. Are the right people there? Is the length ok? Are there activities happening that are not relevant to the customer that could be streamlined or cut out? If the value is low to the customer this may require education with other meeting participants to ensure they are creating a meeting where the customer can get value.


I would suggest highlighting to the customer that the more they are involved, the quicker and the more effective the development will be.

Sometimes the Scrum Team needs to be quite flexible to accomodate the Product Owner (or customer in your case). I have worked with teams that will do the sprint planning meeting with the customer on the phone. This isn't ideal, but it can have less impact on the customer's time.

I would also advise getting the sprint planning meetings in your customer's calendar as early as possible. I often have the sprint planning meetings booked several months in to the future, just to ensure they can work their calendar around those time slots.


Backlog grooming doesn't have to take place in discrete meetings. There is nothing keeping you from doing continuous (re-)prioritization with the customer. If the customer doesn't seem to have time for many formal meetings with your team, you can ask if a quick call or email, or even an IM session, every few days would work better. That isn't strictly scrum, but you mentioned that you're not following the letter of the law anyway. You can continue to use your variant of scrum internally, but adapt to the customer's workflow if that's what will deliver more value.

Alternately, see if the customer feels they are being involved in decisions that are too low-level. Would they be fine with a longer sprint length and a heavier meeting at the end? If the customer doesn't make time for you, they probably don't see the value in doing so. Find out what would make the meetings more valuable to them and adjust as appropriate.


Please try to educate the Customer on his role on the overall health of the project. It would be his vision that the team would work. If he is continuously able to provide team with clear ideas and features to work. It would reduce the development time for the team and he could have a quick prototype available for him to share with the Stakeholders and the End Users.

Also, with every Sprint end, make sure you have a Demo conducted for the items team completed during the respective iteration for him.

This would boost his confidence in the team and he would like to be more involved with the team. This would help you to have:

  • Prioritized backlog items
  • Clear requirements, and option to reach him if their are doubts

The Product Owner would have more confidence with the team.

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