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The Agile Slicing Process: How to Slice Product Requirements for Agile Development

April 6, 2023



When I hear the term “slicing,” I often relate it to cutting a large object or entity into smaller pieces to achieve a specific objective and reduce complexity. 

For example, cutting an apple to share or dividing a large array into subarrays for easy searching or sorting, or dividing a larger, complex deliverable into smaller, more manageable deliverables released in phases. The concept is straightforward: reducing the complexity of any entity makes it easier to manage.

Imagine a cake made up of several layers. Each layer of the cake is baked and assembled based on its priority in terms of its placement, appearance, and taste. The baking can be done layer by layer or simultaneously based on technicalities, needs, resources, and other factors. Sometimes it’s a mixture of both methods.

Similarly, When the cake is vertically sliced , you get to taste all the layers, and when you slice it horizontally, you can taste each layer as a whole. Slicing the cake is mostly need-based, right?

In the same way, agile slicing is applied to a user story or to a feature during the product development in the agile framework to reduce complexity and make the process faster or easier

In the product development niche, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of requirements and tasks. As an agile team, you want to ensure that you’re delivering value to your customers as quickly as possible. But how can you do that without sacrificing quality or missing important features? 

That’s where Agile Slicing comes in. It’s the process of breaking down large requirements into smaller, manageable pieces. Explore further to know more about the agile slicing process and how product requirements are sliced in order to achieve faster and high quality deliverables .Will they be flexible, responsive, iterative? Will such deliverables be uncompromised? Will this lead to more tech debts to speed up the delivery? Read on to find more.


Agile Slicing is a critical part of the Agile product development process, which is aimed at producing high-quality software products that meet customer needs while being delivered in a timely and efficient manner. 

Agile Slicing involves breaking down product requirements into smaller, manageable pieces that can be developed and delivered incrementally. This approach allows Agile teams to focus on delivering the most critical and valuable features of a product first, while ensuring that the development process remains flexible and responsive to customer needs.

The importance of Agile Slicing in Product Development cannot be overstated. It helps Agile teams to prioritize requirements and focus on delivering value to customers quickly, which is key to success in today’s fast-paced business environment. By breaking down requirements into smaller, more manageable pieces, Agile teams can identify potential issues early in the development process and make changes as necessary, without disrupting the entire project.

The Agile Slicing Process involves several steps which include identifying requirements, prioritizing them, breaking them down into smaller pieces, and delivering the most valuable pieces first. 

This process allows Agile teams to deliver high-quality products quickly and efficiently, while remaining flexible and responsive to customer needs.

Understanding Agile Slicing Techniques

There are two main Agile Slicing techniques: Vertical Slicing and Horizontal Slicing. 

Vertical Slicing for Faster and Focused Delivery

Focus on Important Features First
With vertical slicing product requirements are broken down by feature or functionality. This approach can be adapted when Agile teams need to focus on the most important features first and deliver value to customers quickly. But we must remember that this technique might lead to tech debts as well which we need to be careful of . 

Flexible and Responsive
Additionally, this customer-focused approach allows for flexibility and responsiveness to changing requirements, ensuring that customer needs are met throughout the development process.


For example, let us consider an example of a school management system. The team could use vertical slicing to focus on developing the most essential attendance tracking features first, such as creating a database of student information and tracking daily attendance. Subsequent slices could then add more advanced functionality such as automated attendance reports, integration with school timetables, and notifications for parents when their child is absent.

Few Disadvantages

However, there are also some potential disadvantages of vertical slicing that should be considered. One potential disadvantage is that it can result in technical debt if the slices are not designed with the big picture in mind. This can result in the need for significant refactoring later on in the development process. 

Another potential disadvantage is that vertical slicing can lead to the duplication of effort if the slices are not designed to be reusable, resulting in wasted time and resources. Finally, vertical slicing can be challenging to coordinate, as it requires close collaboration between team members to ensure that the slices are developed in the correct order.

To mitigate these risks, it’s important to take a holistic approach to development, design each slice with reusability in mind, and carefully coordinate the development of each slice to ensure that the overall development process stays on track.

Horizontal Slicing for technical foundation

Focus on Technical Aspects

Horizontal slicing focuses on breaking down requirements by layer or component. This approach is more focused on the technical aspects of product development and helps Agile teams to build a solid technical foundation for the product.

Identify Technical Issues In prior

By using horizontal slicing, Agile teams can identify technical issues early in the development process and make changes as necessary, without disrupting the entire project.  It can be a valuable approach for Agile teams that want to build a solid technical foundation for their products and avoid technical debt.


For example, in a school management system, the team might start by building a robust database backend, followed by developing a user authentication and authorization system, and then a simple user interface for viewing and updating basic information. This approach helps to identify technical issues early on and reduces the risk of project delays.

Few Disadvantages 

One disadvantage of horizontal slicing is that it can lead to delays in delivering value to the customer, as the focus is on building a technical foundation rather than delivering  customer-facing features. 

Additionally, if the slices are not designed to be modular and reusable, it can lead to code duplication and difficulty in maintaining the system in the long run. Finally, coordinating the development of different layers or components can be challenging, as each layer may have different dependencies and requirements.

Combining Vertical and Horizontal Slicing for Optimal Product Development

Should we always use vertical or horizontal slicing? Not necessarily. Combining vertical and horizontal slicing techniques can lead to a product that meets both customer needs and technical requirements. 

Agile teams can prioritize customer requirements through vertical slicing, delivering value to customers quickly and gathering feedback early on. 

Then, Agile teams can use horizontal slicing to ensure that the product has a solid technical foundation. 

In some cases, vertical and horizontal slicing may be used in parallel to balance the needs of the customer with the technical requirements of the product. The combination of these techniques can result in a functional and user-friendly product.

The Agile Slicing Process: How to Slice Product Requirements

The Agile slicing process involves several steps that are essential to ensure that the product requirements are delivered efficiently and effectively.

Identify the product requirements

Firstly, you need to identify the product requirements that you want to develop. This involves understanding what the customer wants, which can be achieved through user stories, product backlogs, and other techniques.

For the school management system this could include features such as student and staff management, attendance tracking, grading and reporting, and resource scheduling.

Prioritize the requirements:

Once you have identified the requirements, you need to prioritize them based on their importance to the customer. This helps you focus on the most critical requirements first, ensuring that you are delivering value to the customer as quickly as possible.

For example, attendance tracking may be considered a critical feature while resource scheduling may be a lower priority. This can be done using various prioritization techniques. 

Break down the requirements:

After prioritizing the requirements, you need to break them down into smaller features using either vertical or horizontal slicing techniques. This helps to make the requirements more manageable and easier to develop.

The student management requirement may be broken down into features such as student registration, profile management, and academic history 

Estimate the effort required:

Once you have broken down the requirements into features, you need to estimate the effort required to develop each feature. This involves taking into account any technical dependencies and potential risks, which can impact the time and resources required to complete the development.

For example, the student registration feature may be less complex and require less effort than the academic history tracking feature.

Plan the development

After estimating the effort required, you need to plan the development of the features based on their priority and estimated effort. This helps you to allocate resources effectively and ensure that you are delivering the most important features first.

Develop and test the features:

Next, you need to develop and test each feature in isolation, ensuring that it meets the acceptance criteria and is functioning as intended. This step is crucial to identify any issues or defects early on in the development process.

For example, we can develop and test the student registration feature before moving on to the next feature.

Integrate the features:

Once you have developed and tested each feature, you need to integrate them into the larger product, ensuring that they work together as intended. This helps you to identify any issues that may arise due to the interaction between different features.

Review and iterate:

Finally, you need to review the product with the customer and iterate based on their feedback. This step is crucial to ensure that the product meets the customer’s needs and requirements. It may involve adding or modifying features, adjusting the development plan, or making other changes to the product to improve its functionality and usability.

In conclusion, There is no one particular approach that would work for every product development project. It is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and select the one that fits best for the development of your product. Regardless of whether you choose vertical or horizontal slicing, the agile slicing process remains the same.



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