All you need to know about Sprints in project management.
The philosophy of Agile is based on brief and effective chunks of work, as opposed to the traditional Waterfall development.
The goal of the team in Scrum is to bring new functionality and enhancements for the user with minimal delay. It is critical to define which features matter most, getting them to a standard, and refining them in future releases.
This is where sprints come to the rescue. Their length can differ from one business to another, but they typically run shorter than four weeks. Tasks predicted to demand more time should be broken down into sub-tasks to spread the work.
So, what is the essence of sprints in Agile Scrum? How should you work with sprints? What are their benefits and characteristics? Let’s save time and dive right into the answers to these and other sprint-related questions.
What Is a Sprint in the Agile Philosophy?
This term is definitely known to everyone involved in the world of Scrum development. Sprint is a certain time-boxed period of a continuous development cycle when a team works to complete a set amount of work. Getting sprints right will help your team to deliver outstanding software with fewer headaches.
According to the sprint conception, a team should complete a planned amount of work and make it ready for review. You will probably find this term used in the Scrum Agile methodology; however, the basic idea of Kanban continuous delivery is also the essence of the Sprint Scrum conception.
Scrum sprints are often associated with Agile software development, and many people think that they are the same thing. It’s not true. Agile is a set of principles while Scrum is a framework for getting things done. The Scrum values of transparency, inspection, and adaptation are complementary to the Agile methodology and central to the concept of sprints.
What Is the Duration of a Sprint?
Scrum teams usually define a short duration of a Sprint up to 4 weeks. They set their sprint goal together with a Product Owner and plan their work in a sprint backlog. Sometimes the sprint can last for 2 weeks. Some specialists think that it is much harder to organize and manage a sprint, which lasts a month if compared to the one that lasts for only 2 weeks.
As soon as work starts after the planning session, the team collaborates to complete the planned tasks effectively and make them ready for review by the end of that period.
User stories readiness in the product backlog is the prerequisite of starting a sprint cycle. Sprint analytics helps Product Owners and Scrum Masters to understand the progress of sprints at a glance.
What Is the Aim of a Sprint?
Scrum sprints should result in a finished product that can be handed to customers. However, your product can be developed endlessly, so be ready that it may be not finished at all. In this case, you should stick to the end of a current sprint that will result in a working product at least.
The Roles of the Scrum Team in a Sprint
What Is the Role of a Product Owner During an Agile Sprint?
A Product Owner should represent the product’s users (or the business behind it) that will serve as a link between developers and the product’s customer base throughout the whole development process. POs need to set out which features are significant, assess completed work, as well as accept or reject it.
What Is the Role of a Scrum Master During an Agile Sprint?
A Scrum Master is the main facilitator for a development team. He/she is responsible for managing the way in which a team interacts throughout a sprint. Scrum Masters lead Stand-Ups, so sharing information and updating each other is crucial.
They help their team to stay on-target, so they should be able to assist them to overcome different issues. They also need to eliminate barricades to succeed as soon as they can.
What Is the Role of a Development Team During an Agile Sprint?
Scrum roles usually include developers, testers, designers, and other skilled specialists capable of creating successful products.
While Scrum Masters are fundamental to maintain organization and completion, the team can be responsible for managing itself and identifying how to accomplish goals in a proper way.
Sprints and Scrum Events
According to the Scrum Guide, sprints are where ideas turn into value. As we’ve mentioned above, sprints have a fixed length of one month or less to create consistency. A new sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous one.
All the work necessary to reach the ultimate product goal, including such Scrum ceremonies as Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Retrospective, happen within sprints.
During the Sprint:
- You can not make any changes that would endanger the sprint goal.
- Quality does not decrease.
- The product backlog can be groomed (refined) as needed.
- The scope may be clarified and renegotiated with the PO.
Sprints ensure inspection and adaptation of progress toward a product goal at least every calendar month. This enables predictability. You may implement shorter sprints to create more learning cycles and limit the risk of efforts and costs to a smaller period. Each sprint can be considered a short project.
There are many different practices to forecast progress. For example, burn-downs or cumulative flows. They are rather useful but do not replace the importance of empiricism.
The Role and Essence of Sprint Planning
According to the Agile software development philosophy, every sprint must start with a Sprint Planning ceremony, the key goal of which is to outline activity for the upcoming sprint.
It is crucial to ensure that all the team members, including the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the development team, attend the meeting.
The Scrum team decides on the number and size of work items that can be included in the sprint. The whole procedure is quite short and comprises two parts: Objective Definition and Task Estimation.
- Objective Definition should be held during the first half of the meeting. The PO should give the details on the highest priority user stories in the product backlog. The team together with the Product Owner should share a clear-cut definition of the goal for that particular sprint.
- Task Estimation should take place during the second half of the ceremony. The development team should come to a decision on the method that will be employed to deliver the selected backlog features.
Sprint Planning meeting includes the discussion about the approved user stories which have already been estimated and committed.
All team members should make individual estimates for the work tasks with the help of particular tools (for example, Planning Poker). In addition, every team member makes use of the Effort estimated task list to pick the activities they plan to work on during the sprint.
Next, the Scrum team should reach an agreement on the amount of work that will be included in the current sprint.
In order to succeed, the Scrum team should perform some essential activities during the Planning meeting:
- Backlog grooming: the refinement of requirements and user stories completed before the planning meeting starts. It ensures the team has a properly evaluated and clear set of stories that can be broken down into tasks without difficulty and then estimated.
- Updates or revisions: actions that include modifications to initial user story estimates supported by task creation and intricacy factors discussed during the Sprint Planning meeting.
Completing these actions before the beginning of the meeting allows the team to better plan the Sprint and waste less time.
The Role of Daily Scrums
During a sprint, special daily 15-minute meetings are held. These ceremonies are called Daily Scrum meetings and are used to detect any appearing problem and solve it timely. The overall progress of the work also becomes visible.
The Role of Sprint Reviews
There is no better proof of effective work than a ready-to-use product. This is simply a Scrum ceremony held at the end of a sprint, during which the team presents the completed work to the Product Owner for approval.
The Review duration and the order of the demonstration are not regulated. You may also change the list of participants. However, usually, this meeting is attended by the PO, the Scrum Master, the development team, stakeholders, and developers of other projects.
Why You Should Work in Sprints: 3 Benefits
1. An intent focus on goals
The team that has a short period of time to complete tasks is more focused than the team with months ahead of it. Striving to achieve your goal in just a few days, you need to commit to hitting goals and contributing to work. This applies to the entire team involved, too.
2. Advanced collaboration
Agile encourages communication and collaboration more than traditional methodologies. Daily meetings are common in sprints. They help teams to brainstorm ideas, identify obstacles, keep the team informed, and enforce positive team dynamics. This creates real transparency and reduces the risk of mistakes or oversights.
3. Building relationships with different teams
It is quite easy for teams to stay cut off from each other in companies of diverse sizes. When one department is focused on entirely different tasks than another one, there isn’t much reason for them to interact.
Thanks to sprints, the quick pace means goals need to be accomplished fast. It means that team members are more likely to draw on the skills or resources of colleagues from other departments.
What Is Sprint Zero?
Sprint zero is a controversial concept in the software development world, as there is a discrepancy between what it is, what it should be, and why it should exist.
The best way to view sprint zero is to look at it as a template for all other sprints. You may simply identify the users of the software and work with them to create an understanding of what they would want to see in the end product. It is a free-flowing conversation between the customers and the development team. This session may last for 3-4 days.
What Is Sprint Velocity?
Velocity serves for forecasting the amount of work that an Agile development team can productively accomplish within the limited timeframe of a sprint.
In order to calculate the quality, a thorough analysis of the key metrics is required, the data for which are collected during the Agile cycle. Velocity is a functional planning tool that helps to approximate how quickly work can be fulfilled and the length of time required to accomplish a sprint goal. You may compute it by evaluating all the work the development team has effectively completed during earlier sprints.
Planning and Executing Scrum Sprints: Where to Start?
Striving to plan your upcoming sprint effectively, first, arrange the Sprint Planning meeting, as this is a collaborative event where the team answers two basic questions:
- What work can be done in this sprint?
- How will the team complete the chosen tasks?
Selecting the right work items for a sprint is a collaborative effort between the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the development team.
The PO discusses the goals and objectives that Sprint should achieve and the product backlog items that will achieve the sprint goal upon completion.
The next step your team should follow is generating a plan for how they will create the backlog items and get them done before the end of the sprint. The items selected and the plan for how to get them done are called the sprint backlog. By the end of the Sprint Planning meeting, your team should be ready to start work on the sprint backlog, taking items from the product backlog.
Daily Scrums or Stand Up meetings during the sprint will help your team to be aware of how the work is progressing. The main idea of such events is to surface any blockers and challenges that would impact the team’s ability to deliver the sprint goal.
After the sprint, the Scrum team demonstrates what they’ve completed (during the Review meeting). This is the chance to demonstrate the work to stakeholders and teammates before its production.
With the help of the Retro meeting, you will round out your sprint cycle. This is where your team has a chance to identify areas of improvement for the next sprint.
After all these steps, you should be ready to start your next sprint cycle.
Running Sprints: Essential Tips on What to Do and What Not to Do
- Make sure your team totally understands the sprint goal and how success will be measured.
- Arrange Sprint Planning meeting to flesh out details of the work that should be done.
- Have a well-groomed backlog with priorities and dependencies.
- Make sure you have a good understanding of sprint velocity.
- Leave out work where you can not get the dependencies.
- Make sure you capture all the info in a proper project management tool, such as Hygger.
- Do not gather too many stories and do not overestimate velocity.
- Do not forget about the quality or technical debt.
- Do not leave your Scrum team with a fuzzy view of what’s in the sprint.
- Do not take on a large amount of unknown or high-risk work.
- Do not be afraid to leave some of the work for the next sprint.
Sprints are often seen as the first step on the path towards greater agility. They are like mini-projects within a big project. The goal of each sprint is to provide up-to-date guidance to the development team. To complete an efficient sprint, you should first determine the velocity of each team, as no two teams have the same velocity.
Do not doubt to run Sprint Review meetings to get a chance to demo and assess what has been built to ensure that the result is in line with the overall sprint goal.
Feel free to explore the rest of our articles on Scrum to round out your knowledge and inch closer towards the Scrum philosophy.