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By Pavel Kukhnavets

Sprint Planning

The meeting aimed to select a set of prioritized items from the product backlog to be delivered during the current sprint.

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Among all ceremonies in Scrum, Sprint Planning is arguably the most important and fundamental event. It should not be underestimated, because too many things depend on this meeting regarding the future of the product and the entire Scrum team.Scrum sprint planning

What is the role of the Sprint Planning meeting in Scrum? What is exactly done in Sprint Planning? How should Scrum teams plan work for Sprints? Let’s get the answers to these (and other) questions right now!

What is Sprint Planning?

As you probably know, every project in Scrum is broken into time blocks called sprints. They usually last for 2-4 weeks. Sprint Planning is a Scrum ceremony that takes place at the very beginning of each sprint.

During the meeting, the entire team meets to define which backlog items will be handled in the next sprint.
planning sprints

Why arrange Sprint Planning

This meeting is a great opportunity to get the entire team together and collaborate to determine what everyone is responsible for over the next sprint. Remember that a team that clearly understands its exact goals is a happy team.

Sprint goal

The key goal of this event is to determine the following:

  • What should we build before the end of the sprint?
  • How should we build it?

This Scrum ceremony is a collaborative process that allows individuals to have a say in when work happens. The planning session starts the sprint by setting the agenda and focus. If run properly, the event also creates an environment where the entire team is motivated and challenged.

Typical Spring Planning comprises the following elements:

  • What: The Product Owner defines the key goal and the product backlog items that can contribute to that goal. The team decides what can be done in the upcoming sprint and how they should work.
  • How: The development team finds ways to deliver the necessary tasks. This step includes negotiations between the development team and the PO based on value and effort.
  • Who: It is impossible to perform Sprint Planning without the development team and the Product Owner. The PO defines the goal based on the value and the development team needs to realize how they can or cannot deliver that goal.
  • Inputs: The product backlog is what can be considered a great starting point for the sprint plan. It provides a list of items that could potentially be part of the current sprint.
  • Outputs: The most important outcome for Sprint Planning is the ability of the team to identify the goal of the sprint and the way they will start working toward it.

Sprint Planning agenda

Any meeting requires a specific agenda, and Sprint Planning is not an exclusion. Agenda makes the team focused and includes discussions about the ultimate objective of the sprint and the team’s capacity. It also contains a granular look at the sprint backlog.

What is a Sprint Backlog?

A sprint backlog is a list of the stuff your team and you have to accomplish to complete the project. During the Sprint Planning meeting, your team needs to review this backlog to recognize what’s left and define what should happen next to keep the project on track.

Note that any items that were not completed in previous sprints might be moved to the current backlog.

Estimating stories

The team should estimate the time or effort it will take to complete every task in the backlog. This will help the Scrum Master to manage the budget and timeline of the project more effectively.

In order to fairly capture this information, the team should discuss and estimate the size of each task (user stories), which is done using numerical points, hours, or another means of capturing the effort required. After the estimation, you should define how many of these tasks and in which combinations will fit into your upcoming sprint, based on your team’s capacity.

Defining capacity

The number of story points or backlog items your team can complete during a sprint means the team’s capacity. To identify this capacity, multiply the number of team members by the number of hours they can productively work in a day. Then subtract the time spent in team meetings or devoted to other tasks or projects.

Determining velocity

The next step is to look at the team’s velocity and capacity together. When defining the team’s velocity, the product manager or the SM should be ready to apply examples from the past few sprints or previous projects to realize how quickly the team usually finishes similar work.

The length of the Sprint Planning meeting

How long is Sprint Planning? For a four-week sprint, this ceremony usually lasts about eight hours. For a two-week sprint, four hours will be enough.

You may use the following rule: multiply the number of weeks in your sprint by two hours to get the total meeting length. The following table will be helpful:
planning sprints, Hygger review

What is the Structure of Sprint Planning?

A typical Sprint Planning meeting is split into two parts:

1. Scope

A Scrum team chooses the items from a prioritized list of ready product backlog items that they will be able to complete during the sprint.

The agenda of the first part of the meeting may look like this:

  • What is the goal for this sprint?
  • What items from the product backlog contribute toward the sprint goal?
  • Who is available for this sprint?
  • What is the team’s capacity based on everyone’s availability?
  • What items will the team include in the sprint backlog (according to the sprint goal and the team’s capacity)?
  • How confident does the team feel about the possibility to meet the sprint goal?

Sprint planning

2. Plan

At this stage, the Scrum team discusses in detail how they will deliver the chosen product backlog items. This can include identifying tasks for the product backlog items any dependencies between the items.

The List of the Essential Planning Steps

  • Make sure your team understands the big picture or goal.
  • Communicate new info that may impact the plan.
  • Define the velocity for this release.
  • Approve team capacity.
  • Gather currently known issues and concerns.
  • Review the definition of done and make updates.
  • Prepare product backlog items to consider for the sprint backlog.
  • Define the needs, sign up for work, and estimate the work.
  • Elaborate acceptance criteria.
  • Confirm new issues raised during the meeting and record them.
  • Confirm dependencies discovered during the planning meeting.
  • Get back to work.

What are the benefits of Sprint Planning?

By running a successful Sprint Planning meeting, you’ll get the following benefits:

  • The meeting will enable your Scrum team to agree on the sprint goal and commitment.
  • Spring Planning creates the platform to communicate dependencies and identify team capacity to set and commit to an achievable sprint goal.
  • It also enables task discovery, sign-up, prioritization, and estimation.

Sprint planning is scrum

Preparation Before Spring Planning

There is one essential question: What should be prepared by each of the Scrum roles before they attend the Sprint Planning meeting?

Scrum Master has to:

  • prepare and publish the meeting agenda.
  • identify the right people, prepare scheduling and logistics.
  • ensure that all team members’ skills and capabilities are aligned with the needs of the backlog items for the sprint.

Product Owner has to:

  • make sure that every single user story or feature is small enough to be completed within a sprint and includes requirements and acceptance criteria.
  • ensure that the backlog items are prioritized with the most important work items at the top.

The Development Team has to:

  • update the list of done items if needed and keep it ready for reference during the event.

When should the Sprint Planning meeting take place?

The meeting occurs on the first day of a sprint. It should be organized after the Sprint Review and Retrospective meeting ceremony from the previous sprint to be able to consider any output from those discussions. However, the planning event does not have to occur immediately after those other two meetings.

Perhaps, you will find that it’s better to have a standing consistent time for Sprint Planning to let your team keep that time slot clear from other engagements.

Where should the Sprint Planning meeting take place?

You may use any team room as a location for organizing the Sprint Planning to let your team have access to all the information about your product backlog.

If you have remote colleagues, Sprint Planning may provide a good opportunity to gather everyone together to make your discussions more effective and to reinforce the person-to-person connections.

Sprint planning checklist

It is a good idea to have a special checklist to be always prepared during your Sprint Planning meetings. Here’s the example:

  • Prepare all data and estimated story points.
  • Approve estimated story points for all backlog items.
  • Agree on the items to move to the next sprint.
  • Identify the team’s capacity for the upcoming sprint. Compare it with the total story points.
  • End the ceremony with possible Q&As to ensure all your colleagues are on the same page.

Well-Prepared Sprint Leads to the Better Project

Sprint Planning is an important element of the Agile methodology. Make sure that in every planning session you review the backlog in its entirety, identify the urgent tasks, and only include tasks in each sprint that fit your team’s available capacity.

According to the collaborative approach of the Scrum model, the entire team has access to all of the tasks in the backlog. They are able to define the most important tasks for that particular sprint and have a chance to tackle the next set of challenges together.