Sprint Planning – Guide to Implementing Successful Project Sprints
Imagine a group of software engineers working on an app that helps manage personal expenses. They complete coding the entire tool and test it only to find it’s not working as intended.
Could they have avoided this mistake? Yes, and one easily applicable way would have been by simplifying and dividing the whole project into smaller tasks.
By working on iterative, incremental steps and then checking if the program as a whole runs together, you could easily identify and fix the mistakes without losing your previous work.
This roughly explains why the Agile project sprint is so important.
Scrum is an agile project management methodology where teams decide to work in collaboration with all the project stakeholders in small iterations. This methodology along with Kanban methodology is considered one of the most used Agile methodologies globally.
The Scrum methodology relies on a self-organized team that has the autonomy to make decisions according to the situation.
What is a sprint in the Scrum methodology?
Scrum framework operates by dividing a complex project in a series of simpler, achievable tasks called sprints. The scrum methodology revolves around these project sprints as they allow the team to easily accommodate changes.
As soon as a project is received, the teams divide it into several scrum project sprints and start working on them according to their priority. The timeframe of a single sprint can be any as long as its under 4 weeks. However, 2 week sprints are the most common.
Benefits of working in Agile Sprints
Working in sprints is a great way of tackling complicated projects. By dividing your project into smaller and more achievable tasks, you can ensure the quality of the product and deliver it on time.
Sprints in project management also allow you to accommodate change requests and immediately switch to control mode if necessary. Following are some of the benefits of working in sprints:
1. More focus
By dividing the entire project into a series of smaller tasks, you can ensure that the entire focus of your team is on solving the problem at hand. A scrum project sprint is only over when the final specifications are according to the already decided ‘definition of done’. This means that team members do not have any backlog to worry about.
2. Reduced costs
A large project would not only take a lot of time and investment. Also, you’ll have to start over in the case of a big change or a mistake by a team member. This will cause project delays and a waste of money.
If you use sprints, you can accommodate any change request in the upcoming sprints and all your previous sprint tasks remain unaffected by a mistake in the current sprint. This can save you time and also reduce the overall costs of the project.
3. More transparency
Agile teams are required to share all the information and every member works while having the same vision of the final deliverable in mind. Since everyone is on the same page; the chances of the project going sideways get drastically reduced and improves visibility and transparency in projects.
4. Improved morale
Agile methodologies do not restrict team members to the organizational hierarchy. This means that each member’s opinion is given equal importance and respect.
This feeling of being valued among the team motivates them to perform even better and align their personal interests with the organizations.
5. Better quality
Quality control is an important part of the sprint review. Since everything is reviewed immediately, and on a microscopic level, you can be sure that your product is up to the standards.
6. Higher productivity
Sprints in project management increase the efficiency of the team and allow continuous improvements. This obviously has a direct effect on the overall increase in the productivity of the team. Projects that follow the Agile approach are proven to be about 28 percent more successful than others.
7. Higher customer satisfaction
Since customers are allowed to share their thoughts throughout the project lifecycle, the final product is usually up to their requirements. This allows organizations to retain those customers and increase their business.
Shorter sprints allow Agile teams to change according to the situation and the demands of the customer. The rapid nature of modern businesses requires project teams to pivot quickly and completing short term goals can help them complete that.
9. Team building
Project teams often consist of different people who do not interact under normal circumstances. Agile sprints encourage collaboration between all members of the team and these interactions can help members feel comfortable with each other which can definitely have a positive effect on their overall performance.
10. Reduced risks
While working in an Agile project sprint, a project team gets multiple opportunities to tackle a potential issue before it becomes a big deal. Through daily stand-ups, members know the problem any member is facing and how to solve it.
Now if they face a similar problem in the future, they’ll be ready for it. Additionally, agile project sprints allow teams to have multiple feedback loops which also allow them to identify potential issues and solve them quickly.
The Sprint cycle
A scrum project sprint consists of a series of activities that sequentially take place after each other.
- It all starts with a sprint planning meeting where team members sit together to discuss the prioritized tasks of the particular sprint. In this meeting, duties are assigned to the team members and a ‘sprint backlog’ consisting of all the deliverables of the sprint is created.
- The second activity is the daily stand up meeting. Typically, the day of every team member and the scrum master starts with a meeting where everyone gets updated on the progress of the previous day and the plans for that day. If any members are facing any difficulty in tackling a particular task, they discuss it during this meeting and everyone chips-in to find a solution.
- Agile methodologies focus on ensuring value and quality for the customers. The work completed during each sprint is always reviewed with all the project stakeholders and their feedback is taken on board.
- The final activity of any sprint is the retrospective phase where all participants reflect on their work during the sprint and draw lessons from it for the future.
Planning the perfect sprint for projects
Sprint planning is the first task that your team must complete before starting. The planning stage symbolizes the beginning of a sprint and is of paramount importance for its success.
Decisions about the sprint such as its goal, final project deliverables, backlog, and many more are taken in this stage. Therefore, it’s better to make sure you do as much as possible during this time to avoid any issues later.
The main goal of the Agile project sprint is to deliver an acceptable product to the customer that adds value to the project. It’s imperative to keep the bigger picture in mind and cover everything that may have an impact on the project during the planning stage.
There are several steps that can be taken to run an effective sprint planning meeting and some of them are discussed below.
- View the product roadmap in the long run
- Keep your product backlog items updated
- Come up with a rough idea of the sprint goal and product backlog before the planning meeting
- Establish team capacity and present the ‘Velocity’
- Review and update the definition of done
- Clarify all the issues and confirm assumptions
- Establish dependencies, if any, in the sprint backlog
- Bring consensus among everyone involved
With proper Sprint planning by using project management software, you can turn your final goal into a step-by-step guide. After a successful planning meeting, everyone on the team knows what the final goal is and will be committed to achieving it.
Sprints in project management also allow you to identify and resolve problems that may impact the project later.
After properly planning an Agile project sprint, the risk of surprises gets drastically reduced, and all you’ll have to do is to start working.