Sprint planning is an essential process that an organization needs to adapt to be successful. It indicates the roadmap for the next two to four weeks when stakeholders and team members decide as a group what they need to complete and deliver before the next sprint review meeting.
Sprint planning is the first step in an agile project and is crucial to project success. A high-level view of the sprint backlog is created where the scrum team discusses, creates a plan for completing their work, establishes dependencies, and identifies risks that need to be addressed.
Sprint planning is an open forum where everyone comes together, appreciates each other’s work, and gets more clarity about the sprint goals and objectives. That makes every member of the team accountable and re-enforces healthy communication
This article will explain and help you understand the concepts and provide tips for successful sprint planning meetings. Additionally, we’ll show you how it’s not just about the tasks themselves. It’s also about helping your team to reach their full potential.
What is Sprint Planning?
Sprint planning refers to a meeting that takes place before the start of a sprint. The team conducts this meeting to determine the sprint plan and set a sprint goal. The members decide on the number of backlog items in the sprint and sets up a sprint backlog and current sprint.
The members who take part in the sprint planning meeting include:
- The Scrum Master
The scrum master is in charge of facilitating the sprint planning meeting and ensures that the rooms are set, people are prepared, supplies are available, and the video conferencing and other connectivity are set accordingly. He/she time boxes the meeting according to the length of the sprint. For example, the duration of a two weeks’ sprint should be 2-4 hours. He keeps time and ensures they attain their goal at the end of the sprint planning meeting.
- Product Owner
The product owners ensure all the items in the product backlog are set before they start the meeting. Therefore, they have to prepare adequately and know the objective of each item. Moreover, the members ask them questions concerning the case and acceptance criteria, and they have to clarify to them. Thus they have to be more knowledgeable.
- The Development Team
The development team refers to the members who are doing the work and include designers, test engineers, developers, etc. They have to be present in the meeting and participate actively. That will ensure they know what’s expected of them and know the products they must complete before starting the next sprint.
The Duration of Sprint Planning
The primary purpose of sprint planning is to get the essential item in the product backlog to establish for the upcoming sprint. A sprint planning meeting shouldn’t exceed two hours for a one-week sprint duration. The duration of the sprint planning meeting should be as follows:
|Total Sprint Duration||Sprint Planning Duration|
|1 week||2 hours|
|2 weeks||4 hours|
|3 weeks||6 hours|
|4 weeks||8 hours|
The length of a sprint planning meeting depends on the duration of the sprint. Newly formed teams that are gaining experience in scrum should adopt the two hours’ sprint duration. To get the total length of your sprint planning meeting length, you should apply the rule of thumbs, whereby you multiply the number of weeks by two hours.
Agenda of a Sprint Planning Meeting
The primary goal of the sprint planning meeting is to determine the key details and the teams planned work during the next sprint. The main agenda of a sprint planning meeting should include:
- Choosing the team’s general strategic goal for the coming sprint
- Examining the product backlog and selecting the items that belong to the subsequent sprint backlog
- Having a team consensus on the proposed backlog and sprint objectives
- Analyzing the capacity of the team
- Determining the primary issues that can slow down the progress of the product backlog
- Assigning the team’s task on the newsprint backlog based on their skill, capacity etc.
- Analyzing the time framework for each task in the backlog and describing how the completed job should look like
- Deciding on the timeframe of the next sprint
- Opening the meeting for the members to ask questions, give their views and state any issue they have
A team should ensure their product backlog is well-groomed for a productive sprint planning meeting. A well-groomed product backlog helps prevent confusion during the session and ensures the members are well informed.
Purpose of Sprint Planning
Sprint planning helps the product owner, development team, and scrum master analyze and select significant product backlogs. The development team examines the technical aspects of each item in the product backlog and determines if it’s possible to develop them in the course of the current sprint.
Additionally, the development team splits the user stories into individual testing tasks and development to ensure the detailed planning of the backlog items is complete. The scrum master chooses tasks in the product backlog item and allocates it to each team member.
The team members use scrum estimation techniques to estimate the size of the story points. The length gives the members a rough picture of the work they need to do to complete their tasks.
Structure of Sprint Planning Meeting
Sprint planning is divided into two parts:
The team decides on the product backlog item and agree that they would complete the tasks during the sprint. The main agenda in this part is:
- Selecting the goal of the sprint and determining the items to include in the product backlog
- Analyzing the products that are ready and contribute towards the sprint goal
- Examining the members who are prepared for the sprint by checking on any holiday, vacation or any activity that may inconvenience a member
- Checking the team’s capacity basing on the member’s availability
- Selecting the items to include on the product backlog basing on the team’s capacity and sprint goals
- Determining the efforts of the team in accomplishing the sprint goals
The team engages in a long conversation to decide on the method to deliver their product backlog items. It may involve selecting the tasks for the product backlog items, analyzing for any dependencies between the objects and signing up for the initial backlog items that every team member needs to work on. The main agenda in sprint planning involves:
- Detailed planning
The team breaks the main story into tasks, and each member selects the tasks they will handle best. The smaller tasks enable the team to put more efforts and complete the work.
- Story estimation
The team uses different estimation techniques to estimate the work they need to do to achieve their goal.
Tips for Effective Sprint Planning
- Set the sprint goals
Ensure the product owner comes up with a clear and achievable sprint goal. That will help the team select an essential item in the product backlog to complete the sprint.
- Prioritize the stories that meet the sprint goals
After setting a clear goal, the product owner should select stories that meet the sprint goal. Ensure the stories are in line with the team’s capability and capacity.
- Plan for an informal sprint planning preparation meeting
Meet with the team members before the actual sprint planning meeting and set the expectations for the sprint. Use the opportunity to evaluate how relevant the stories are and the members’ ability and check for any barrier towards achieving your goal.
- Meeting arrangements
Send an invite to all members and ensure you have a set up for video call to accommodate any remote member. Print the meeting goals and place them at a visible point in the room for the members to see.
- Introduction of the participant stories
The product owner needs to explain the details and significance of each story in the product backlog. The members can then ask questions to understand their tasks.
- Sizing the stories
The team should use techniques such as poker planning to estimate the stories and estimate the work they need to do to complete their tasks.
- Breakdown stories into tasks
Ensure the team breaks down the prioritized story into small manageable tasks. Smaller tasks will help the team evaluate the activities they need to do to complete their stories.
- Agree on the support work and bug fixes
The team should come up with a strategy for support and how to fix bugs if any arise. Ensure the completed user stories comprises bug fixes and testing. It helps the team to deliver a better-quality product at the end of every sprint.
- Set due dates
During sprint planning, it’s necessary to come up with due dates for each user story. Due dates help drive and track the progress of each task and are significant for external stakeholder communication.
- Effective workday
Document the team’s day off, holidays or any other events that are sure to affect the sprint delivery. The statistics are crucial to estimate the potential impact on the sprint velocity.
Benefits of Sprint Planning
A sprint planning meeting allows project managers and software developers to decide what will occur during their upcoming sprint cycle. Below are some of the benefits of sprint planning:
- Offers the development team a communication platform
Sprint planning allows the team members to identify their dependencies, capacity and to set attainable goals. The development team gets to know who will handle which task in the product backlog and how efficiently they perform the task.
- Helps in prioritizing deliverables
During the sprint planning, the product owner categorizes the items according to their significance. The scrum team then chooses from the essential things and breaks them down into smaller tasks for the team to handle. Hence makes it easy for the team to deliver the most critical items in the early sprint.
- Prevents team burnout
The scrum team selects the tasks they can handle according to their capabilities and estimations. Hence reduces stress and unachievable goals that a third party can set without consulting the team.
- Team building
The scrum team comprises different people who come together to work on a project. The developers assign each member a task in the product backlog, and the tasks relate to one another. Thus the members come together to work on the tasks, which can lead to better performance.
- Better quality
During sprint planning, the members select the highly prioritized item in the product backlog. They then break it down into manageable tasks for the team to handle according to the skills. Each member works toward giving out the best in their work, thus improving the quality of a product.
- Improved morale
The team members have the opportunity to select the task they are comfortable handling and the one they have expertise in. It gives them the morale to produce the best since they are the ones who selected what they are good in.
- More transparency
The members share information on what they are doing, ensuring everyone is on the same page. All the members have the same vision in mind since there are no hidden agenda hence low chances for the project to fail.
- Increased focus
By breaking down the main project into smaller tasks, the product owner can ensure the members’ primary focus is on solving the problem at hand.
How to Run a Sprint Planning Meeting?
To effectively run a sprint, the team members must collaborate and ensure the product backlog is well-groomed. The agenda on sprint planning meeting should include:
1. Sprint Goals
The scrum master needs to define the sprint goal at the beginning of a sprint planning meeting and highlight the high-level objective. He additionally explains what he intends to achieve at the end of the sprint planning. The strategy helps him to give priority to the backlog item as the next issue.
The development teams need to focus on user stories that ensure the customers understand their product, and the marketing team concentrates on the actual number of revenues and leads. The sprint planning meeting should establish a conducive environment that motivates the workers to accomplish their goals.
2. Shift Work from Product Backlog to Sprint
The team has to understand the sprint goal. After that, the scrum master picks items from the product backlog that matches the established sprint goal. Next, he selects from the lowest item that he is confident will offer value to the end-user. He can also add other items if there is extra space for them.
However, the development team members may have different opinions thus fail to agree on the item to give more priority. In such a case, the scrum master should consider the following:
- An item that contributes more to the sprint goal
- The backlog item that increases customer value
- The most significant item to the customers
- The items that are at higher risk
- The item that’s difficult to complete considering the dependencies
3. Assign Scrum Team Tasks
During the sprint planning process, the team members need to select the task they can handle efficiently based on their expertise and roles. While assigning roles, the scrum master has to consider holidays, vacations, or any scenario that may hinder the members from accomplishing their tasks.
4. Set Dependencies
The scrum master sets dependencies between the task for the members to know the sequence they have to accomplish their tasks. Therefore, creating fewer dependencies ensures the members complete the item within the sprint.
5. Measure Velocity of the Scrum Team
The scrum manager needs to measure the velocity of the team and inform them of their progress. That acts as a motivating factor and encourages the team to act faster on their work. Velocity refers to the amount of work that a team completes and can be measured in hours, number of tasks, or story points. Measuring velocity encourages constant improvement, thus better performance of the items in the product backlog.
Example / Application of Sprint Planning
A company in charge of developing a set of HR products decided to make the products accessible through a single platform. The whole process involved one-hour software registration, recruitment, invoicing and personal planning.
The primary aim of the new product was to reduce the inconvenience caused by having several products with different dashboards, logins and purchasing procedures. The scrum team dedicated all their efforts towards completing the new product, and the whole process took a year.
They had two weeks’ sprint planning meetings. The team was cross-functional as they had skills in analysis, testing, visual designs, quality assurance and development. Done definition for the team had all the things necessary for release and production at the end of the sprint. Some of their rules were:
- All the web pages should not have dead links button that was inactive
- Webpages should be free from temporary images and texts
- Webpages should be in line with the latest version of Chrome, Firefox and safari
- Automated tests should be in line with the testing pyramid
- A member of the team must preview the code for the item, and another verifies its functionality
Before the team began the project, they applied a story map to estimate the work. Each story map had a particular step in the flow, i.e., website to the webshop, webshop to dashboard etc.
The team then came up with a rough strategy for the first sprint, and it was as follows:
- They build a simple webshop where they placed their product catalogue for the customers to buy single products.
- The next step was to create a dashboard that allowed widgets from different products to be integrated into a single overview.
- The team concentrated on increasing the webshop that supports complex purchases with multiple users and licenses
- The last focus was producing a branded version of the available product to numerous customers
The above strategies helped the team form a goal for the first sprint, and they constantly revised the product backlog until they achieved what they wanted. After conducting a series of sprint planning review, the team finally achieved the following:
- The product catalogue was easy to manage for their sales department
- Customers were able to login to different products with a single sign-on
- Established a dashboard with a primary widget for the two common platforms
- They were able to guide the customers through the set-up and configuration after the purchase of product A and B
- Their venue was able to translate user messages and facing sites into the user preferred language
Sprint planning offers a great opportunity to discuss how the company’s vision and mission will affect current sprint plans and help shape new ones. These meetings also allow the Scrum master to continue coaching team members on refined processes or techniques they may have overlooked.
Sprints are a vital concept in agile software development. They provide short, focused development cycles, where the team delivers small pieces of functionality. That enables frequent deliveries of valuable new customer features.