What is Agile Sprint Planning?

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by Ashish Kumar Rastogi

March 13, 2019
Category Agile and Scrum


Sprint planning is the event in the scrum where product backlog items are determined in the sprint.

Agile is one of the methodologies being well adopted by industry nowadays. It provides a framework that helps to deal with an uncertain and unstable environment. Agile software development has been implemented by multiple methods such as the SCRUM framework, Extreme Programming, Kanban, SCRUM framework has been widely used due to multiple features and benefits associated with it.

Sprint Planning Best Practices

 Sprint planning is very crucial in scrum projects and one must know the best practices to make it more effective.

  •  Always make sure to keep track of the roadmaps to make the project epics and the versions clear. Ensure the roadmap is the latest one and also made visible to all the team members.
  • Make sure to conduct a backlog grooming meeting before the sprint planning meeting. This meeting will help to make sure that the backlog is healthy. Then prioritize each backlog and include the user stories that are completely formed enabling the team to start working on.
  • Get ready with data before the sprint planning meeting. Make sure all are present in the spring planning meeting and plan it to give time for each one to make their role in the action.
  • Finally, start the sprint planning meeting as now the forecast is done, and data is available too. Allow the team to participate and enable an open talk to ensure ownership from each individual.

 Who is Involved in Sprint Planning?

 The entire team including the product owner, developers, testing engineers, and scrum master is involved in the planning process.

 The Product Owner gets the product backlog items and prioritizes them. The team discusses and accepts the product backlogs to be completed in each sprint. The scrum master facilitates the entire process. 

Scrum framework provides many benefits:
  • It allows to focus on delivering maximum business values in time box manner
  • It allows us to work in a rapid and discipline environment
  • It allows the business to set its priorities and self-organizing team determines the best way of delivering the highest priority items in short time.
  • Sprint sizes used to be of 2 – 4 weeks in duration, hence business could see working software releases in short time frame.
  • Many more…

SCRUM provides a time box unit runs on iterative manner called “Sprint” which typically has 2 weeks to 4 weeks in duration. Each sprint is of same size. Product development including design, coding, testing, code release is done during sprint. When a sprint starts, no changes accepted in that sprint.

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There are 3 key features in SCRUM framework:

RoleCeremonies
Artifacts
3 important role
4 important ceremonies to be
3 important artefacts generated
Product Owner
Performed during any sprint
during sprint:
SCRUM Master
Sprint Planning
Product Backlog
Team
Meeting
Sprint Backlog

Sprint Review or Demo
Burn up or Burn down

Sprint Retrospective
Charts

Daily scrum meeting

Product Owner defines product backlog which is a suite of requirements to be accomplished during sprint execution. He is the sole owner of product backlog. He represents business and sets the priority of the requirement in the Product Backlog. He is also responsible for generating ROI. He can also terminate sprint for any obsolete requirement.

However SCRUM Master facilitates all discussions and ceremonies performed along with Product owner and team. He monitors each activity within SCRUM and sprint execution in order to make sure all processes being followed. He also removes all impediments occur during sprint execution. He interfaced to the business on behalf of team. He keeps track of the progress in form of release burn down and sprint burn up charts and reports to the management as well as business stakeholders.

Prior to the main sprint planning meeting, Scrum Master determines what should be the sprint size at very high level depends on the complexity level of project and business need. This has been briefly mentioned during project kick off meeting. Once sprint size finalized during project kick off meeting, it will remain constant throughout project. Sprint size varies between 2 weeks to 4 weeks in duration.

Sprint planning meeting has been facilitated by SCRUM Master and constitute of SCRUM team including product owner and team. If required, there can be more representatives from commercial or business side along with Product Owner. Sprint planning meeting occurs on very first day of the sprint.

Agenda of sprint planning meeting splits into two part:

a.) define the sprint goal:

Sprint Planning Meeting

The whole objective of a sprint planningmeeting is to define or select a sprint goal and create a sprint backlog. The team takes the ownership of sprint backlog, however, the product owner takes ownership of the product backlog. 

In the first part of the sprint planning meeting, SCRUM Master initiates a discussion between the Product Owner and team. Product owner discusses with the team about business needs and priorities. He gives a walk-through of the requirements from the product backlog which is framed into features or user stories. Team analyze the requirement, evaluate it and asks doubts to the product owner. Product owner clarify the doubts of team members. SCRUM Master does the team capacity planning based on the skill set requirement and experience level. Accordingly he does the addition or deletion of the team member in a team and gives a right fitment in the team required for the project. SCRUM master also confirms on Technology environment with the team 

b.) create sprint backlog based on team input, estimate it

In the second part of sprint planning meeting, Scrum Master further initiates on achieving goal and sprint backlog creation. Team strategies how to achieve sprint goal, what should be required. What should be the sprint size whether should be 2 weeks or 4 weeks. Basically the size confirms based on the complexity level of the requirement and project. Sprint backlog has created based on the team input and business priorities. Initially some velocity is set. While moving onto another sprint, velocity is set based on the previous velocity. In some cases after running of 3-4 sprints, velocity planning also adds into the second part of the agenda. Velocity has been re-evaluated and set according to the pace of work and completed user stories. In addition, Product owner also discusses on acceptance criteria for each sprint backlog items and clarify all the doubts. However there was high level discussion or brief happened about SCRUM process, Definition of Done, Acceptance criteria etc during project kick-off meeting   

Once sprint back log creates, team provides its estimate in number of hours for the each sprint backlog items. The estimate for each backlog item or user story varies between 4 hours to 32 hours depends on the sprint size. If sprint size is 2 weeks, then the ideal estimate is 4 hours to 16 hours. 

Hence user story needs to be slices into tasks. If sprint size is 4 weeks, then the acceptable range of estimate is 8 hours to 32 hours. 

Some people may be wondering what should be the duration of sprint planning meeting.  Sprint planning meeting duration should be 5% of total hours of sprint size. For example,  if Sprint size is 2 weeks  that is 80 hours (considering 40 working hours a week), sprint planning meeting should not be more than 5% of 80 hours that is 4 hours.  

On the other hand if Sprint size is 4 weeks  that is 160 hours (considering 40 working hours a week), sprint planning meeting should not be more than 5% of 160 hours that is 8 hours. 

Towards the end of sprint, SCRUM Master facilitates discussion on sprint demo with business stakeholders and sprint retrospective ceremonies. Team gets positive and constructive feedback on their work directly by the business team and lesson learnt during the sprint. This helps team to take corrective action in the subsequent sprints. 

Summary 

Agile methodology with Scrum framework provides many features and benefits as we have seen above. SCRUM provides one of important ceremony called “Sprint planning meeting” which is crucial to the project as well as business. This gives values to the business as high priorities items are discussed in the meeting and listed under sprint backlog. Moreover team gets interfaced with product owner and commercial team which helps team to understand better vision of the project and also establishes a good relation between team and business. Sprint planning meeting occurs very first day of sprint. 

 The output of Sprint planning meeting are a) Sprint goal, and b) sprint backlog. Product owner, SCRUM Master and team are part of sprint planning meeting. If required, commercial team can also be added. During the sprint planning meeting team capacity planning, velocity planning, sprint backlog preparation and creation happened. Once sprint goal defines, it will never change during the sprint. Product owner gives walk through on the requirement. Team analyze each requirement and asks any doubt on each requirement. Product owner clarifies all doubts of team members. Team selects high priority items from the product backlog and forms sprint back log. Team provides estimate in number of hours. Sprint planning meeting duration depends on the sprint size and usually it is 5% of the total working hours in a sprint. For instance if sprint size is 2 weeks i.e. 80 hours then sprint planning meeting duration should be <= 4 hours. Similarly if sprint size is 4 weeks i.e. 160 hours then sprint planning meeting duration should be <= 8 hours.  

Towards the end of remaining ceremonies performed such as Sprint demo and sprint retrospectives along with team and business stakeholders. Team gets positive and constructive feedback to improve upon which helps team to make corrective action in the subsequent sprints.  

 This concludes the discussion on the sprint planning meeting.