The Scrum Guide, considered by many to be the Bible of Scrum, describes Sprints as ‘the heartbeat of Scrum’.
Every Agile project is divided into several consistent fixed-length events, called sprints, during which all the work that goes into creating the product happens.
In this blog, you will understand what a Scrum sprint is, what are the events that it encompasses, how to plan and execute a Scrum sprint, and best practices in sprint workflows and processes. You will learn about tools that boost productivity, and understand how Scrum offers significant benefits over traditional development projects.
A sprint is a short iteration that usually lasts between one and four weeks; a duration that is discussed and fixed at the beginning of the project. It is during a sprint that ideas get transformed into value.
Each sprint can be considered to be a short project in itself, as it results in the achievement of a sprint goal. The sprint goal defines a set of product features and functionalities, and the development team works together to achieve this goal during the sprint.
In the case of a software project, a potentially shippable product increment is released at the end of each sprint.
Learn About the Scrum Sprint Events
As stated in the Agile Manifesto: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”
In keeping with this guidance, Scrum outlines the need for holding a number of key events that are held before, during and after the sprint. These events facilitate close collaboration, and encourage transparency, inspection and adaptation—the pillars of Scrum Empiricism.
At the start of each sprint, the Product Owner, Scrum Master and development team get together for a sprint planning meeting where they decide upon the backlog features that will be completed in the following sprint. The Product Owner will decide the goal to be achieved during the sprint, while the team will figure out how much of work they could complete during this period. They will therefore agree upon and define the sprint goal and sprint backlog.
The Daily Scrum and Daily Stand-up are often considered to be the same, as for all intents and purposes this event constitutes a catch up session that is important to nurture collaboration, cooperation and transparency among team members. Some Scrum practitioners, however, make a fine distinction between the two, as defined below. Ultimately, the practice that your team follows should be what works for you!
A meeting that is time-boxed for a maximum of 15 minutes, the Daily Scrum is an event where each member of the team communicates their plan for the day. It is attended by the Development team only—the Product Owner is not required to be a participant, and the Scrum Master’s responsibility is only to facilitate the event and make sure that it is not skipped.
The Daily Stand-up is a status update among all members of the team, during which work completed is reviewed, upcoming tasks are discussed and issues or problems are addressed. The Scrum Master and Product Owner also participate in this event, which is not time-boxed. While standing up is not really compulsory, many teams find that this helps to keep proceedings short!
The Review is usually held on the last day of the sprint, and is a meeting that everyone must attend—stakeholders included. During this event, the ‘Done’ increment and working features are shown to customers, management and anyone else who would like to give their feedback. This feedback is then incorporated in the Product Backlog, which will guide the direction to be taken for upcoming sprints.
The Retrospective is the final event, which could be held immediately after the sprint review. It offers an opportunity for the team to reflect on how the sprint unfolded; what went wrong and what was good, and note down ways in which they can improve.
In the Scrum book, there is always room for improvement—and the Retrospective is a collaborative effort to identify just what could be done better, the next time around.
The Sprint is a time-boxed event in itself, during which all the other events take place. A new sprint starts right after the old one is concluded.
Note: Some proponents of Scrum believe that Backlog Refinement is the fifth event in Scrum, while others argue that as this is required to be an ongoing process it cannot be deemed a formal event. The Product Owner and the Development team get together to groom the tasks on the Backlog, re-prioritise them according to urgency, and move the more important tasks to the top of the list for the next sprint.
The whole exercise of sprint planning is carried out with one singular goal in mind: to define what is the sprint goal, or what can be achieved during the sprint, and to elaborate on how it will be achieved. The planning session kickstarts the sprint, and sets in motion all the rest of the events for the successful completion of the sprint. It defines the ‘what’, the ‘how’, and the ‘who’; in other words:
During this stage, the team creates the plan for how to work on the backlog items, and ensures that they meet the criteria of ‘Done’ before the end of the sprint. The sprint backlog contains all the work items chosen and the priorities for getting them done.
Once the sprint planning is done, the team is all set to start work on the backlog items. An item that is chosen will be moved to ‘In-progress’, and finally to ‘Done’.
While the sprint is in progress, the team connects and collaborates during the daily scrum, or stand-up, to discuss any obstacles and challenges that would impact the smooth progress of work.
At the end of the sprint comes the review, and finally the retrospective. During the review, the team demonstrates the work done, letting stakeholders view the progress and give feedback if required. The retrospective offers opportunities for reflection, and helps the team to identify areas of improvement for the next sprint.
Here’s what SHOULD be done at the planning stage:
… and here’s what SHOULD NOT be done during planning!
According to the Scrum Guide, there are three practices that define Scrum : Roles, Artifacts and Ceremonies.
The three Scrum Roles are:
The three Scrum Artifacts are:
There are two more artifacts that are not considered to be as important, and they are the Definition of Done (all the criteria that must be completed before the item can be deemed to be finished), and the Product Burndown chart (which maps out work completed against work that’s left to be done).
Automation in software development takes care of routine tasks, doing them better and faster and improving accuracy and quality. To optimise your sprints using automation, use a tool like Jira that will help to boost productivity and automate at scale, as and when needed.
Some examples of automation that can be tailored for your team:
It’s very important to keep the sprint workflow as simple as possible, as a workflow that is too complex will be hard for the team to understand and implement.
As an example, the basic workflow for a software development project can include just four steps:
While the terms Scrum and Sprint are sometimes mixed up, they are very different and distinct. Scrum is the most popular Agile framework, while a Sprint is a time-boxed event during a Scrum project during which the team delivers incremental value, in the form of one or several features of the final product.
While Scrum is a time-tested and proven Agile framework, in order to be effective the team must follow the guidelines that are laid out. All team members need to be collaborative and completely transparent, and they must also follow the prescribed events and processes. To help them to do this are Scrum productivity tools—Agile project management solutions that help them to carry out tasks in the manner required by Scrum.
These tools could be in the form of planning dashboards, reporting tools, shared workspaces for collaboration, or analytics software that help to chart out project progress. Scrum productivity tools improve project planning, offer greater transparency and visibility into work progress, and increase chances of project success.
Some popular Scrum tools include Jira, GitHub, Sprints by Zoho, Visual Paradigm, Monday.com and Targetprocess.
Traditional development projects work in a linear fashion with a top-down hierarchical approach. Once a phase is completed, it is not possible to go back to the previous phase; which means that any changes in requirements cannot be accommodated till the end.
Scrum, on the other hand, is an iterative process, and is considered the best approach for projects where the requirements keep evolving over time.
There are several significant benefits that Scrum Sprints hold over traditional development:
As an ordered and time-boxed duration of activities, a Scrum Sprint can be said to be the basic building block of a Scrum project. It is structured to allow the project to change direction in response to fluctuating external factors, and allows the team to consciously adapt and improve themselves.
Scrum was originally developed for software projects, but today the concept of Scrum Sprints is being applied successfully to other industries as well. While there is a learning curve in the adoption of Scrum Sprints, the benefits are immense. By following the processes that are laid out for each Sprint, the team can maximise value and achieve project success.
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