This year, Agile will enter its 22nd year of inception. While devs have internalized the benefits agile brings on the table, most teams often struggle with the methodology. And it is team sprints that bear the brunt of failed agile transformations.
Sprint planning might seem a simple management task, however, if engineering teams are not careful, they can easily distort development velocity and lead to misplaced project priorities. In this post, let's talk about the basics of sprint planning, why sprint planning is a sacred business, and not just another team meeting, the common pitfalls, and best practices to conduct sprint planning with integrity.
What is Sprint Planning?
Sprint planning is similar to creating a timeline-driven work roadmap. The process is a culmination of tasks needed to be accomplished within a given timeframe. Usually, sprints begin with devs reviewing their engineering backlog, prioritizing user stories and creating upcoming sprint tasks. The team then estimates durations (biweekly, weekly, fortnightly) for each task based on complexity and potential impediments. Once curated, the timelines and project tasks serve as a north-star for teams for next sprint plans.
Sprint helps teams stay organized by mapping out project expectations, and identifying what needs to be done, in given deadlines and assignees. Moreover, sprint speeds up the software development process by accurately delivering user-requested features in the shortest possible time.
Initially, teams used sprint planning to be on top of project delivery, or produce tangible, measurable results. However, sprints are much more than just checklists. They are a data-driven way to ensure a team is constantly making progress, or moving forward. That’s why planning is the most crucial phase of sprints- it helps to get priorities straight. Without the planning stage, conducting project delivery is like assembling electronics without reading the manual. It is definitely possible, but a lot more harder, and full of chaos.
The ‘Not so Secret’ Ingredients of a Perfect Sprint Plan
A lot of data, team insights, and personalization goes into creating a sprint plan. Here are the common elements omnipresent across all team sprints:
- Sprint goal: Measurable, quantifiable, and achievable- the three terms that define a sprint goal. For example- your next goal could be about delivering ten product features, revamping the website, or bringing down incident rate by Y%.
- Define sprint tasks: List of tasks needed to be performed for achieving your sprint goal. It’s better to reverse engineer your work process, and create a timeline spanning daily, weekly, and mid-sprint.
- Enrolling team members in sprint tasks: The next step is the hardest- ensuring all members have a sustainable workload per sprint. Most sprints fail because either the team members are overburdened with the last sprint task, or don’t have enough productive time to code, or focus on key priorities. Hatica’s maker time metrics helps you to map available hours per dev so engineering managers can distribute sprint tasks by optimizing developer workload.