What is a Sprint in Agile? If you are looking for answers to this question, you have come to the right place!
The article consists of the following topics:
- What is a Sprint in Agile Methodology
- How long is a Sprint in Agile
- How to plan a Sprint in Agile
- How to review an Agile Sprint
- Agile Sprint Events / Meetings / Ceremonies
- How does a Sprint work in Agile
- Why use a Sprint in Agile
- Agile Sprint Best Practices
- Agile Sprint Outcomes
- Agile Sprint Terminology
Giving you insights that will help to understand the agile sprint, thus answering the question of What is a Sprint in Agile?
What is a Sprint in Agile Methodology?
In Agile Development Methodology, a sprint is a time period of fixed length in which an Agile development team works towards achieving their sprint goal. A sprint is a development cycle, which means a new sprint begins when another ends.
Many people have heard of sprints, but very few people truly understand what is a sprint in an Agile context.
How long is a Sprint in Agile?
Sprints should be between 1-4 weeks. Ideally, the length of your sprints must be realistic. When sprints are too short, you risk not completing your sprint goal/objective in time.
Sprints are inherently goal-driven, so a sprint where the development team fails to achieve their sprint goal is a waste and interferes with proper planning.
Sprints should also not be too long because you may end up chasing several goals in one sprint. This goes against the principles of agile development and adds confusion to already complex projects.
In addition, your sprint should be short enough to deliver frequently, but it should also be long enough to reach your sprint goal. Before the project even begins, you should set the length and amount of your sprints.
Above all, your sprint should not exceed 30 days.
The length of the sprint is highly contextual and may vary team by team, based on the clarity in requirements, future vision, and need for a tangible output. Here is a concise list that you can use to validate your sprint length:
- Between 1 – 4 weeks / no longer than 30 days
- Is goal-driven
- Lengthy enough to achieve your defined goals
- Short enough to provide tangible output frequently
- Short enough to focus on your primary sprint goal / too many goals may derail the focus of your team
How to plan a Sprint in Agile?
Plans for each sprint are set during the Sprint Planning Meeting. Each sprint planning meeting’s goal is to decide a sprint goal for the next sprint. The meeting’s attendants then pick important items from the backlog to add to the sprint’s smaller backlog.
To properly plan a sprint, you always need to keep your eyes on the final prize. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose your direction amongst all the story points and fixes. However, if you are focused on the end goal, you will be alright.
Furthermore, sprint planning should include key people like the Product Owner, Development Team, etc. These people directly impact the direction and execution of your product.
If you are having disagreements when estimating the weight of tasks, you can use the Fibonacci sequence (0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.) as a scale to grade your tasks. The Fibonacci sequence creates a task grading system with levels the team can quickly agree on.
The maximum time allowed for sprint planning is 8 hours for each sprint. To decide on the length of your meeting, add 2 hours for every week in your sprint. For example, if your sprint is three weeks long then the planning should take about 6 hours.
In short, to make fruitful sprint plans, make sure these two questions are answered by the end of each meeting.
- What tasks to do during the sprint?
- How will these tasks be done?
The quality of Sprint plannings can be further improved by working on your facilitator skills and following a couple of best practices in preparing for sprint planning.
A full article on “How to Facilitate an efficient Sprint planning” is available here, with a Complete Sprint Planning Checklist
How to review an Agile Sprint?
There are two meetings where you and your team can express feedback about the sprint that has been just closed:
- Sprint Review
- Sprint Retrospective Meeting
In the Sprint Review meeting, the agile team meets to review the sprint, discuss the past, the plan for the future, and track the product’s progress towards the end goal.
The Sprint Retrospective can be used to discuss and improve not only the Agile Sprint but other topics concerning teams’ productivity and output. Remember to check out the “How to facilitate an efficient Online Retrospective” here, if you feel like your remote sessions could be improved!
Both the Sprint Review and the Sprint Retrospective Meeting happen at the end of a sprint. Only the Daily Scrum is held during the sprint.
Agile Sprint Events/Meetings/Ceremonies
There are several ceremonies held before, during, and after sprints. These ceremonies help to regulate and adjust the direction and performance of sprints in Agile.
Sprint Planning Meeting
It is held before each sprint. The product owner, scrum master, and the development team discuss their plans for the next sprint. Sprint Planning Meetings have a maximum length of 8 hrs.
Held before the Sprint Retrospective, the development team presents their work during the sprint to stakeholders. The sprint review is kind of like a demo before any official releases.
Daily Stand-Up Meeting
The development team discusses up-to-date information about the project. The team also uses the meeting to brainstorm solutions to problems. The product owner can only attend the meeting as an observer.
Sprint Retrospective Meeting
A discussion or review meeting attended by the Scrum Team and Stakeholders(optional). Members meet to review and plan methods to avoid undesirable events.
How does a Sprint Work in Agile?
To answer the question of what is a sprint in agile, we need to understand how the sprints function.
There is a sprint planning meeting, before each sprint starts, where the team sets the goal for the following sprint. The team selects higher-ranked backlog items from the Product Backlog. These selected items AKA user stories are what the development team will work to achieve during the sprint.
After the sprint starts, the development team meets daily for a meeting called the Daily Scrum Meeting. This is where the team discusses their progress and each member reports on what they have done. If there are any thorny issues, the team brainstorms solutions to the problem within the meeting. The owner can only attend as a bystander and he/she cannot request changes. Only the scrum master can halt or alter the sprint after it starts.
During the sprint, the development team works on User Stories listed on the Sprint Backlog. The sprint backlog is a subset of the much bigger product backlog.
The items on a sprint backlog are carefully selected according to the Sprint Goal. The sprint goal is the forecasted outcome of each sprint.
The Scrum Master monitors and enforces proper agile practices throughout the project.
When the sprint ends, the development team showcases their work to stakeholders at the sprint review. The sprint review meeting cannot be longer than 4 hours.
Finally, at the sprint retrospective meeting, the team discusses their experiences during the sprint. They identify problems and then hash out tactics to avoid similar obstacles in the future.
After all this is done, the cycle repeats. Stacking each sprint on top of the achievements of previous sprints until you have your end product.
Why Use a Sprint in Agile
In software development, using sprints breaks a large and complex project into digestible pieces. The development team can tackle one task at a time instead of doing everything at once. If you try to do everything at once, you risk being overwhelmed and losing your direction.
Sprints also help package and forecast future events. With sprints, you can inspect the path of your product’s development with ease. This means the project’s documentation is clear, and you can effortlessly revise parts of your product.
Agile Sprint Best Practices
Set a Well-Defined Sprint Goal
A clear and well-written sprint goal helps members of the development team work towards a common goal. It’s a communication tactic that keeps everyone on the same page.
It is a regular arrangement of backlog items so they are always ready for future sprints. Backlog refinement adjusts the backlog items to match current circumstances. Backlog grooming/refinement also minimizes the time needed to select items for the sprint backlog.
Use Sprint Velocity
Having a good understanding of your development team’s sprint velocity helps you make better plans during sprint planning. You can estimate future milestones using the average sprint velocity.
Multitasking lowers productivity and the overall quality of the multitasked projects. During multitasking, you spent a lot of time acclimatizing to each different task instead of focusing on a single task until completion.
Use Agile Productivity Software
There is a lot of software designed to help you manage and plan your agile process. These tools help optimize your sprint performance. Popular tools include Jira, ScrumWise, QuickScrum, nTask, etc.
Set Realistic Sprint Goals and Deadlines
You must set reasonable goals for each sprint. Setting overly ambitious goals and deadlines puts your team under a lot of pressure and likely leads to burnout. Setting achievable objectives during sprints gathers momentum and expertise for your dev team.
Enforce Quality Protocols
It is better to slowly perform a task well than to do it quickly but have to revise it more. Maintaining quality coding practices during development means there will be less need to rework completed tasks.
Break Down Complex Tasks into Smaller Tasks
Separate large story points into achievable segments that can fit inside a sprint. Adding complex tasks into a sprint backlog will only result in a failed sprint.
Automate Agile Processes with Software
Tools like Jira, have automation options for some processes that help optimize sprints. e.g. Story status changes when a PR is opened, auto assignments based on the status that the story is in and so on.
Agile Sprint Outcome
Now that we know what is a sprint in Agile. It is time we looked at how a sprint should end.
The end of each sprint must be partnered with an increment to the product. If the development team fails to fulfill their sprint goal, the sprint is called a failed sprint.
In some special cases, the product owner or scrum master can cancel a sprint before it ends. This is very rare, but it does happen.
Agile Sprint Terminology – What is Sprint in Agile?
Product Backlog: an ordered list with all the tasks that must be done to get a complete end-product.
Sprint Backlog: a subset of the product backlog. It holds the selected tasks the developers must do before the sprint ends.
Sprint Goal: The overall objective that the Development Team needs to realize during a sprint.
Done Increment: It’s a usable and tangible step made by the Development Team to the product. Each Done Increment brings the product closer to its goal.
Sprint Velocity: It is the amount of work a development team can do in a single sprint.
Average Sprint Velocity: Calculated by dividing the sum of the team’s last 3 velocities by 3. The average is then used to plan a development team’s future workload.
Sprints are a vital process to agile project management methodologies. It is the heartbeat that drives many agile projects. Without sprints, creating complex software products would be difficult, to say the least.