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Simple Guide to Sprint Planning in Scrum

Sprint Planning is one of the key characteristics (.i.e. ceremonies or meetings) within Scrum.

Sprint planning is a joint effort involving the ScrumMaster(who facilitates the ceremony); Product Owner (who prioritizes and clarify details of user stories and acceptance criteria), and the Agile Scrum Team [Business Analyst, Developers, Testers, etc.]. The Scrum Team defines the technical approach, implementation tasks and estimates regarding effort necessary to deliver the sprint goal[s].

All Scrum team members must attend the Sprint planning meeting with the principal objective being to determine what needs to be implemented during the upcoming sprint and how it should be developed.

Before Sprint Planning Meeting

It is essential to have specific information available or prepared for days or weeks before the upcoming sprint starts and have it ready ahead of the sprint planning session to make Sprint planning easy, less complicated and engaging. The 3 important details are Definition of Done, Product Backlog and Scrum Team Capacity.

Definition of Done

There are some set criteria and product quality standards before the product features/user stories are considered as “done or delivered”. The Definition of Done should be defined, documented shared with the team. Definition of Done helps the Scrum team to work out the tasks and activities that are required to deliver the product requirements for proper planning.

Scrum Team Capacity

Capacity is the ability of the team to take on deliverables and execute tasks usually informed by team size, availability, holidays, etc. This information helps the Scrum team to determine the amount of work they can take on, during the Sprint.

The Product Backlog

Product Backlog is a Scrum artifact, and it may represent many weeks or months of work which is much more than what can be finished within a single sprint. The Product Owner creates the Product Backlog based on Business requirements, and the requirements are prioritized/ordered by the Product Owner on the Product Backlog. Items on top of the list have to be well analyzed and are clearly understood.

During the Sprint Planning meeting:

  • The product owner and the scrum team agree on Sprint goal(s) which defines what the objectives of the upcoming sprint.
  • The product owner explains the prioritized requirements at the top of the backlog and explains it to the Scrum team.
  • The team discusses and ask questions to clarify how the user story and acceptance criteria should be implemented. It’s usually recommended that the Product backlog refinement session(s) is carried out before the Sprint planning meeting to ensure that everyone is relatively familiar with the prioritized user stories.

The Sprint planning meeting ideally should be the final checkpoint to confirm what product features should be developed within the Sprint.

  • The Scrum team come up with a detailed technical approach to implement the product features on the prioritized user stories.
  • Usually, this is in the form of technical implementation steps or tasks or sub-tasks.
  • The technical tasks or sub-tasks are then estimated using different estimation techniques.
  • After coming up with the technical approach to implementing the product features and user stories, the Scrum team will consider the Team Capacity during the upcoming sprint to confirm/verify the number of prioritized features or user stories that they can commit to in the upcoming sprint.
  • More and more features/user stories are added to the Sprint backlog until the team has reached the team capacity.

Sprint Planning Outcomes and Sprint goals

After the Sprint planning meeting, one of the key outcomes is a prioritized items/deliverables for the sprint which makes up the Sprint Backlog. The Sprint backlog represents a set of product features or user stories, prioritized by the Product Owner, which the team commits to implement during a sprint based on their team capacity/velocity. The Sprint backlog can be supplemented with a Sprint Goal which is a high level summarised objective that is determined to be the key outcome of the sprint.

The main idea for having a Sprint Goal is to establish shared knowledge and strong sense of purpose and to guide the Scrum team in case things go off-track in the middle of the Sprint.

There are other concepts, tips, and ideas to make Sprint Planning engaging & more productive which I may have missed from this guidepost.

Are you running Agile Scrum for your Product or Software Development? I would like to hear how effective your Sprint planning ceremony have been and what you are doing to make Sprint Planning better for your Product Development team.

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