If you want to create a fantastic product— one that solves customer problems—it’s time to move from half-baked product development strategies and adopt Agile methodologies like Scrum. It puts customer feedback at the focal point of the development process.
Imagine this: You have developed a product feature that lets user schedule their weekly posts on social media. But the app has a terrible UI, making users feel frustrated. Although the product idea is novel, terrible execution can turn away users easily. Research shows that 65% of customers switch to other brands because of a poor experience.
Can this be avoided? Yes. With sprint planning, product owners and Scrum Master can take the time out to schedule crucial tasks and ensure that team members understand them in-depth for maximum efficiency.
In this article, we will explore what sprint planning is, how they work, and its benefits.
What is Sprint Planning?
When an organization adopts the Scrum methodology, it divides a complex project into smaller and achievable iterations, known as the sprint, which usually lasts for two weeks. These sprints follow the Agile principles that focus on customer satisfaction.
Sprint Planning is one of the collaborative events of Scrum ceremonies, where teams decide what tasks they will complete and how to achieve them in an upcoming sprint. It starts with a sprint planning meeting, a time-boxed event where team members review backlog items, ask questions, participate in the estimation process and decide the sprint goal.
It sounds like a straightforward process. In reality, it requires a lot of preparation.
Key Aspects of Sprint Planning
Before moving on to how the sprint planning meeting happens, it is vital to understand the key roles and concepts involved in the process. Let’s look at them briefly.
- User Stories and Story Points
In Agile, user stories are short descriptions of a software feature from an end-user perspective. Through user stories, the development team gets an idea of what they are working on and how it will deliver value to the customers. By creating user stories, scrum teams can be better at estimation.
In sprint planning meetings, Scrum teams usually estimate the time it will take them to tackle user stories during the sprint. They discuss the functionality and requirements of each of these stories and assign them numbers, also known as story points.
- Product Backlog VS Sprint Backlog VS Sprint Goal
Although the terms sound familiar, they are different. Here is a quick overview of all of these terms:
- Product backlog: This document has an ordered list of desired features, enhancements, bug fixes, or tasks that all the stakeholders want in the product. Product managers compile the document using customer feedback, market demands, competitor analysis, and other sources.
- Sprint backlog: This document is created by choosing tasks from the product backlog that must be completed within a timeframe.
- Sprint goal: It is a short description outlining the objective of the sprint. It is written by the development team and the product owner.
Sprint planning mainly focuses on creating the sprint backlog and sprint goal.
- The Role of a Product Owner and Scrum Master
Agile leaders play a vital role in facilitating Scrum ceremonies and ensuring that things move smoothly. Let’s take a closer look at the functions of each Agile leader— product owner and Scrum master—to help you understand how the sprint planning meetings work.
- Product owner: They take a proactive role in sprint planning by communicating the product vision to the team, prioritizing features from the product backlog, and answering questions the development team may have. Their role includes defining and refining user stories that the development team can implement.
- Scrum Master: While the product owner helps clarify details, the Scrum master is the one who facilitates the sprint planning meeting. They determine the who, when, and where and ensure that every stakeholder gets the meeting agenda.
Apart from the above duties, both parties take this opportunity to resolve issues that impeded the project’s progress in the last sprint and prepare the context and guidelines for the work ahead.
Top Benefits of Sprint Planning
Put simply: Planning is the first step toward achieving success. If your team does not know the sprint goal, you will not be able to develop a product that meets customer expectations. And this is why sprint planning is crucial. Here are some benefits of sprint planning that you need to consider to optimize software delivery.
- Get everyone on the same page: During the sprint planning, the team members get the chance to understand the product vision, how it will impact customer behavior, and raise concerns that they may have. They gain clarity on what tasks they need to get done and discuss creative ideas on how they will accomplish them.
- There is no burnout: Workplace burnout is a problem that most companies face today. Reports say that 52% of employees feel burned out due to workplace stress. When developers stay stuck on projects for too long, it can affect them mentally and emotionally. Sprint planning allows your team to assign work amongst themselves based on their capacities and workloads, effectively eliminating any burnout.
- Increase productivity: Once the vision of the upcoming sprint is clear, it allows team members to raise questions, identify actionable items, and organize their schedules accordingly.
The Sprint Planning Checklist
Sprint planning is more than pulling out user stories from the product backlog. It requires preparation beforehand to ensure that your team can arrive at an outcome within the allotted time. Here is a checklist for Scrum masters to ensure that everything moves smoothly from the beginning:
- Know your team’s capacity beforehand: We have talked about how your team may feel overwhelmed because of too much on their plates. This is why you should know what your team members are working on currently, ensuring that they can work without feeling burdened and take accountability.
- Come prepared with data: Whether it is deciding the sprint goal or allotting a story point to a user story, data can help with decision-making. So have critical numbers ready for smooth transitioning.
- Be prepared for the unknowns: During discussions, it may be possible that some unexpected tasks may crop up. So have a story point estimation method ready for those tasks and discuss them with the team well in advance.
- Conduct a Q&A session at the end of the session: Give the team members a chance to ask questions to the product owner at the end of the session.
- Finalize and review the plan: After the Q&A session, you can finalize the plan with the team and the product owner to ensure that everything is aligned for the upcoming sprint.
Create Superior Customer Experiences with Well-Planned Sprints
In the business world, time is everything. If you fail to deliver an update on time or do not resolve bug fixes quickly, your customers can easily switch over to competitors. A well-thought plan can de-simplify even the most complex software development projects. With a collaborative approach, the entire Scrum team can get down to business and figure out a plan that puts your product in front of the right customers at the right time.
If you wish to learn about the other Scrum ceremonies or want your team to understand the Scrum framework better, we can help you. We offer Scrum Master and SAFe training for organizations looking to boost their team’s productivity. Our instructor-led training can help your team adopt Agile practices and principles at scale to ensure that your team can achieve deliverables efficiently.