What is Scrum? – Part3 (All about Sprints)

In this Article:


What is a Sprint?

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In the Scrum Framework all activities needed for the implementation of entries from the Scrum Product Backlog are performed within Sprints (also called ‘Iterations’). Sprints are always short: normally about 2-4 weeks. Each Sprint follows a defined process as shown below:

The Sprint Process

Each Sprint start with two planning sessions to define the content of the Sprint: the WHAT-Meeting and the HOW-Meeting. The combination of these two meeting are also defined as Sprint Planning Meeting. In the WHAT-Meeting the Scrum Team commits to the User Stories from the Scrum Product Backlog and it uses a HOW-Meeting to break the committed User Stories into smaller and concrete tasks. Then implementation begins. At the end of the Sprint a Sprint Review Meeting is conducted to allow the Scrum Product Owner to check if all of the committed items are complete and implemented correctly. Additionally a Sprint Retrospective Meeting is conducted to check and improve the project execution processes: What was good during the Sprint, what should continue as it is and what should be improved. During the Sprint a short daily Standup-Meeting (Daily Scrum Meeting) is held to update the status of the items and to help self-organization of the team.

The Sprint Backlog

Within the Sprint Backlog all activities required to complete the committed entries from the Scrum Product Backlog are stored. All entries have to be estimated on a person-hour base in order to track progress and remaining efforts. The Sprint Backlog is a living artifact and is updated on a daily base. If a team member starts to work on an activity his name is recorded within the sprint backlog. New activities can be added to the Sprint Backlog during the Sprint. At the end of the day all remaining efforts are updated and this defines how much work is left until the Sprint Goal is reached. The Definition of Done is used to decide if an item is done or not. The Sprint Backlog can be kept electronically within e.g. an Excel-Sheet or with cards on a task board. The latter has some advantages (e.g. transparency and easy access) but add additional complexity if the Scrum Team is distributed over multiple sites. The figure below shows an example how such a task board could be organized. The structure should be adapted to reflect the needs of the project.


Example Sprint Task Board


Sprint Planning Meeting

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Each Sprint and each Sprint Planning Meeting starts with a WHAT-Meeting. Goal of this session is to define a realistic Sprint Backlog containing all items that could be fully implemented until the end of the Sprint.

Preparation

For a successful WHAT-Meeting some preparation is necessary:

  • The Scrum Product Owner defines the Sprint Goal.
  • Based on this goal the relevant entries in the Scrum Product Backlog are chosen by the Scrum Product Owner.
  • These entries are updated and broken into smaller stories so that they can be completed within one Sprint.
  • The entries are estimated & prioritized.
  • The team defines their capacity for the upcoming Sprint.

Sprint Goal

The Scrum Product Owner defines the Sprint Goal. It is a short description of what the sprint will attempt to achieve and what should be realistic and comprehensible for everyone.

Team Capacity

The total capacity of the Scrum Team might change from Sprint to Sprint. In order to come to realistic commitments it is necessary to know the total capacity of the team for the upcoming Sprint considering e.g. vacations, public holidays, and efforts for Scrum Meetings and time needed for other activities during the Sprint.

The Meeting Session

During the session the Scrum Product Owner presents the Sprint Goal and discusses it with the team. After that the Scrum Team iterates through the relevant items in the Scrum Product Backlog and the team commits to the entries which they think can be fully completed within the Sprint. The decision should be based on available capacity and knowledge about the entries. At the end of the session the list of all committed entries from the Scrum Product Backlog provides the base for the HOW-Meeting and the Scrum Backlog.

The HOW-Meeting

The goal of the How-Meeting is to fill the Sprint Backlog by identifying the concrete tasks needed for complete implementation of the Scrum Product Backlog entries. Tasks normally include design-, implementation, test, and documentation-activities. The HOW-Meeting can be done in a separate session after the WHAT-Meeting, during the WHAT-Meeting when committing the entries or both. After identifying the necessary activities they are estimated by the team. Base for this estimation should be person-hours. The team should know how long they will need to do everything that is required to finish this activity.

Daily Stand-Up Meeting

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The daily Scrum meeting is a short everyday meeting, ideally during start of the working day. Each team member who works towards the completion of a given sprint needs to participate. During this meeting, each team member should briefly provide the answers of the following three questions:

  • What has he/she accomplished since the last daily Scrum meeting?
  • What is he/she is going to accomplish until the next Scrum meeting?
  • What are the impediments that prevent he/she from accomplishing his/her tasks?

All team members should attend and they should stand during the meeting. The daily Scrum meeting should ideally not last more than 15 minutes. On the other no issues or concerns raised during the meeting are allowed to be ignored due to the lack of time. Issues or concerns ought to be recorded by the Scrum Master and needs to be specifically handled after the meeting.

Sprint Review Meeting

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At the end of each sprint a Sprint Review meeting is held. During this meeting the Scrum Team shows which Scrum Product Backlog items they completed (according to the Definition of Done) during the sprint. This might take place in the form of a demo of the new features. It is important to notice that Backlog items that are not completed shall not be demonstrated. Otherwise this might suggest that these items are finished as well. Instead incomplete items/remaining activities shall be taken back into the Scrum Product Backlog, re-estimated and completed in one of the following sprints. The Sprint Review meeting should be kept very informal. No PowerPoint slides should be used and time for preparation and performing the meeting should be limited. During the meeting the Scrum Product Owner inspects the implemented backlog entries and accepts the solution or adds new stories to the Scrum Product Backlog to adapt the functionality. Participants in the sprint review typically include the Scrum Product Owner, the Scrum Team and the Scrum Master. Additionally management, customers, and developers from other projects might participate as well.

Sprint Retrospective Meeting

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After the Sprint Review meeting took place the Scrum Team and the Scrum Master get together for the Sprint Retrospective. In this meeting all team members reflect on the past sprint and check three things: what went well during the sprint, what didn’t, and what improvements could be made in the next sprint. The meeting should be time-boxed (e.g. 3 hours). The Sprint Retrospective is an integral part of the “inspect and adapt” process. Without this meeting the team will never be able to improve their overall output and cannot focus on the overall team performance. Therefore actionable suggestions to improve performance should be available at the end of the meeting.


Sprint Burndwon Charts

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The Sprint Burndown Report shows the progress within the Sprint toward reaching the Sprint Goal. It provides transparency about the current performance (burndown rate) and allows easy estimation if the Sprint Goal can be reached in time or if the team has to find additional measures to speed-up completion of the remaining activities.

Sprint Burndown Report/Chart

The initial Sprint Backlog defines the start-point for the remaining efforts. The remaining effort of all activities are collected on a daily bases and added to the graph. In the beginning the performance is often not as good as predicted by the ideal burndown rate due to wrong estimations or impediments that have to be removed in order to get on full speed.

Related Links : WHAT IS SCRUM? – PART 1 , WHAT IS SCRUM? – PART 2

ReferencesINTERNATIONAL SCRUM INSTITUTEYou can find a lot of useful information about Scrum and Scrum Certification Programs on their website.

About Wafi Mohtaseb

Software Development & Management Specialist, Technology enthusiast, Project Management Professional PMP, Agile Certified Practitioner PMI-ACP, & Certified ScrumMaster

3 Responses to “What is Scrum? – Part3 (All about Sprints)”

  1. I am likely to save the URL and will certainly go to once again. Maintain it up…. Great Post Mate.

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