Nowadays, the agile method became the new black in digital product development.
Project Management Institute survey claims that 71% of organizations use the agile technique in their projects. Thus, although traditional project management models are still applicable and, in many cases, perfectly suitable, agile is now increasing its popularity. That is due to its flexibility, time- and cost-efficiency, and alternative approaches to collaboration.
In a nutshell, an agile team consists of advanced IT specialists who apply good self-organization and cross-functionality to boost productivity, workflow effectiveness, and development pace. And all this becomes possible thanks to the use of a sprint in agile development.
This post will explain what an agile sprint is and how to conduct it correctly. We will reveal its benefits, key stages of the agile sprint cycle, and the potential challenges you might need to overcome when implementing it.
What is a sprint in agile?
So, what is agile sprint definition, and why is it important?
The agile methodology involves scrum model implementation, which increases project management efficiency. In turn, the scrum approach allows an agile team to divide their work into separate periods. Each of these periods has its own goal, which should be achieved relatively quickly (usually no more than a month). And this is the sprint meaning in agile.
In other words, a sprint is a clearly scheduled part of the workflow performed at an accelerated pace to achieve a certain result. It enables the team members and other stakeholders to manage the project better, clearly structure the processes, and meet the goals on time. Also, agile sprints reduce the number of meetings and minimize the risks of confusion and inefficiency often caused by poor planning.
For a more comprehensive understanding of the agile sprint process, look at the key concepts associated with its implementation.
- Sprint goal. As a component of the scrum process, every sprint has its own purpose that the team should achieve in a certain period.
- Sprint backlog. The sprint goals are predefined and specified in a sprint backlog. It helps to see the big picture of the planned development lifecycle.
- Kanban technique. Kanban board is a popular project management tool often used in agile. Such boards help the teams define the tasks and control the sprints’ execution.
- Agile team. An agile team that performs sprints should have a high level of self-organization and cross-functionality. The product owner defines the sprint goals. A scrum master replaces a project manager, being responsible for mentoring the team and holding the meetings.
Benefits of sprint in agile development - why is it necessary?
Now, having learned what a sprint in agile development is, let’s define its benefits and why a team should implement it when building a digital product.
Agile sprint methodology involving sprints is the best fit for development projects that require a flexible approach to the workflow, considering possible changes on the go. Agile teams’ work is not monolithic and, accordingly, more manageable. It allows quickly responding to any shifts and adjusting the project roadmap to current requirements.
Keeping the project’s budget within reasonable limits and controlling how it might change may be quite challenging if the workflow isn’t divided into specific parts. In agile, the hired team has a more comprehensive idea of what they need to do at the very moment and how to do it most effectively. Thus, it’s much easier to estimate every chunk of the development lifecycle and control the budget.
Turning to the sprint agile method helps reduce the time spent on software development. Shorter time-to-market leads to a faster product launch, which can allow you to stay ahead of the competition and succeed with your business goals. Therefore, your product can start bringing you revenue much sooner.
Running the project broken into sprints enables determining and eliminating the emerging issues right away so that they don’t snowball into a disaster later on. Effective troubleshooting is another factor that allows the product owner and other stakeholders that they won’t have to waste time coping with the challenges when it might be more time-consuming or even critical.
The sprints help the product owner be more involved in every aspect of the development process. Accordingly, the stakeholders better understand the team’s effectiveness and the current deliverables. So any errors or shortcomings are much less likely to be missed.
Increased team effectiveness
Agile teams usually work in a closer, more collaborative, and efficient environment. The members interact, cooperate, and can perform each other’s functions if necessary. Together with the use of metrics and key performance indicators, such an approach enhances the team’s collective and individual efficiency.
What is the agile sprint cycle?
An agile sprint cycle is a set of sprints an agile team performs when working on a software development project. The sprint cycle’s specifics may vary depending on the project’s scope, gathered requirements, and goals. However, there are a few core steps each agile team should take to implement the scrum model successfully.
Here are five key components that ensure that an agile sprint will lead to the expected results.
1. Sprint planning
Before starting the agile sprint process, a team should conduct a planning meeting to define each sprint’s scope and expected deliverables. The planning stage also involves specifying the time one sprint should take and distributing the tasks the team members should complete.
When planning the sprint, it’s very important to consider various factors that may impact the pace, quality, and effectiveness of the workflow. To name a few, a manager or scrum master should consider certain members’ strengths and weaknesses, their previous experience developing similar products, the current project’s specifics, etc.
Here are several important aspects of the planning stage that affect future sprint success.
Sprint planning tools
To boost planning efficiency, many agile teams turn to specific software and tools that help them hold meetings, document the goals, and track the performance.
- Kanban boards visualize certain parts of the working process and move the cards representing particular tasks from left to right to demonstrate their progress.
- Project management software serves as a tool for improving collaboration, workflow efficiency, and communication within the team. Agile teams often use project management tools like Trello, Jira, Asana, Monday, etc., during the sprint process.
- Dashboards visualize various information and real-time data. With their help, the team members can instantly access the required metrics and KPIs that enable monitoring the effectiveness of the key sprint aspects.
Simply put, sprint velocity stands for the scope of work that should be done within one sprint. Estimating the velocity is crucial. It significantly affects the sprint’s duration and gives useful insights based on previous experience. It’s worth considering how well the team dealt with previous deadlines and taking into account their current capacity.
Normally, one agile sprint takes from two weeks to a month. It’s important to balance the workload so that the number of tasks per sprint is neither too big nor too small.
Backlog management is an important part of sprint planning agile. It lists the key expectations and requirements regarding the upcoming sprint. Normally, the backlog is created by the product owner and approved by the entire team.
To finalize the backlog list, it’s worth paying attention to the previous sprint. Use the positive experience and learn from your mistakes to create a result-driven backlog. Also, certain tasks from the completed sprint might need to be polished or repeated, so they may also be included in the list. Finally, ensure to consider the feedback received from the client, team members, and other stakeholders.
During the sprint, many agile teams also conduct so-called backlog grooming to ensure all defined objectives are actual and the workflow is on the right track.
3. Scrum meetings
Daily scrum meetings are an integral part of any agile methodology sprint. With their help, the team members are in constant touch, report the achieved results, plan activities, share the latest changes, and help each other solve the issues. Such meetings shouldn’t take long and distract much attention from the workflow. They rather help the team members remain in a single environment and move in a common direction.
The meetings are conducted by a scrum master, also responsible for soft project management, motivation, and support. Also, this specialist provides timely reports about the sprint’s progress to the client.
Some longer and more thorough meetings may also occur, but they should be scheduled separately and only when necessary. The key idea of a sprint is that all team members make the necessary leap in the right direction without wasting time on any distractions.
4. Sprint review
Sprint review is the final meeting aimed to overview and estimate the results of the completed sprint. The agile team and other stakeholders discuss the successes and failures of the processes performed, compare the achievements to the objectives they set at the beginning, and get the final feedback from the product owner.
Later, the agile sprint cycle will likely repeat until the product development is finished.
5. Sprint retrospective
Another meeting that finalizes the sprint cycle is the sprint retrospective. It’s set to make some conclusions based on the completed sprint, detect mistakes, and decide how to address these issues moving on to the next sprint. Such meetings help the teams improve their collaboration, enhance performance, and consider the pros and cons of the sprint process to achieve better outcomes in the future.
Agile sprint challenges
A successful agile development sprint is fast, focused, and accurate. Any distractions, lack of mutual understanding within the team, or poor task management may result in broken deadlines, unfulfilled goals, and unsatisfactory deliverables. The point of a good sprint is to address the potential challenges listed below, establish an efficient collaborative environment, and adhere to the sprint plan set in the backlog.
Here are a few issues that may negatively affect your agile sprint effectiveness.
- Unfulfilled plan. The backlog is the core of each sprint. It defines the key goals that the team should meet with the view to the product owner’s expectations. Although an agile team is flexible and ready to adapt to new or changed requirements, it should also strictly follow the plan and carry it out over a short distance.
- Homework’s not done. Even if a failure occurs, it’s important to learn from this mistake not to repeat it in the future. That’s why each sprint should be followed by a retrospective meeting that states accomplishments and challenges to consider during the next sprint.
- Lack of data-driven decisions. Most sprint meetings are enhanced by learning the key data reports regarding various aspects of the sprint. The data-driven approach and the metrics like team capacity and productivity allow relying on facts, not on assumptions. Thus, the team understands what goes well and what needs certain improvements.
How to improve sprint planning?
Implementing agile methodology and conducting sprints is highly beneficial for software development projects, especially those requiring a faster and more flexible project management approach. The agile sprint process can help the development team better organize their work and be focused on clear goals without losing the necessary pace.
By dividing your project plan into several sprints, you will minimize the risk of losing the initial goals and, accordingly, will not waste time trying to do everything at once.
What’s more, after the sprint, you will have a chance to analyze the team’s efficiency and productivity by comparing the backlog objectives and the outcomes. Accordingly, you will avoid repeating the same mistakes and significantly optimize the team’s capabilities.
Still, have questions about planning agile sprints to improve your product development process? We at Halo Lab are ready to help you out!
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