What is a Sprint? Sprint definition, benefits, how to plan, key parts, and FAQs

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What is a Sprint?

A sprint is a short, time-bound period when a scrum team works to complete a set amount of work. Sprints define the core of the scrum and agile methodologies. With the right sprints and the right time, an agile team can build a better product with fewer headaches and obstacles.

An agile project can be broken down into many sprints, which can be understood as short, repeatable phases, generally two to four weeks long. 

The team should decide on the number and time of the sprints at the beginning of the project. A team collaboratively sets their target with the Product Owner as the “Sprint Goal” and plans their work in a “Sprint Backlog”. 

Sprint Analytics helps the Scrum Master and Product Owner get on track with the progress of Sprint in a glance.

What are the benefits of Sprint?

  1. Focus Better on goals
    Dividing the entire project into an array of smaller tasks ensures that the entire focus of the team is always geared towards solving the problem presently at hand. 
    A ‘definition of done’ is established beforehand and a scrum project sprint is only considered over when the final specifications of the product are in accordance with the already established definition. 
    This means that there are never any pending backlogs from the past that team members need to worry about. Since everyone knows what to work on, teams become laser-focused and spend their time on the prioritized tasks at hand.
  1. Greater Transparency
    Sprints promote transparency among all levels in the workplace. The teams are made to be a part of the decision-making process and, therefore, understand all the choices made regarding the project and the logic behind key decisions. 
    Since everyone is on the same page, the chances of the project getting derailed are drastically reduced, which in turn, improves the visibility and transparency in projects.
  1. Higher Customer Satisfaction
    The customers are always a part of the project life cycle and are allowed to share their thoughts and give their insights throughout. This helps in designing the product strictly according to their needs and expectations. 
    The customer always gets the features and functions of the product that offer value. 
    By delivering the features requested by the customer, not just in the early stages of the project, but continuously throughout the project, one can always keep the customer happy and satisfied. 
    This will allow the organizations to retain those customers and increase their business down the line.
  1. Better Product Quality
    An organization will surely have better product quality if it is continually checking in with its customers and stakeholders for evolving requirements during sprint reviews because they will be able to determine more quickly whether the product matches their needs. 
    When it’s not meeting their needs, the team would have the chance to pivot and change directions much earlier and much faster. Since everything is reviewed almost immediately, and on a microscopic level, it can be certain that the product is up to the necessary standards set forth by the PO/PM.
  1. Reduced Risks
    During an Agile project Sprint, a project team would encounter almost all kinds of potential issues that could arise in their product. Hence, they get multiple opportunities to deal with any such situation before it becomes a big deal. 
    Through regular meetings or stand-ups, a member would know any problems other members may be facing. 
    Now if they come across a similar situation in the future, they could refer back to this time and how their colleague overcame the situation. 
    Additionally, in agile project sprints, teams have multiple feedback loops which also allow them to identify the problems and solve them quickly.

How to plan and execute Sprints

The first step for any agile project sprint is the Sprint planning meeting. Sprint planning is an event where the team comes up with two basic questions: What work can be completed in this sprint and how will the chosen work get completed?

The product owner, scrum master, and the development team have the responsibility to work together and choose the right work items for the sprint. 

The product owner discusses the goals that the Sprint should achieve and specifies what product backlog items the team should aim to complete to achieve the sprint goal.

The team then designs a plan of action on how they would build the backlog items and get them “Done” in time before the end of the sprint. 

The work items are chosen and the plan of action on how to get them done is called the sprint backlog. The team, after the Sprint planning, is ready to start the work on the Sprint backlog, marking the items from the backlog to “In-progress” and then “Done.”

During a sprint, the team discusses the progress during the daily scrum or stand-up. The primary objective of this meeting is to get ahead of any obstacles and issues that could harm the team’s ability to deliver the sprint goal.

After a sprint, the team demonstrates what they have achieved during the project phase in the Sprint review. This is the team’s opportunity to showcase their work to stakeholders and teammates before it hits production.

The sprint cycle is rounded out with the final meeting, the sprint retrospective

This is the team’s opportunity to identify areas of improvement for the next sprint and potential ways to increase the effectiveness of the next sprint cycle.

Key parts of a Sprint

There are three major roles in a Sprint: Scrum Master, Development Team, and Product Owner.

Scrum Master

The Scrum master is the head of a Scrum team and is responsible for championing a project, providing insights to the team and product owner, and ensuring all agile practices are followed by team members. 

The Scrum master not only addresses all facets of the agile development process, but also serves the business, product owner, team, and individuals and facilitates communication and collaboration between all these elements.

The responsibilities of this role include:

  • Establishing a work-friendly environment where the team can be effective
  • Clearing obstacles
  • Ensuring a good relationship among the team, product owner, and the other stakeholders outside the team
  • Addressing team dynamics
  • Protecting the team against outside interruptions and distractions.

Development Team

A Development Team is a group of individuals working together to develop and deliver the requested and committed product increments. 

It comprises cross-functional members who are capable of achieving the sprint goals. This could include people from very different domains such as software engineers, architects, programmers, analysts, system admins, QA experts, testers, UI designers, etc.

  • The Development Team designs the product that the Product Owner indicates: the application or website, for example. 
  • The Development Team includes all the expertise required to deliver a potentially shippable product each Sprint.
  • The Development Team is self-organizing, with a very high level of autonomy and accountability.
  • The Development Team decides how many items to build in a Sprint, and the best approach to accomplish that goal.

Product Owner

A Scrum Product Owner is responsible for extracting the maximum value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. Different organizations, individuals, and Scrum teams however may use different methods to achieve this.

The Product Owner is also responsible for effective Product Backlog management, which includes:

  • Developing and communicating the Product Goal to the whole team;
  • Creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items;
  • Ordering of the Product Backlog items; and,
  • Ensuring the Product Backlog is visible and understood to all the members.

For any successful Product Owner, it is imperative that the entire organization respects their decisions. These decisions are reflected in the content and ordering of the Product Backlog, and through the inspectable Increment at the Sprint Review.

The Product Owner is just one person and not a committee. The Product Owner may represent the needs of many stakeholders in the Product Backlog. The stakeholders or the customers wanting to change the Product Backlog can do so by trying to convince the Product Owner.

FAQs

Q: Is Scrum Master a job title or a role that someone with an existing job title fills?

A: Scrum Master is a role that someone with a job title fills. Normal practice is that the person playing the role of project manager plays the Scrum Master’s role as well.

Q: What is the difference between Scrum and Agile Development?

A: Agile Development is a software methodology, whereas Scrum is one of the process frameworks that follow Agile.

Q: What is included in the Sprint Backlog Question?

A: The Sprint Backlog is comprised of the Product Backlog items given by the Development Team to finish within the Sprint, the plan for doing this, and at least one process improvement.

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