In Agile Scrum, each iteration cycle begins with a Scrum planning meeting, which is also known as a “sprint planning meeting.” In the meeting, the product owner and the development team select user stories from the product backlog for development purposes. The meeting is time boxed, and can last from four to six hours depending upon how many stories have to be selected, and how much time the team takes in distributing the development tasks amongst themselves.
Purpose of Scrum planning meeting
The scrum planning meeting is basically a discussion between the product owner and the team members. The main idea of holding the sprint planning meeting is to select product backlog items having high business values from the top of the product backlog (provided the product backlog has been refined and organised as per business values linked with the product backlog items). High priority stories are carefully selected and transferred to the sprint backlog for development purposes. Scrum suggests that product features having more importance in terms of their business values, or market worth, should be developed first, followed by less important ones. This is done to ensure that the value of the project does not reduce over time. The PO is responsible for delivering a project having a certain business value to the stakeholders. This is possible when the product features and functionality have a certain financial “worth” in the market based upon how important they are from the end users point of view, and how much the end users are likely to pay for using them. Therefore, the PO selects high value user stories to maintain the project value at all times, even while the product is currently being developed.
Accepting and rejecting user stories during the meeting
While the PO can suggest high priority user stories to the team, the team has the “right” to accept or reject them after giving valid reasons regarding its decisions. A user story may not be defined properly, or the team may fail to understand the acceptance criteria associated with a story. In such cases, the team can inform the PO to update the particular story and “reject” its development for the time being. Stories or product items are added to the sprint backlog only after they are Okayed by both the PO and the development team members.
Manual vs. computerised Agile boards
If the Agile team is using manual Agile methods to develop the project, user stories can be “selected” by “pasting” index cards on the Scrum whiteboards. Each index card represents a unique user story. The board may be bifurcated into three columns - “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Completed” – to indicate the current sprint status. As stories get completed, they are moved from “To Do”, to “In Progress”, and finally in the “Completed” section of the whiteboard. Teams using electronic or digital scrum tools have a “virtual” whiteboard, which generally keeps on updating itself as and when sprint backlog items are created, and user stories are completed.
Current Scrum planning meeting trends
Traditionally, the product owner decided which stories should be “picked up” from the product backlog and transferred to the sprint backlog for development purposes. Nowadays, the sprint planning meeting has evolved to become a “single” Scrum event, and the role of the PO too has changed. Rather than the PO deciding which stories to pick, the entire team takes an active part in the decision process, and the team decides jointly with the PO as to which stories should be selected and how the sprint backlog should be created.