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How To Plan Effective Sprint Planning Meeting Agenda

Sat 03 Sep 2016 10:41

Sprint planning is an important process in Scrum. The sprint planning meeting agenda should be carefully worked out to ensure the success of subsequent daily sprints, and product releases having high business values are consistently obtained through the incremental cycles.

What is a sprint planning meeting?

In a sprint planning meeting the development team commits to a set of high priority product backlog items for development purposes. A sprint backlog containing backlog items with high business values is created from the product backlog. Subsequently, the selected items are decomposed into developable tasks, and accepted by individual team members. The meeting is time boxed.

In Scrum, the product is developed through product incremental cycles known as sprints. During sprint planning, a few important user stories or product backlog items are selected and transferred to a temporary list for development purpose - the sprint backlog. The total number of backlog items to be selected depends upon the team velocity, or the rate at which team members develop the product features during the daily sprint cycles. While selecting stories, high priority user stories having a significant “business worth” in the market are picked up from the top of the product backlog. It is important to select user stories having high business values because Scrum principles indicate that the project’s business value should be maintained at all times – even while the product is being developed. By selecting high priority stories, the product features developed through the daily sprints add on to the project’s business value.

In Scrum, the entire project is developed through daily sprints, and the sprint planning meeting ensures that daily sprints remain productive.

Who participates in sprint planning?

Sprint planning is a collaborative event in Scrum. It is attended by:

Product Owner

The person representing the stakeholders interests in the project and “owns” it on their behalf.  

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master oversees the Scrum process. The person also ensures that Scrum is properly implemented and followed by the team at all times.

Development Team

Composed of multi-skilled IT professionals, the development team generally consists of five to seven members. The product features are developed by the team through the product incremental cycles.

Before starting with the sprint meeting

All the product backlog items should be prioritised in accordance to their business values in the product backlog. Each items should be properly estimated in terms of story point values. Moreover, each backlog items should be “complete” i.e. it should be properly defined in the backlog along with all relevant details such as its description, explanation, acceptance criteria, etc. The product owner should have a clear idea regarding the sprint goal – the objectives of conducting the sprint should be thought of and clearly defined. In addition, the product owner should be clear about how the product features should be developed by the team during the daily sprints.

Sizing the backlog items before sprint planning

The most important aspect before starting with sprint planning is that the backlog items should be small so the team can easily develop them. Epics and un-grained large user stories have to be decomposed into smaller and easily manageable user stories before they can be properly understood and effectively developed. If this activity is done prior to sprint planning, a lot of time is saved during the sprint planning sessions.

Selecting correct number of product backlog items during sprint planning

Scrum advocates that correct number of backlog items should be selected for the sprint during sprint planning sessions. If more number of items are selected for development purposes, the team may fail to develop some of them. It is very important to complete the development of all items contained in the sprint backlog. The development team should not keep any item pending at the end of the sprint. When excessive items are selected, this Scrum principle is defeated.

On the other hand, if less number of backlog items are selected in the sprint backlog, the team members may remain without work in the later part of the sprint. Scrum principles state each member should offer optimum productivity and develop maximum number of backlog items during the sprint. Resources should offer their best contribution in terms of efforts and productivity. It is important to deliver product increments having high business values to maintain the team velocity and project value at all times – even when the product is being developed.  

So what is the way out for the product owner? How can the correct number of backlog items be selected in the sprint backlog? The team velocity provides an estimate regarding the capacity of the team members to develop product features during the sprint. Each item in the product backlog is estimated with its level of difficulty using story points. The greater the point value, the more time consuming the item is from the development point of view. The product owner should avail a proper estimate by summing up the estimation value of backlog items selected for development and compare it with the team’s current velocity. It is possible to select the correct number of backlog items through the estimation features of Scrum framework.

Sprint planning process

  1. The product owner ascertains that correct number of product backlog items is selected for development and the sprint backlog is created.
  2. The development team should study the backlog items and ask relevant questions if it has any doubts regarding the technical aspects of the product features to be developed in the sprint.
  3. Later, the team decomposes the backlog items into developable tasks.
  4. Tasks are taken up by the team members based on their experience levels and expertise.
  5. The team is ready to start with the daily sprints.
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