What is agile sprint planning?

by Nov 2, 2021Agile Scrum Blog

The Scrum framework is a well-defined methodology that introduces iterative methods to projects or product development. Certain communications and meetings are specified as part of this framework, to review work, challenges and project requirements.

Each iteration, or Sprint, is planned in detail beforehand through the sprint planning process. This takes into account the results from the previous Sprint, workload and team capacity.

The Scrum Sprint

Sprints are a major part of the Scrum framework. Each project progresses through a series of multiple iterations or Sprints. Each Sprint aims to produce a usable product or result. A review of this is then fed into the next Sprint – and so on until the completion of the project.

Before each Sprint begins, Sprint planning is carried out. This involves the whole Scrum team and aims to determine what the next Sprint should deliver and how that should be done.

The Sprint Planning Meeting

The Sprint planning meeting should be attended by all team members, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner. The team will need to consider the complete Product Backlog, with items ordered by value. Completing and explaining the Product Backlog is the responsibility of the Product Owner.

The team will decide on the next items from the Product Backlog to be delivered. This is based on the current requirements, the value of the remaining items, and the capacity of the team. Previous Sprint capacity (often measured as velocity) will feed into this, with estimates for each item completion matching the team’s capacity. Team members have the final say over what can be handled, not the Product Owner.

Like all meetings defined by Scrum, it is usual to limit the time for the Sprint planning. For a large project with Sprints taking several weeks, this could be a day-long meeting. It will be shorter for smaller projects.

Producing the Sprint backlog

The aim of this meeting and Product Backlog review is to produce a specific Sprint backlog. This is essentially a subset of the Product Backlog. It will define the tasks to be completed during the next Sprint, based on the team’s estimated capacity.

A ‘Sprint goal’ or high-level objective for what the team is aiming to achieve during that Sprint may also be defined. Ensuring team focus is a key element of Scrum, and techniques like this help to maintain this.

Adapting & Improving as The Project Proceeds

Just as the Scrum framework is iterative and aims to produce increasingly improved results, so sprint planning improves as the project proceeds. Teams become better at estimating the work that can be completed. The results data, or velocity, of previous Sprints, gradually builds up. Such historical data is also useful for forecasting. Product Owners, too, become more confident in the accuracy of the Product Backlog.