Sprint Track

Agile Sprint Scheduling Explained : A Detailed Guide

FEB, 2023

by Andrew Walker.

 

Author Andrew Walker

Andrew Walker is a software architect with 10+ years of experience. Andrew is passionate about his craft, and he loves using his skills to design enterprise solutions for Enov8, in the areas of IT Environments, Release & Data Management.

 

 

Agile sprints can be a powerful, productive and collaborative event if managed properly. However, when neglected or set up incorrectly they risk becoming chaotic and inefficient. Crafting an effective schedule for your sprint is essential to ensure the success of your project by organizing the team’s efforts in advance. With this established plan in place, you can unlock innovation within each session and create valuable products with ease!

 

Enov8 Enterprise Release Manager

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If sprint scheduling is what you seek, then look no further. In this article, we’ll provide the tools necessary to craft a successful sprint plan and maximize its benefits! Ready to learn how? Then let’s get started!

 

What are Agile Sprints?

In the context of Agile Software Development, or Product Lifecycle Management, a Sprint is a time-boxed iteration of development work, typically lasting between one and four weeks. During a Sprint, the development team works on a set of prioritized requirements or user stories, with the goal of producing a potentially shippable increment of the software.

The sprint planning meeting marks the beginning of the Sprint. During this meeting, the product owner and development team collaborate to define a set of goals for the Sprint and select the user stories or requirements that will be worked on during the Sprint.

Once the Sprint begins, the development team works on the selected user stories, with frequent feedback from the product owner and other stakeholders. At the end of the Sprint, the team presents the completed work to the product owner and stakeholders during the Sprint review meeting. The team also holds a retrospective meeting to discuss the Sprint process and identify areas for improvement.

The iterative nature of Sprints allows the development team to continuously deliver working software, respond to feedback, and adapt to changing requirements. This approach provides greater visibility into the progress of the project and helps the team to identify and address issues early in the development cycle.

How do Sprints relate to Release Trains & Program Increments

Sprints, Release Trains, and Program Increments are all terms used in the Agile methodology, specifically in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

Sprints refer to short time-boxed periods, typically lasting 1-4 weeks, in which a team works to complete a set of tasks or user stories. At the end of each sprint, the team delivers a working increment of the product that is potentially shippable.

Release Trains, on the other hand, are a higher-level construct used in SAFe to coordinate multiple Agile teams working on a large solution or product. A Release Train is a self-organizing, self-managing group of Agile teams that plan, commit, and execute together. A Release Train typically consists of 5-12 teams, and the work is organized into Program Increments.

Program Increments (PIs) are a time-boxed period, typically lasting 8-12 weeks, in which multiple Agile teams work together to deliver a large solution or product increment. The PI provides a larger context for planning and coordinating the work of multiple Agile teams within a Release Train.

So, sprints are part of the Agile team’s iteration cycle, while Release Trains and Program Increments are used to coordinate the work of multiple Agile teams working on a larger solution or product. Sprints are used to deliver working increments of the product, while Release Trains and Program Increments are used to align the work of multiple Agile teams towards the same goal, and to deliver larger increments of the product at the end of each Program Increment.

Get on board the Release Train:

The Agile Release Train for Dummies

What is a Sprint Schedule?

A sprint schedule, or Agile Sprint Schedule, is basically a document that outlines step-by-step instructions for executing plans during each phase of the agile process. To create one, you must dedicate time to conducting research, planning ahead, and communicating with team members.

Who creates the Schedule?

In the Agile methodology, the sprint schedule is typically created by the development team, in collaboration with the product owner and the scrum master.

The product owner works with stakeholders to prioritize the user stories, features, and requirements for the project, and communicates these priorities to the development team. The development team then breaks down the work into manageable tasks and estimates the effort required to complete them. Based on this information, the team collaboratively creates the sprint schedule for the upcoming sprint.

When do we create the Schedule?

It is advisable to prepare a sprint schedule early in the development process, preferably prior to the planning phase. Although it is crucial to acknowledge that the sprint schedule may require some flexibility in the beginning stages and that it may undergo modifications before a final plan is established. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to have a preliminary plan in place before the sprint planning session, rather than attending the meeting with no plan at all.

Why Is Sprint Scheduling Important?

Agile sprint scheduling is important for several reasons:

  1. Predictability: Sprint scheduling helps to create a predictable and regular rhythm for software development. Sprints are time-boxed and have a clear start and end date, which allows the team to plan and estimate their work more effectively.
  2. Flexibility: Sprint scheduling allows for flexibility and adaptability in the development process. Agile methodologies emphasize responding to change, and sprints provide a framework for making adjustments based on feedback and new requirements.
  3. Transparency: Sprint scheduling provides transparency into the progress of the project. Each sprint results in a potentially shippable increment of the software, which allows stakeholders to see tangible progress and provide feedback.
  4. Collaboration: Sprint scheduling encourages collaboration and communication between the development team, product owner, and other stakeholders. Sprint planning meetings, daily stand-up meetings, and sprint reviews provide opportunities for the team to work together and stay aligned.
  5. Prioritization: Sprint scheduling helps to prioritize and manage the backlog of features and user stories. The product owner and development team can work together to select the highest-priority items for each sprint, which ensures that the most valuable work is being completed first.

Overall, agile sprint scheduling is a key practice in the agile development process, providing a framework for delivering high-quality software in a predictable and flexible manner.

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How to Make a Sprint Schedule?

To create a sprint schedule, you can follow several core steps. As you gain experience, you may develop your unique process, but the following steps can be a helpful starting point:

Check your Product Roadmap

Begin by understanding the project’s entire lifecycle. The product roadmap provides a clear goal and how many sprints are necessary to achieve it. Agile development involves continuous improvement and ongoing sprints, so familiarize yourself with the work required, and plan out each sprint accordingly.

Review your Master Backlog

Analyze your master backlog and prioritize the stories*. Discuss this with your team, so that they can vet requests and decide which ones are beneficial or should be removed. Ensure that all stories in the backlog correspond with each sprint’s primary goal. Strategically prioritize each story and vest it into a specific sprint goal to maximize output potential while minimizing rework.

*In Agile software development, a user story is a concise, informal description of a feature or functionality of a software system from the perspective of an end-user or customer. A user story typically follows a simple, standardized format: “As a [user], I want to [do something], so that [I can achieve some goal].” The user story provides context and direction for the development team, helping to prioritize and plan the work to be done. It also helps the team to understand the user’s needs and goals, which can inform the design and development of the software. User stories are often written on index cards or sticky notes, and they are usually stored and managed in a product backlog.

Determine Your Sprint Resources

Inspect the resources available for each sprint with the product roadmap in hand. Recruit extra developers, streamline certain steps with automation or outsource tasks, if necessary. Have a clear understanding of what deliverables to prioritize to ensure these decisions are made accurately and efficiently. Plan ahead to avoid situations where insufficient support leads to overworked team members, causing projects to miss the target completion date.

Establish a Sprint Time Frame

To ensure consistency, it is important to establish a uniform sprint duration for each stage of an agile development project. Determine a suitable period that works for everyone involved and assign tasks accordingly. Setting realistic deadlines for projects and sprints is crucial to meeting timelines. Before beginning the planning process, it is important to communicate with each team member to confirm that the proposed timeline is feasible for them. This step is in everyone’s best interest to avoid unnecessary delays and setbacks.

Draft a Sprint Schedule

Before the first sprint planning session, prepare a draft schedule. This allows you and the team members to make necessary modifications and saves time. During the meeting, major alterations are likely, so be adaptable.

Finalize the Sprint Schedule

After the sprint planning meeting, review and incorporate any changes. Share the finalized agenda with your team, allowing them to begin their tasks. Leave a little leeway in case of any unexpected issues or small modifications. Once everything is ready and confirmed, embark on each separate sprint journey! Product lifecycle management is essential for keeping track of each sprint’s progress and adjusting plans accordingly.

Tips for Effective Sprint Scheduling

Becoming an effective sprint planner typically takes a lot of practice. Many project leaders struggle at first to create schedules and adapt to changes during production. All things considered, the more you lead agile projects, the better you will become at predicting potential challenges and pitfalls and planning individual sprints. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help with sprint scheduling:

  • Be firm about sprint deadlines: Challenges are bound to arise during sprints that can make it difficult or impossible to meet deadlines. But as a project manager, it’s your job to ensure projects remain on track no matter what. Part of managing sprints involves knowing when to be firm about deadlines and when to extend time frames to accommodate sudden changes or unexpected issues. Keep in mind that if you consistently break deadlines, it can impact the time frame of an agile project, setting a launch back weeks or even months beyond its target date.
  • Have developers sign off on sprint goals: Developers are usually busy and simultaneously balance multiple projects. While it’s easy to rush through sprint planning and scheduling and take on too much work, doing so leads to missed deadlines, finger-pointing, rushed work, and project delays. To prevent this from happening, it helps to have deep visibility into what other people are working on. It also helps to have developers sign off on sprint goals to vouch that they agree to each sprint workload and can meet their target objectives.
  • Leave a gap between sprints: It can help to leave a gap of one or two days between next sprint and previous sprint. This helps control the pace of development and provides opportunities for assessing progress and making changes. Leaving a gap can also help reduce burnout and give developers a chance to recharge between coding sessions.
  • Avoid changing sprint goals: It can be tempting to change sprint goals as new stories enter into the mix and priorities change. But in general, it’s best to avoid changing sprint goals once you finalize your schedule. If you start changing them consistently, you can lose sight of the overall objective. To avoid complications, it helps to have a system in place for prioritizing new additions and adding steps into the process. Sticking with a plan results in an organized system that is efficient for everyone involved.
  • Employ Release Management Tooling: Sprint scheduling and planning is a time-consuming process. Team leaders spend hours planning schedules and incorporating changes. To streamline communication and make it easier to assess resources needed for upcoming sprints, many agile leaders use tools. These tools help teams quickly and efficiently plan their releases and sprints.

Enov8 Release Manager, Product Team Planning: Screenshot

Product Team Plan

How Enov8 Helps With Agile Sprint Scheduling

Enov8 Release Manager is an ideal solution for those looking for a tool to assist in organizing sprints and promptly providing analytics. This platform offers a specialized feature for Agile Release Train Management, sprint planning, and execution, enabling product owners to easily recognize upcoming features, risks, and resources. With these features, Enov8 Release Manager simplifies the process of sprint planning, allowing for effortless sprint execution. Additionally, the tool includes intuitive dashboards that make reviewing past events and planning future ones an easy and streamlined experience. Empower yourself and take control of your Agile Release Train and Project Management process today by using Enov8 Release Manager!

Conclusion

Sprint scheduling is a critical part of the agile development process. By following the strategies outlined in this article, you can minimize delays and ensure projects stay on track. Additionally, using Release Manager tools like Enov8 Release Manager will help streamline sprint planning and provide visibility into upcoming features and resources needed to meet deadlines. So get started with your Agile Release Train Management process today and stay on track for your project deadlines!

Other Reading

Enjoy what you read? Here are a few more articles that you might find interesting.

Enov8 Blog – What is Release Management (an ERM & SAFe Perspective)

Enov8 Blog – The Agile Release Train Explained

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