January 20, 2023

Everything you need to know about Sprint Planning

Aleksandra Szmit Content Writer

Although the article is about sprint planning, let’s do a quick recap of what a sprint is before getting into the details of sprint planning. So, what is a sprint?

It is a set timebox used as a guideline for a completion of a project or a part of it. The length and aim of a sprint are set during the planning stage before it begins. In practical terms, the most popular length of a sprint is 2 weeks. Whereas the maximum length of a sprint is as much as 4 weeks.

However, this doesn’t change the fact that the number and duration of it should be decided at the outset, even though each sprint is scheduled independently. Finally, its goal is to have a consistent and predictable process with the ability to track the advancements.

With the basics behind us, how do you get around to planning a sprint?

Sprint planning – what is essential?

The sprint planning process is crucial, as it lays out the groundwork and foundation for the further development of the project. Its purpose is to specify what can be completed during the duration of the sprint and how it can be achieved. This will allow the whole team to be sure about their workload and stay aligned with the vision and aim. The planning stage involves everyone within the Scrum team. A successful meeting session will result in these two crucial essential components:

  • Sprint goal – It’s created by the Developers Team and the Product Owner. The Product Owner can suggest the sprint goal, whereas the Dev Team can make it more detailed and precise. This means they can change the sprint goal during the discussion if needed. However, the whole team should agree to the sprint goal. The main objective of a sprint goal is to clarify the objectives of a certain sprint. As the target is created, Developers may simply construct a flexible goal that allows them to choose the precise work that they can achieve throughout the sprint.
  • Sprint backlog – It is created for and by the Developers. And the tasks that the Scrum teams could finish during the following sprint are selected at the sprint planning stage. These are included in the sprint backlog, which is a very clear and visible representation of the work that the Scrum team expects to finish during the upcoming sprint.

How long should a sprint planning session last?

The time frame of these planning sessions is determined by the length of the sprint. A general rule of thumb, multiply the number of weeks in your sprint by two hours. Here’s a table that presents this rule:

A table showing the recommended durations of various Sprint Events

Who needs to be involved?

As mentioned above, the sprint planning process involves everyone on the Scrum team. This means all the Scrum roles, namely Scrum Master, Product Owner/Product Manager, and the Developers. All of them have valuable insights from their perspectives, which help organize the tasks and processes of the sprint. Let’s dive deeper into this. What roles does each person/team provide?

  • Scrum Master – is the one responsible for facilitating sprint planning in order to ensure that the discussion is effective. But also to ensure that there is an agreement to the sprint goal that the appropriate product backlog items are included in the sprint backlog.
  • Product Owner or Product Manager – explains the product backlog items and questions, prioritizes tasks during the sprint planning meeting, inspires the team with definite objectives, and responds to any queries.
  • Development Team – which is committed to the workload, knows the realistic timeframes and capacity requirements, as well as the achievable roadmap. It ensures a realistic and strategic approach to the planning stage.
  • Engineers or Designers may also be involved.

To adequately prepare for a sprint planning session each one of the mentioned above should prepare a product backlog or/and product roadmap.

So, now that we know what a sprint planning session is and what and who is essential in the process, we can get to the planning part.

What is discussed?

The key to planning a sprint is to determine the essentials and basics of the team’s planned work. Here are the necessary things to consider during a sprint planning session.

Deciding on the overall objective and context

The Product Owner should describe the goal of the sprint, as well as items in the product backlog. Whereas the Scrum team can commit to the established requirements and estimate if they are possible to achieve during the time of the planned sprint.

Discussing the target and its outcome

This is the role of the Development team and Product Owner to create a final sprint plan that is based on a discussion regarding value and effort. They could also review the product roadmap and ask themselves some questions regarding the development, necessary changes, and future plans.

Establishing a starting point

A good way to kick off a sprint planning session is to focus on the product backlog. It is essentially a prioritized list of things such as the issues, user stories, etc. It can potentially provide some good input in the current sprint.

The key difference between Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog

Organizing the sprint

Timeframes, workload, team capacity, velocity, or functionalities are some of the foundations of a sprint. Everyone involved should have a clear understanding of the division of workflow and responsibilities. Furthermore, any issues that may arise or have risen in the previous sprints should be discussed.

Assigning new tasks

The plans and ideas behind a planning session are vital, but once some tasks and more specific plans are made, it’s important to assign tasks to the right people. This is decided on varying criteria, such as skillset or capacity.

Setting the outcome

To set the outcome, it is important for the team to describe the aim of the sprint and the road towards achieving it during a planning meeting. Overall, a sprint planning meeting generates two specific outcomes – the sprint goal and the sprint backlog.

Basically, planning a sprint is sitting down with the whole team involved, creating a to-do list, checking if it is thorough and realistic, reviewing the backlog, and setting goals. Even though all of this may seem like a lot, here is some advice to make this as smooth as possible.

What are the best practices for sprint planning?

Here is a list of best practices to keep in mind:

  • Prior to sprint preparation, you should estimate your stories to assist you to minimize sprint delays and unrealistic expectations.
  • Try to address as many of the unknown variables as you can before the sprint. This will help you prevent taking on too many difficult tasks. For example, you can overestimate timeframes for unpredicted issues.
  • Cooperate with other teams regarding dependencies. If you don’t plan for them beforehand, it might act as a spark for complications.
  • Throughout the planning process, it is important to know your team’s true capacity. Not only their history of performing tasks or their skills and time management but think about the planned vacations, non-sprint related duties, holidays, etc.
  • Be prepared for unexpected work or issues which might come up in the middle of a sprint and throw your plans off track. Make sure you know how to respond to these setbacks.

We went over the basics and theory of planning a sprint. Let’s try and put it into practice. Remember to rearrange your sprints in order to move a lower-down scheduled sprint to the top if you wish to begin it. You must also activate parallel sprints if you want more than one sprint to be active at once.

You may assign issues to sprints and examine sprints on a board in the Jira Software.

Sprint Planning in Jira

Jira is a great tool for scheduling sprints. Why? It allows you to schedule a sprint, assign existing issues, and start on time with a clear plan. In order to begin a sprint, you should choose backlog, from the sidebar of your project and choose the name, dates and scheduled time. If you wish, you can also add a sprint objective and use a burndown chart to show the sprint velocity.

Sprint Planning with BigPicture

With the help of BigPicture, you can visualize your backlog and sprint goals. It will also help you and your team to have a clear understanding of all the tasks they will be working on as a result. Additionally, you will be able to monitor the tasks’ progress throughout execution and observe how your scheduled tasks contribute to your sprint goal.

Whereas with the help of BigGantt, you will be able to visualize iterations/sprints on the Gantt chart timeline, including Jira Sprints. It’ll help you import the sprints and use basic tasks as sprints.

A screenshot of BigPicture's Roadmap module

I hope this article reminded you of what a sprint is and informed you on the planning process of it. With all of this, a successful plan of sprint and its development shall be a walk in the park.