Preparing Sprint Planning

This post is part of the Scrum Series. Previous article covered the Product Backlog.

Before jumping into Sprint Planning, there needs to be some activities done so that we are ready for an effective Sprint Planning session.

Prep the Backlog

If this is the first sprint planning session, the product backlog should exist (duh)! The product owner needs to make sure the backlog exists and sorted according to importance.

It is important for the product owner to be familiar with every item on the product backlog. Ideally one product backlog = one product owner.

In case there have been bugs/defects/support cases from the last sprint release which needs to be addressed in the current sprint, the product owner needs to ensure those are included in the product backlog and prioritised accordingly.

Design for the most prioritised items should already be sorted out with the design team at this point and included in the stories for the team to review during sprint planning session.

Examine Team Availability & Establish Velocity

Scrum Team

Before going full-on into sprint planning, it is important to know who will be participating in the upcoming sprint planning and sprint. Confirm with the team members on vacation time, commitments on other projects or other time constraints which can affect the upcoming sprint.

Along with the team’s availability; we also need to ensure that resources needed for sprint planning and the sprint are available as needed and factored into the planning process.

Next up, we need to determine the expected team velocity for the upcoming sprint before we delve into the planning. This will help the team better estimate how many story points to pull into the next sprint for the planning process.

If the team is relatively new and in the first few sprints, it will take some time to gauge the velocity of the team as this depends on several factors such as how much the team has bonded, how many items are fully prepped to complete and how effective the sprint planning has been.

However if the team has already gone through some sprints, we can use yesterday’s weather technique, whereby we use the velocity from previous sprints to estimate the upcoming sprint velocity.

Sprint Planning Session Length

As with everything in scrum, we want our sprint planning session to be time-boxed. The rule of thumb when determining the sprint planning session length is to use the following formula to obtain a rough estimate:

  • SPL = Sprint Planning session length in hours
  • SL = Sprint length in weeks

For example, a team having a sprint length of 2 weeks will have a sprint planning session of roughly 4 hours.

The 4 “W”s before the Sprint Planning

The scrum master will need to answer the following questions as part of preparing for the sprint planning session:

  • Who: Who is going to be attending the sprint planning meeting?
  • What: What is going to be discussed in the sprint planning meeting?
  • When: When is the sprint planning meeting going to occur – date and time.
  • Where: Where is the sprint planning session going to occur?

Once all of the above questions are answered, a sprint planning meeting agenda needs to be sent out to the relevant people attending the meeting and we move to the sprint planning session, which is going to be the subject of our next post.

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