What is an Agile Sprint in Scrum?

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
agile-sprint

The success of any project depends on the project management methodology such as agile and waterfall you apply. Imagine a group of web developers working on creating an eCommerce website for a law firm that makes it easy for people to find the most competent lawyers around them and request their services. 

They finish the website only to discover that many of the navigation features added are not working properly. Completing a project only to discover avoidable mistakes is a common occurrence when project teams undergo projects without using an effective project management methodology.

If the web developers had simplified and divided the project (developing an eCommerce website) into smaller tasks in the form of incremental steps, they would have easily avoided their mistake. This process perfectly describes the scrum methodology which involves project teams working in collaboration with project stakeholders in small iterations. 

With the help of scrum tools and agile project management software, you can effectively plan and execute scrum sprints for your projects.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about agile sprint in Scrum.

Let’s get started.

What are Agile Sprints?

Working on big projects can be stressful and tiring. Team members might not notice they have worked so hard and they might also feel there’s no progress in the work.

A sprint in scrum explains how big tasks or projects can be broken down into a series of smaller sizes called milestones or deliverables. By breaking your tasks into sprints, you and your team members will be able to focus on specific goals and celebrate when you complete a milestone of your task rather than waiting to complete the whole project.

The Agile Scrum Framework at a glance
Source: Neon Rain Interactive

The time length of the sprints should be known at the initial stage of the project. You can break down your project into milestones for better organization and easier execution. Usually, the time frame for sprints is 2 weeks while the maximum sprint time does not exceed 4 weeks.

Your project team should take each sprint one at a time and follow up with the next sprint which should be determined by the outcome of the former one. 

Benefits of Working Agile Sprints

Dividing your projects into sprints is the best way of handling complex projects and managing multiple projects successfully. By breaking your tasks into smaller and more attainable tasks, you can ensure projects will be more manageable and teammates will give out high-quality work faster and deliver on time.

These are some benefits of working in sprints. 

1. Cost Reduction

Big projects always take a lot of time and a large sum of money is invested into such projects.  Any mistake in such a project will lead to another cost. This will also affect the time the project should be delivered. 

By using agile sprint, your team will focus on a certain task, and easily accommodate any change to the task. Working agile sprints help you manage time and also helps in the reduction of overall costs.

Agile Insights
Source: Digital Skynet

2. Transparency

All information regarding projects should be available to every member of the project team. Since the whole project is broken down into smaller bits, everyone should know the particular deliverable they are responsible for.

Doing this will not only reduce the chance of having a problem with the project but also increase visibility in projects. Workers will have a clear idea of what will be the end of the project.

3. High Productivity

Having a project in sprints will improve the efficiency of the teammates and allow room for improvement. This agile methodology has a positive effect on the overall productivity of the teammates. 

Working in agile sprints allows your team to focus on what is important and it involves all the team members in the decision-making process. Projects that make use of the Agile approach have been proven to be more successful than others. 

One of the key benefits of using the agile methodology is a higher ROI (Return on Investment) from project management or product development.

4. Team Building

A lot of different people are brought in for a particular project that may not necessarily interact with one another. Agile sprints help to improve the association between all the different workers for a particular project. The interaction will help these people feel more comfortable with each other and it will surely have a positive effect on their performance.

There are different departments when working on large projects. With the help of a sprint, the main aim is to meet their goal. Sprints help the team members to take on the skills or resources of other teammates from other departments.

5. More Focus

By breaking down your project into a series of smaller deliverables, you can monitor the entire direction of the task your team is working on at any point. 

A scrum project sprint focuses on 1 to 2 critical things to build. Because your team is only working on some tasks for a short period of time, your team has to be super focused on the tasks you are trying to complete. 

6. Reduced Risks

Agile project sprint affords the project team many opportunities to handle any potential problem before they arise. 

Teammates will be able to know the issue any of their members is facing and how to handle it. This is because of the transparency of the process as every member knows the particular activity each of them will do. The frequent feedback associated with agile sprint makes them notice a possible issue and deal with it quickly.

7. Higher Customer Satisfaction

Customers always share their views about the project while the project is going on till the end of the project. The outcome of the project is dependent on their requirements. This helps organizations to keep these customers satisfied thereby increasing their Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

Benefits of Agile
Source: itCraft

8. Better Quality

You should know that breaking down a project into smaller series of tasks makes it easily understandable and allows for high-quality work. Controlling the quality of the project is a necessary part of sprint review. The project is updated and correct since all the tasks are reviewed immediately.

9. Improved Morale

When teammates are valued, it makes them perform better and align with the values of the company. Team members are not restricted to hierarchical structures in the organization. With agile sprints, your team can build something for 1-2 weeks and directly see the impact of their work.

10. Adaptability

Working in agile sprints affords your project teams more flexibility over the project. They can easily make room for scope creep situations to meet the changing demands of the key project stakeholders and customers.

How to Plan and Execute Scrum Sprints

A good sprint is determined by two things: the goal which is the desired result the team wants to achieve and the sprint backlog which refers to the items and projects the team will work on within the sprint.

These two are created during the sprint planning meeting. The scrum master and development team must be present in the meeting. Also, the project owner can be present in the meeting but outside stakeholders do not see the need to attend.

Sprint planning meeting
Source: Agile Marketing

The sprint planning meeting is focused on achieving a particular goal by going through items on the project backlog and talking about the items that are owned by the project backlog. 

Knowing the team’s ability, skills, and any problem that might slow down the progress of the project is necessary. The project team will give an estimate on when they can finish the backlog item and also consider the velocity of the previous milestone.   

When scheduling the work your project team wants to do, the velocity of the previous milestones is important. If a team plans to achieve 50 Story Points for Milestone 1 but delivers 45, then 45 should be the present velocity for Milestone 2.

Planning these meetings make the project team more creative and effective, and it influences them to create realistic expectations. A successful sprint planning meeting depends on a well-organized backlog.

If the project team keeps holding up and pushing the same thing out into the future, it may be because of some certain capability and the result should be looked into. 

The project team can be spending a lot of time on a particular detail of each feature, they might be concentrating on the task rather than the outcome. In this case, remind your project team about the reason for the project which is to achieve the goal.

A project roadmap is necessary to help keep your project team focused on what the main goal of the project is. The main reason for planning is to give the team morale and organize them to complete the goal.

Changing the Iteration in the Middle of the Cycle

If there is time left in the sprint, the team can ask project stakeholders to point out additional features to the iteration. Or if there is no more time left in the iteration, the team can ask the stakeholder which features they can hold back. 

How you carry out the iteration will help you out in your next sprint. You should also consider velocity to get a good estimate for the next sprint.

Sprint Review  

Sprint Review - Meeting at the end of the sprint to check the increment
Source: Infinity

This is done to analyze how your project team carried out their task in the previous sprint, how they tackled the issues that occurred, and how to prevent future issues like that.

Sprint Retrospective

Sprint retrospective lets the project team examine the performance of the former sprint. This is the final stage in the sprint management process. Its main focus is on what went well during the sprint and what could be improved. 

Purpose of a Sprint Retrospective
Source: Appinventiv

Do’s and Don'ts of Agile Sprints

Even with the knowledge of the basics of agile sprints, many project teams still struggle to run agile sprints in scrum successfully and effectively. 

Do’s

  • Create a Sprint Goal: This refers to the aim of what will be done within the sprint. Creating a sprint goal assists the team on how to perform their task.
  • Understand the Sprint Goal: You should understand the goal and how you want to measure your achievements. This will make every member of your project team focused on moving towards the same page which is achieving the same goal.
  • Keep the Backlog Organized and Updated: A successful sprint depends on a well-updated backlog. The backlog should be organized and updated with all your priorities. If it is not properly organized or managed, it can affect the organization of the whole process.
  • Good Breakdown of Velocity: Always make sure you have a good breakdown of what velocity is all about. This determines how future sprints can be estimated. 
  • Use Sprint Planning Meetings: They should be used to indicate details of the task that needs to be completed. You should always motivate team members to note out tasks and bugs that they notice in the sprint.
  • Focus on Tasks You Can Do: You should continue with tasks you can do alone and leave out work you will not be able to do without others like work with other teams.
  • Motivate Your Team: Encourage your agile team to be more creative when working towards achieving their goal. You should let them follow the principle that states “if it isn’t broken, let’s see if we can make it better” and also stay on schedule while doing that.
  • Offer Rewards: Always reward and acknowledge both individual and team achievements. Offering incentives increases the team’s morale and improves their productivity.
  • Add Retrospective Experience for the Sprint: This helps to improve the way the team works by introducing new ideas and practices. Adding retrospective experience helps to foster relationships and points out how the performance of the previous task has been.
  • Store Information in a Project Management Tool: After planning the project and making the decisions about how the task will be carried out in the sprint, the information should be kept in a project management tool for reference purposes and everyone can see it later.

Don’ts

  • Don’t plan a task that will not be completed in a sprint. Too many tasks or overestimated velocity can affect the workflow of your team. This is why there is transparency in sprint planning. Everyone should estimate the velocity they can use to finish up their work. You do not want to put up your team for failure.
  • Do not ignore questions and answers. Apart from achieving the main goal, you should also make out time for questions and answers for things like bugs and the health of your project.
  • Do not make the team have an unclear perspective of what the sprint is all about. Acknowledge transparency in sprint planning. Do not rush the project and forget that the whole team is on the same track towards the goal.
  • Do not handle a large amount of work in a single sprint. A large amount of work with a high probability of risk should be broken down and pushed to the next sprint. If you hear complaints from the team on either bugs or velocity or they think the work can not be completed as scheduled, you should look into it and help reorganize it. You should not ignore issues and complaints from the team.
  • Don’t let your team be scared about failing. They should be motivated and allowed to do things better. The project team should never make the same mistake twice. Because there is a clear understanding and reviews are being made and documented to avoid any future issues with the next sprint.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.