Sprints are core components of the agile methodology. The term refers to a predefined span of time in which a team will work to accomplish specific goals. This period may be any length, though sprints are usually fairly short (one or two weeks, for example).
The agile approach is based on brief-but-efficient chunks of work, as opposed to the traditional ‘waterfall’ form of product development still employed by many businesses. In these cases, teams may be required to juggle multiple tasks and to hit several deadlines close to each other, without a clear focus or realistic expectations.
With agile, a team’s aim is to bring fresh functionality and enhancements into the hands of the user with minimal delay. It’s not about spending years on one product which may not even be tailored to users as much as it should be. It’s about defining which features and functions matter most, getting them to a satisfactory standard, and refining in future releases.
The length of a sprint can differ from one business to another, but they typically run shorter than four weeks. Tasks predicted to demand more time than this will be broken down into sub-tasks to spread the work. All sprint durations are decided by the scrum master, and subsequent sprints will be of the same length.
A sprint tends to start with a planning meeting, during which the team brainstorms and confirms its sprint goals. These could be adding new features, enhancing the UI, overhauling the color scheme, etc. But the key point to remember: sprint goals should be measurable to maximize efficiency and identify weaknesses for future reference.
The benefits of sprints
A team with only a short period of time to complete a task has a tighter focus than one with months ahead of it. You need to commit to hitting targets and bringing your a-game to the job if you’re to achieve a goal in just a few days.
This applies to the whole team involved, too. Everyone has their own part to play, and there’s no time for slacking off or leaving colleagues to handle the heavy lifting.
The agile methodology favors communication and collaboration more than traditional models of working. Daily meetings (known as standups) are common in sprints, to help team members brainstorm ideas, understand where colleagues are at, identify obstacles, and reinforce positive team dynamics.
This creates real transparency, too. Anyone experiencing difficulties in finishing their tasks successfully is expected to be honest. The other members of the team will know to watch out for said difficulties themselves, but they can help solve problems as well. This reduces the risk of mistakes or oversights disrupting workflows.
In businesses of diverse sizes, it’s easy for teams to stay cut off from each other. If one department is focused on an entirely different set of tasks than another, there isn’t much reason for them to interact.
But with sprints, the quick pace means goals need to be accomplished fast. As a result, team-members are more likely to draw on the skills or resources of colleagues from other departments.
This approach can lead to a company based on stronger, co-dependent relationships, boosting engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.
Key parts of a sprint
Sprints incorporate several roles, including:
The scrum master is the key facilitator for a development team, responsible for managing the way in which a team interacts and operates throughout a sprint. Sharing information and updating each other is crucial, so a scrum master leads the stand-up meetings (typically daily).
A scrum master’s responsibilities also include aiding their team to stay on-target. To do this, they might help them overcome issues (relating to technical problems, personality conflicts, etc.). They need to eliminate barricades to success as soon as they can.
Though there is specific training required to become a scrum master, product managers will typically find taking on the role of scrum master fairly easy, especially if they have strong organizational and people skills.
Basically, a scrum team consists of the people responsible for bringing a product to fruition. Scrum teams will include developers, designers, testers, and other skilled staff capable of creating successful products.
While scrum masters are fundamental to maintain organization and completion, a scrum team can be responsible for managing itself and identifying how best it can accomplish goals.
A product owner is tasked with representing the product’s users or the business behind it. They will serve as a link between developers and the product’s target customer-base throughout the development process.
Product owners need to set out which features are essential, assess completed work throughout the development cycle, and either accept or reject it (for valid reasons).
This is a roster of tasks defined by the product owner, each of which should be finished ahead of a product’s projected release date.
During this process, development teams discuss which user stories are of the highest priority, and determine what they’re capable of delivering by the time the sprint comes to its end. This leads to the sprint backlog, a list that sets out what the team aims to accomplish.
This is simply a meeting held at the end of a sprint, during which the team presents the completed work to the product owner for approval.
When do you need to try sprints?
Any company can implement an agile methodology into its day-to-day operations if it wants to increase productivity, product quality, customer satisfaction, and ultimately streamline development cycles.
Sprints empower businesses to create a more rigid structure and provide teams with goals to achieve during the development of products. With tasks split into manageable chunks, teams have better focus and visibility.