Sprint teams operate as part of an Agile software development approach. Managed well, sprint teams are extremely effective.
What is a Sprint?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re developing a software application from scratch, or reprogramming current technology, using the Agile software development method is a highly effective approach.
A sprint embodies the Agile concepts of iterative development and working in modules. It’s a period of time, usually two to four weeks, when a development team works on a piece of a larger project or a specific problem with an existing application. At the end of the sprint, the work produced should be in a condition to show to stakeholders.
That development team is called a sprint team or in some cases, a scrum team. Some people use the terms sprint and scrum interchangeably. Some people define a sprint as something that happens within an Agile scrum framework.
Using sprint teams avoids the long to-do lists that are always hanging over the heads of a development team using traditional software development approaches. Using the Agile approach, the team identifies a list, or backlog, of tasks. The sprint team selects the most critical task from the backlog and plans a sprint to implement it. If anything prevents the team from completing the chosen tasks, the task can be placed back in the backlog, or it becomes the topic of a new sprint. In general, the Agile process includes:
- Sprint Planning: A meeting of the minds between the customer and the sprint team
- Grooming: A process of the sprint team and the customer negotiating any required compromises that typically must be made during software development
- Demo: An end of sprint demo lets the sprint team show the result of the sprint to customers and stakeholders
- Sprint Retrospective: The sprint team completes a discussion of what went well during the sprint, and identifies opportunities for improvement if those things aren’t obvious based on the previous steps
Benefits of Using Sprint Teams
Using sprint teams works extremely well for projects that have short deadlines, a high degree of complexity, resource constraints and/or projects that are new to the development team. Here are some key benefits of using sprint teams.
- Teams learn as they go
Even if a sprint isn’t successful, the sprint team can learn from that experience. They may plan for a new sprint that addresses the issues they couldn’t address the first time. For example, they may need to add team members that bring different expertise, or they may need clarification of the goal from the stakeholders.
- Teams have more focus
It’s easy to think of software development in the abstract based on requirement statements. Using a sprint team to address a specific question brings the task into clear focus.
- Teams focus on the right things
After a sprint planning meeting, each member of the team understands the goal and their role in meeting it. They don’t need to worry about anything else but the work at hand.
- Teams gain insight into the decision-making process
A sprint team works closely with their customer, which builds stronger partnerships between business units and IT. As teams get feedback from customers, they get a better understanding of how decisions are made in terms of objectives and goals. And, since a sprint is completed in a short amount of time, the feedback is more immediate.
- Teams learn to work well together
The sprint team is structured to depend on close collaboration among team members. The teams typically start to work in a rhythm that moves them ever closer to the goal. The only way to accomplish that is for the team to come together as a well-oiled machine.
Beyond benefits to the team, using Agile and sprint teams has global benefits. Agile software development offers a wide range of benefits such as better design, customer-focused development, and faster time to market.
Sprint Dos and Don’ts
Here are some tips for making your sprints as effective as possible.
- Set a concrete sprint goal
Sometimes teams have a problem identifying a concrete sprint goal. This can happen because the product backlog hasn’t been prioritized. In that case, the team needs to go back to the customer to get direction. In other situations, the team may be working on components for multiple products, and they should broaden the definition of the product or shorten the sprint timeframe.
Overall, the team needs a very specific goal. For example, rather than a goal of “complete all backlog items selected for the sprint, the goal should be something like “prepare feature X for release.” Goals can include completing a feature, addressing a risk, or testing an assumption.
- Use at least one refinement identified for sprints
When the team completes a retrospective, they may identify things they want to change in the next sprint. However, it’s easy to neglect to incorporate those changes in the next sprint unless the team makes a conscious decision to include them.
- Confirm team availability
The team should confirm that they have the members they need to complete the sprint, but it’s also important to look at the calendar if there are holidays or vacation days on the horizon.
- Develop a plan for the first few days
The sprint plan gives the team a way to approach the sprint, but it’s often helpful to put only the first few days in concrete. That will get the team going and since the team members meet regularly, they’ll be open to changing direction if that is indicated as they get farther into the process.
- Don’t identify tasks based on skills
It’s important not to create a waterfall-type process during a sprint. If tasks are defined based on skills, that’s exactly what will happen. For example, don’t define tasks like design, coding, test cases, or testing. Instead, define tasks based on features or components to keep the team working together.
- Don’t skip the demo
Sometimes the results of a sprint aren’t momentous, but don’t be tempted to skip the sprint demo. It offers several benefits.
- It gives everyone a chance to see progress
- It reinforces accountability because the team has committed to a specific outcome
- It motivates team members to do their best, regardless of the task, because it illustrates that even small features are critical to the overall product
Using Agile software development methods and sprint teams can go a long way toward making your next software development project a success. However, it’s also true that a large percent of projects fail. Read our recent whitepaper, “4 Reasons Why Application Development Projects Fail” for information on those four things, and seven solutions for overcoming them.
You can also learn more about Datavail’s Application Development Sprint Teams that consist of fully-staffed sprint teams that you can call as needed. Our teams are staffed by skilled developers across platforms. They can act in an advisory capacity to help develop your own sprint teams or work with your teams on specific sprints. And, if you’re working under tight deadlines, Datavail can offer 24x7 development and testing to expedite your work.
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