The agile sprint and project management, otherwise known as the scrum methodology, is a set of practices that give structure to development teams. The main objective of these practices is to constantly improve the effectiveness of software products.
Many businesses have found they can use agile sprint planning and the scrum methodology in other industries and disciplines. The agile method enables teams to compartmentalise and improve how they deliver work projects.
What is an agile sprint?
An agile sprint (in scrum methodology) means a short period of time to complete a set project.
Sprints allows project managers to break ongoing work or set projects up into manageable time blocks. They enable teams to focus, and prioritise tasks and goals. For example, working on the same assignment for six months can be overwhelming, and can also get a little tedious for your workers. That’s because any progress or celebrated achievements disappear into the monotony of any lengthy project goal.
With set, digestible sprint blocks, project managers can build regular feedback into the structure, celebrating achievements, analysing successes or pitfalls as they go, rather than waiting until the end of a project. Doing this allows team members to acknowledge their successes and failures and make a note of what progress might look like for future sprints as part of a continuous improvement mindset.
When teams tap into the agile methodology, this means they split projects into regular sprint cycles. A sprint cycle is the repeatable process of planning, conducting and reviewing the success of each sprint. Sprints vary from short, one-week or two-week productivity drives to month-long blocks of project time.
For each sprint cycle, that block of time will consist of four components all designed to gather valuable insights and drive the progress of your project forward. These components are also referred to as scrum ceremonies and take the form of sprint planning, daily check-ins, sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives.
How to plan your agile sprint
Effective planning is key when it comes to optimising your project progress, and with agile project planning, you’ll need to assign everyone to a different role in the sprint. The three roles are as follows:
It is the responsibility of the product owner to set a clear direction for the team and ensure that participants are delivering the best possible value, remaining agile, flexible, and responsive to customer needs throughout the process.
The role of the agile master is to project manage the scrum cycle, and ensure employees adhere to each set of practices. The agile master also supports the product owner in defining value and priorities, and oversees the day-to-day work of the development team.
Also known as the development team, the agile team is the workers that conduct the bulk of work on each project. While traditionally the agile team would have been software engineers, the agile team can be designers, writers, programmers, or a combination of skilled professionals all working together to achieve a mutual outcome.
Once you establish roles, it’s time to conduct your key sprint ceremonies or meetings. These take place at specific points in the sprint cycle.
The sprint planning meeting
Your sprint planning meeting is essential. The aim is for every team member to be on board with the tasks on their plate, their role in the sprint cycle, and the bigger picture, and to make sure that sprint team members are aligned before the sprint commences.
The daily scrum meeting
People carry out a daily scrum, daily check-in or standup meeting to make sure that every member of the scrum team is on track. Encouraging transparency and honesty with regards to challenges or inefficiencies, the scrum is designed to monitor progress and rectify any potential roadblocks together on a daily basis.
The sprint review
As a rule, the development team leads the sprint review meeting. This review allows them to present and discuss the value of their successes with any relevant stakeholders or team members.
The sprint retrospective
A team usually holds a sprint retrospective meeting at the end of each sprint block. The product manager, scrum master, and the entire development team will attend the sprint retrospective to outline key learnings from the sprint, how to improve processes, and mitigate challenges for future sprints.
The key components of a sprint cycle
Each sprint cycle features a set of practices and components for the sprint team to address and review. These are called the agile scrum artifacts and the key artifacts are the product backlog, sprint backlog, and increments. These refer to the crucial information the team needs access to during the development process.
In software development terms, the product backlog refers to new features, bug fixes or enhancements for improving a software product. In general terms, this just means the tasks or work that employees need to do to reach a specific sprint goal. Teams continuously review the product backlog as certain tasks reappear that they may have deprioritised in previous iterations.
The sprint backlog is the set of product backlog tasks teams prioritise for a particular future sprint. Workers split product backlog tasks into manageable, bitesize tasks that fit realistically into the timeframe of the sprint. Workers set out these tasks during the planning phase of each sprint cycle.
A product increment refers to the specific customer-focused deliverables that people achieved in a preceding sprint. Focusing on product development, the product increments can include those of any number of previous sprints. Each desired increment is established during the planning phase of each sprint.
In addition to the three key sprint artifacts, several meta-artifacts aid the progress of each sprint and facilitate better planning and efficiency.
One of the key tools for sprint teams is the burndown chart. A sprint burndown chart is used to monitor and communicate the ongoing progress of each sprint. The chart conveys key information on tasks that the team’s completed during a particular sprint. This helps to determine feasible timelines for each sprint and gives the sprint team visibility of potential roadblocks. This level of transparency is a key concept that runs throughout any agile project management principles as it facilitates better problem-solving and creative teamwork to overcome any inefficiencies or bottlenecks.
Top tools for agile teams
When it comes to effective project management, adopting the agile approach helps teams and managers streamline their workloads. It also improves productivity by making tasks manageable.
As many teams take to a more digital workspace, they can use many software tools to facilitate and encourage the adoption of the agile framework. Here are just a few of the best tools you could use to conduct agile project management and host meetings from anywhere.
Visibility and transparency are key requirements for agile teams. One method that can aid the agile project management processes is the use of Kanban boards. Kanban is a popular framework for workers to schedule and manage capacity, traditionally in the manufacturing industries.
One software solution that has become hugely popular for lean teams wanting to adopt the Kanban framework is Trello. Trello’s easy-to-use dashboards offer a visual and accessible way for agile teams to conduct sprints. Features also make it simple to manage workflows and assess the progress of each member of the development team.
For bigger teams, or those looking to follow the agile methodologies, Jira is one of the most popular productivity tools. Jira provides all of the agile capabilities and components in one platform. This includes: backlogs, scrum boards, analytics and helpful integrations to facilitate better efficiency.
With scrum meetings taking place daily, there’s an ongoing need for efficient daily communication and collaboration. Your agile team will need a reliable, robust HD video conferencing platform. This system will need to allow screen sharing and annotation, real-time messaging. Hybrid teams will also need features that make team huddles simple. Enter RingCentral.
Our reliable, secure, and integrated communications solution is designed for teams who need to collaborate from anywhere in the world.
RingCentral also offers off-the-shelf or custom integrations with many of the other tools used by agile teams, allowing workers to streamline their virtual workspace and collaborate more efficiently during every sprint.
Read more from Make Meetings Matter:
How to run productive one-on-one meetings
How To Run Effective Meetings: Lessons From Tesla, Amazon and Google
What Is a Scrum Meeting and How Can You Run One?
Originally published Oct 19, 2021, updated Jun 21, 2022