Concerned about making the most of valuable development time? Don't underestimate the importance of efficient sprint scheduling.
Sprints are an excellent way to organize your team’s workload and consistently deliver high-quality outcomes. Or at least, they can be - when they’re planned and executed well.
Much like a hammer, Agile sprints are a powerful tool in the right hands. But when used incorrectly, they can spell disaster for projects, derailing progress and confusing your team.
In this quick guide, we’re breaking down how sprint scheduling can help Agile teams better organize their sprints and deliver better results. Keep reading to learn more!
Before we explore sprint scheduling, let’s define exactly what a ‘sprint’ is. Whereas Waterfall projects follow a linear sequence, Agile projects are cyclical. One such framework, the Scrum framework, breaks the work that needs to be done into manageable chunks the development team can tackle in two-week bursts known as sprints.
The development team works through a prioritized list of tasks created for each individual sprint, and at the end of each two-week period, they review their progress and plan for the next sprint. Popular in software development, sprints help organize the workflow and support continuous delivery, as stakeholders get updates every two weeks.
Sprints are incredibly effective at organizing a team’s time and workload — when they’re well organized. That’s where sprint scheduling comes in. An integral aspect of sprint planning, scheduling is the process of organizing individual sprints, including defining how each task will be completed, when, and by whom.
‘Sprint scheduling’ and ‘sprint planning’ are two integral aspects of Agile project management frameworks like Scrum. They form part of the same planning process, but the phrases aren’t interchangeable. Let’s break down what each means:
Unsurprisingly, sprints work best when they're well-planned - making sprint schedules an integral part of the development process.
A sprint schedule is a document that provides the development team with a detailed plan to guide them through each individual sprint. The schedule outlines the sequence of tasks to be completed during the sprint, any meetings or milestones, as well as the effort associated with each task. The ultimate goal is to support Agile practices by minimizing wasted time and resources.
Let’s take a quick look at how sprint scheduling fits into the wider sprint planning process.
At the start of every sprint, the product owner will review and organize the work that needs to be done - sometimes called the "product backlog" - in order of priority. Once they’ve reorganized the product backlog, the scrum master will hold a sprint planning meeting, during which:
Once this process is complete, sprint scheduling begins. In an Agile development project, the whole scrum team collaborates to create a schedule based on stakeholder priorities, workloads, and available resources.
Taking the time to schedule your sprints has endless benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how sprint scheduling can benefit your team.
A sprint schedule provides teams with a clear, well-defined plan that outlines the tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities involved in each sprint. As the entire development team contributes to the schedule’s creation, it supports collaboration and ensures everyone is on the same page. This reduces the risk of misunderstandings or miscommunications when the sprint is in progress.
Plus, as each team member’s responsibilities are clearly defined and shared throughout the team, a sense of accountability is created.
Effective sprint scheduling ensures all tasks are ordered based on priority prior to the sprint’s start date. Yet, everyone knows that even the best-laid plans are subject to change. A well-prioritized plan must also be flexible, allowing changes to be made quickly when required.
In a recent survey, Digital.ai found that a quarter of respondents associated an ‘inability to continuously prioritize work’ as a leading cause of unsuccessful delivery within Agile, highlighting the connection between good planning and successful project delivery.
As sprint planning and scheduling occur every two weeks or so, teams can remain flexible in the face of change. Agile project management prioritizes adaptability, and when resources fall out, stakeholder needs change, or deadlines shift, teams can quickly re-prioritize based on the sprint goals.
Did you know that less than half of people believe that their teams ensure everyone is fully utilized during sprint planning?
Sprint scheduling is the key to improved resource allocation. By estimating the effort required to complete each task, resource managers can quickly allocate resources according to availability.
For example, if a task is estimated to take 7 hours to complete, and there are two team members available, one with 3 hours free and the other with 7 hours, it’s easy to decide who to assign the task to.
This helps Agile leaders maximize the use of available resources, prevent underutilization of individual team members, and distribute workloads fairly.
Sprint scheduling not only helps the project manager make informed decisions but also offers a handy tool for measuring performance. As Agile promotes continuous improvement, this is invaluable. At the end of each sprint, teams can compare how long each task actually took them to the estimates included on the schedule, informing future sprints.
Finally, here’s what you came for: our quick guide for scheduling effective sprints. Remember, your goal is to ensure you make full use of available resources and align your team’s activities to the project and sprint goals.
Here’s our quick guide for planning a sprint schedule in just six steps.
No sprint schedule is complete without a thorough task list detailing everything to be done during the sprint. The first step is to break the backlog items selected during the sprint planning session into actionable tasks.
For example, ‘Build time tracking feature’ will feel overwhelming. Breaking this down into a dozen smaller tasks, such as ‘Create mockups,’ ‘Conduct UI testing,’ and ‘Complete a code review,’ is more manageable and easier to schedule.
Next, you should estimate the amount of effort each task will require to complete. The easiest way to do this is by using data collected from previous sprints and projects. There are numerous measurements you can use to estimate effort, including the hours required for completion or story points.
Assigning a value to each effort supports resource allocation and helps prevent stakeholders from developing unrealistic expectations.
In this stage, you will assign your least of tasks to your team members. It’s recommended you match tasks to individuals based on each person’s availability and skillset.
By specifying which team members are assigned to which tasks, you ensure clarity on responsibilities and encourage accountability. Plus, assigning work based on each team member’s capacity and capabilities will help prevent burnout and support efficient task completion.
Next, it’s time to create a timeline outlining each task’s start and end date, as well as the sprint’s key meetings and deadlines. This provides a visual plan that’ll guide the development team through their upcoming sprint. Sprint timelines are also useful for predicting potential challenges.
Deadlines provide clear targets for people to work towards and ensure projects remain on track. While efficiency should always be a top priority, your deadlines must be realistic. Team members should never be rushing!
You should also add any planned meetings to the timeline. Regular meetings are essential for healthy team collaboration and include common Agile ceremonies, such as:
Finally, our favorite topic — resource planning! Good Agile resource planning ensures all resources are effectively utilized during the sprint.
In this step, you will allocate resources based on the sprint's schedule. Using a resource planning tool, you can plot each team member’s tasks on a visual timeline, ensuring no one is under or over-utilized while planning around absences. Resource planning also helps guarantee any tools or materials are available to your team when they’re needed.
Planning sprint schedules in Runn is easy. Once you’ve added a person to a project on the project planner, you can quickly add assignments and edit your entries in just a few clicks.
Here are some of the tools you can use to schedule your sprints with Runn’s visual planner:
Discover the state of resource management with insightful statistics. Explore current trends and challenges in optimizing organizational efficiency.
Learn how to use Runn's API to sync time entries from your preferred time tracking solution. Follow our example using Toggl Track for step-by-step instructions.