Back to all posts
Hannah Taylor

Pain-Free Sprint Scheduling: A Quick Guide

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!

What is sprint scheduling?

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 vs sprint planning

‘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:

  • Sprint planning is the process of defining which user stories or tasks will be completed in each sprint. Sprint planning focuses on sprint goals.
  • Sprint scheduling, the focus of this article, is a key component of sprint planning and centers around operations management. When scheduling a sprint, the project manager focuses on organizing how and when each task will be completed and by whom.

What is a sprint schedule?

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.

When does sprint scheduling happen?

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:

  • the sprint goal is defined
  • the development team selects which items from the product backlog it’ll work on during the sprint, creating a sprint backlog. Capacity planning is critical to this stage of Agile project management, helping team leaders determine their teams' capacity for the upcoming sprint and then estimating how much of the backlog they can expect to complete
  • each item on the sprint backlog is broken down into manageable tasks

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.

The benefits of Agile sprint scheduling

Taking the time to schedule your sprints has endless benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how sprint scheduling can benefit your team.

Improved team collaboration and accountability

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.

Flexible, prioritized projects

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, 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.

Streamlined resource allocation

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.

Better project management

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.

How to plan a sprint schedule

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.  

1. Break down your tasks using the sprint backlog

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.

2. Estimate each task’s effort

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.

3. Allocate tasks to team members

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.

4. Create the sprint timeline

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:

  • Daily stand-up: 15-minute meetings in which roadblocks are discussed
  • Sprint review: A meeting in which the team presents the completed work to stakeholders
  • Sprint retrospective: An end-of-sprint review meeting where the team reflects on its successes and opportunities for improvement. This is important for assessing progress.

5. Resource planning

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 a sprint schedule in Runn

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:

  • Creating assignments: To create an assignment, click on the timeline to select the start date and drag your mouse across the planner.
  • Different views: Toggle between Month, Quarter, and Half Year views.
  • One-day and one-week assignments: Quickly save an assignment with the default settings or make edits using the quick editor. When working in the Half Year view, assignments are created for an entire week by default, saving you time.
  • Quick editor: Review and change assignment details, including the hours per day and the overall duration of the assignment. You can also change an assignment from billable to non-billable, add a note, or open the calendar.
  • Multiple commitment units: Manage utilization based on effort, including hours per day, hours per week, or FTE.
  • Repeatable commitments: Save time setting up recurring assignments by assigning people repeatable commitments.
Enjoy the post? Sign up for the latest strategies, stories and product updates.

You might also like

Try Runn today for free!

Join over 10k users worldwide.
Start scheduling in less than 10 minutes.
No credit card needed