August 14, 2016

Sprint Planning with Excel Template : 10 Meeting Best Practices

Sprint planning and tracking is an essential part of Agile Project Management. This template will help in planning, tracking and resource management for a two-week sprint. The nature of this type of work is cyclical and efficient. Once a team adapts to a few sprint cycles, the time-saving nature of the process becomes apparent. Sprint planning is done in the Sprint Planning Meeting which is attended by the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the project team.
Sprint Planning and Tracking, agile sprint planning, sprint tracking
Sprint Planning and Tracking

Sprint Planning Excel Template 

Allows planning, tracking, and resource management for a 14 day Sprint. Has different tabs for Planning, tracking and resource management. Provides a high-level view of the tasks being worked in the sprint. Allows reuse of tasks defined in the planning for the tracking phase. Highlights discrepancies in planned and actual effort. Highlights the current day which provides a good reference point. Highlights resource utilization: under-utilization and over-utilization. Read-only columns are highlighted with a red cross mark. This template can feed into sprint planning and retrospective meetings.

How to plan your Sprints?

  1. Conduct a Planning session with the team.
  2. Confirm the scope/tasks, task owners and the estimates.
  3. Using the template populate the sprint plan.
  4. Update the tracker( allocations - planned) and review the resource allocation to make sure all the resources are used in an optimal fashion.
  5. Share the plan with the team to make sure there are no gaps.
  6. As the sprint progress record the actual effort for each task on a daily basis.
Agile Sprint Planning, sprint planning excel template
Agile Sprint Planning
Sprint planner is a simple list of tasks which need to be delivered in the Sprint. Task ID is the key ID in the whole of the template and must be sequential. Task owner is the resource who will be responsible for the task. Always use only one task owner. Estimate effort is the effort required to complete the task. The Planned effort is driven from the resource allocation in the tracking tab so it is auto Populated and is Read Only. Status is a free-form field which can be used to represent the task status.
Sprint start date is the date on which work will start. This should always be a Monday.

How to track Sprint Progress?

Sprint Tracking
Sprint Tracking
The sprint tracker is the key tab between all the three as it will be used frequently. The tracker can be divided into two areas - on the left we have the task details and on the right allocations. To load the task details from the Sprint plan all that you to is type in the Task ID. Typing in the task ID will copy the task description, Task Owner and Task Estimate from the sprint plan. In the second section we have Planned/Actual and then allocations. The planned hours total will be auto-populated based on the allocations.  Similarly,  the actual total will be populated from the actual row.

How to plan resources for your sprint?

Sprint Resource Management, Sprint Resource Tracker
Sprint Resource Tracker
The resources should be added into the resource tracker so that they can be selected in the planning tab. Resource allocations are shown on a daily basis. If the cell is highlighted green then the resource has been allocated full 8 hours. If the cell is highlighted in amber then the resource is under-allocated which means they have less work. If the numbers in the cell are highlighted in red then the resources are over-allocated and have more than 8 hours work per day. This tab also helps sprint capacity planning (Don't forget to check out Sprint Capacity Planning Excel Template). 

Sprint Planning Meeting

A Sprint Planning Meeting is the foundation of the Sprint and Agile Project Management whereby a designated Product Owner communicates the priorities of the Product Backlog (open business requirements) that will be pulled into the sprint for the work effort that the team will address. 

A Sprint should encompass no more than 30 days’ duration and is typically limited to one or two weeks. The Sprint Planning Meeting will identify the sprint tasks for each team member and establish a commitment to the goals of the sprint, in a collaboration between the product owner and the team. A good rule of thumb for a sprint planning meeting length is 1-2 hours for each week of the sprint duration.

What are the goals of a Sprint Planning Meeting?

Sprint Planning Meetings have specific purposes and goals. Identify the roles of the Scrum Master and other team resources in the Sprint. Identify the velocity/capacity of team members (any vacations or limitations to team member availability). Establish the Product Backlog Items (PBIs or stories) also known as Agile or Sprint Backlog to be moved from the product backlog to the sprint backlog for action. Team agreement of the PBIs that will be completed and delivered to the product owner.

Communicate the duration of the sprint (timebox). Definition of completion requirements – what must be “done” for the product owner. During the sprint planning meeting all team members must evaluate the PBIs to be delivered and come to a consensus that they are achievable within the time box of the sprint. This generates commitment to delivering those products at the conclusion of the sprint.
Sprint Planning Meeting, sprint meeting
Sprint Planning Meeting

Sprint Planning Meeting Best Practices

  1. Leaders experienced in sprint planning meetings will yield the most effective results for the sprint and product owner. 
  2. Product owners are charged with presenting their PBIs and priorities to the team.
  3. Questions and solutions are openly encouraged without fear of egos or politics.
  4. Estimates of the effort required to resolve PBIs are well thought-out and agreed to.
  5. For PBIs that are extremely detailed, breakdown estimating into separate tasks to make better use of time and team resources.
  6. Be prepared with more PBIs than expected to be accomplished in the context of the sprint, to allow for prioritization or tasks that may not contain adequate details for estimation by the team. Make every attempt to have each PBI well defined for the team’s review.
  7. The sprint team needs to be cognizant that the scrum master is in charge of the meeting. 
  8. Product owners are participants and contributors as are the other team members. 
  9. Product owners should have PBIs prioritized in advance of the sprint planning meeting, to facilitate the evaluation of tasks to be included in the sprint.
    Read 10 Sprint Planning Meeting Best Practices.
  10. Be sure that all parties agree to the definition of “done” so that there are no disagreements regarding what the deliverable is at the end of the sprint.

Rules for Sprint Planning Meeting 

Some of the most common issues inherent with sprint planning meetings, and sprints, in general, can be reduced greatly by engaging experienced scrum masters and through participation in prior sprints:

Over-commitment – This can be generated by poor estimation practices or requirements that were misstated or incomplete. It may also be that team members’ participation levels were unavoidably reduced or not accurately forecast. This may result in PBIs that are not delivered as promised, which could be moved into a subsequent sprint iteration. Therefore it is important to do the Sprint Capacity Planning to avoid over-commitment. Download Sprint Capacity Planning Excel Template to get head start to your agile project and better resource planning.

Under-commitment – Here again, inaccurate estimates may result in PBIs being in “done” status before the end of the sprint. Product owner and scrum master may determine that additional PBI(s) can be pulled in and completed before the end of the sprint timebox.

Blocks and impediments – Unexpected situations may occur that impair the planned work for team members, such as illness or other activity that makes a resource unavailable. Tracking such instances is important to the sprint so that they can be reported out in the sprint retrospective meeting. There are variations of blocks and impediments: a task block may keep a team member from working on a specific task, which can be discussed in the daily scrum. A general block makes the resource unavailable for any work on sprint tasks, which is obviously more critical to the sprint success.

Having a project plan - while it is important to be flexible in my opinion it also important that you have an agile project plan as part of your project management documents or artifacts.

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