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3 Steps to More Effective Sprint Planning

Sprint planning is a crucial part of implementing Agile Methodology. In Agile, development is carried out in short streams of activity through product cycles known as sprints. The duration of the sprint, a sprint goal, and a sprint backlog are all defined in the sprint planning meeting.

Effective planning is crucial to success – and while that may seem simple, it’s something that’s easy for busy developers and product specialists to overlook.

Here are the three practices I’ve implemented to promote more effective sprint planning at QASymphony:

1. Constantly Map Your Mind

When you have ideas about your products, they need to get out of your head. Right now I’m juggling a full-time job, master’s degree, and a family so I always have a lot on my mind. In order to deal with my daily tasks, ideas, and issues effectively, I need to get theses ideas out my head in order to visualize the workload.

There is an increasing popularity in creating mind maps through tools such as xMind or other mind-mapping software tools. Start by putting all features and improvements onto a map without categorizing them. As your mind becomes clear, you will be able to start visually grouping them into product areas of your applications or into collective thoughts. For example, a product idea that made it to one of our mind maps was a Mac OS version of qTest eXplorer.

2. Prioritize as You Plan

Late last summer, our team went off-site and came back with tons of ideas to add to our mind maps. It was also consistently clear that when we spoke with Mac OS users they wanted a version of qTest eXplorer they could use across browser platforms. This demand from our current and potential customers and market indicators led us to prioritize an eXplorer version for Mac Users for our December 2014 release. Since this became a top priority, we had to re-prioritize our current improvement and enhancements that were already scheduled apart of our release sprints. Our focus then became, what is the minimum viable product that can encompass our Mac OS version of eXplorer.

3. Identify and Track Your Minimum Viable Products (MVPs)

Our team went into our Q4 2014 sprint planning meeting knowing that creating a Mac Desktop app would be out of scope for the December release. We also knew that we would be neglecting Linux OS users if we only focused on Mac users. The resulting Web eXplorer is a new browser based plugin that brings the recording power of eXplorer to Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. With this new plugin, you can now automatically document Web Testing on Mac and Linux machines, with the recordings being stored centrally in the cloud, the Session Manager module of qTest. We were able to combine the already planned Session Manager, another mind map idea, and Web eXplorer into a collective thought that satisfied an MVP.

At QASymphony, we make sure that the minimal viable products are incorporated into our initial scope. We seek to innovate first and foremost, improving on our matured products. Market conditions are constantly changing, leading all of us to question features and their scope. If our current set of improvements are not as critical, then we shift time and energy to update the ever-evolving roadmap and our MVPs.

Mind-mapping, prioritizing, and identifying and tracking our MVPs have been key steps toward more effective sprint planning for us at QASymphony. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with sprint planning! Please share your ideas and tips in the comments below.

Ryan Yackel is a Senior Product Specialist for QASymphony, striving to ensure the continued success of existing and prospective members of the qTest community. As a former barista, his love of specialty coffee knows no bounds. feel free to drop him a line at ryanyackel@qasymphony.com

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