Friday, July 7, 2017

How to survive your first agile sprint (AKA: Sprint zero) | David Tzemach


If you’re about to make the transition from traditional SDLC methodologies such as the ‘Waterfall’ model to scrum, or once you already using scrum in a new project, you should know that values and benefits of “Sprint Zero” prior to starting the project.

In the last few years we can see that the concept of “Sprint Zero” has become more and more popular among many teams and just because of that it is worth to discuss it, it’s you choose rather use it or not, but it’s important that you know it’s there.

תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪scrum sprint zero‬‏

Why people resist the concept of Sprint zero?

Let’s put it on the table, sprint zero is NOT part of the official scrum guide. Sprint zero was established during the last few years once organization saw the need to establish the major scrum artifacts (Roles, Goals, Backlogs Etc.) Prior to starting a scrum project, and once you think about it, do you really believe that organizations will approve the start of any project prior to actually plan it?Of course not, there is a huge difference between the theoretical concept and the actual implementation process, and based on this delta organization should adjust and bend the preliminary rules to meet their needs (Call it evolution or need, your choice).  

So why people are still resisting the concept of sprint zero? Let’s review the four major claims:

  1. As I already said before, sprint zero is not part of the official scrum guide, that’s a simple solid fact, and people that go by the rules will find it very difficult to follow it.
  2. Sprint zero encounters one of the major scrum rules of “Continues incremental Delivery”, yes you do not provide any value for the client in this sprint, but is there any logic to start a project without a solid preliminary preparation? No!
  3. Scrum or waterfall? Another complaint is that sprint zero is more relevant to the traditional methodologies and not relevant to scrum, and there is a point in that complain, because the activities involve in sprint zero are very similar to the planning and design phases of the waterfall model.
  4. Sprint zero indicates that the organization is still not ready to move away from waterfall model that provide him the ability to have more enforcement and control on the team.  

What is the main goal of sprint zero?

There are many activities and goals that we want to achieve during sprint zero, but if I need to choose the most important one, I will say that the main goal of sprint zero is to allow the teams to provide real business value as expected in scrum process for the upcoming sprints and therefore it's probably the main criteria that should be used to determine the success of sprint zero.

The length of sprint zero

Same as any other sprint, this sprint should be set with a specific timeframe, now, some organizations will determine the sprint length based on the same timeframe they will use in the next sprints (2-4 weeks) but in other organizations, the sprint length is between 1-4 days.

When can we start sprint 1?

There is no need to wait once sprint zero is done, but my suggestion is to let the team one day to clear their minds and prepare themselves for the upcoming challenges.

Activities of sprint zero

The major activities of sprint zero:
  • Training about both the mindset and technical aspects of agile.
  • Getting the senior management commitment to the process.
  • Performing the preliminary research of the project (Spikes).
  • Deciding the testing approach (Automation Vs Manual).
  • Enhance domain knowledge of the scrum participants.
  • Define the Coding and Testing standards.
  • Setting up the project goals and vision.
  • Prioritization of the major stories.
  • Setting up the project backlogs with requirements (A.K.A – User stories) that will be used during the upcoming sprints.
  • Preparing the team environment.

1 comment:

  1. Sprint zero triggers a lot of arguments. I believe if you start a new product, you will need it. However, if you start another release of the same products, then I would try to avoid that as much as possible, because it is very easy to turn it into a Scrumfall. Identify the top backlog and start. Yes, there will be spikes, but they can be throughout the sprints, not all in sprint zero. From business perspective, I recommend to split commitment into 2 groups - committed content and stretched content. This is the path we have chose. After all, we, as human beings, are bad estimators (especially in the technology domain where there are so many moving parts). Sprint zero will not result a commitment that won't change.


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