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Agile Sprint Cycle: Definition, Execution, and Steps Explained

 / July 05, 2022

If you plan to learn about Scrum and Agile frameworks, understanding the sprint cycle is a necessity. This important concept elaborates on how agile teams can continuously release early and new versions of software to the market in no time. In this article, Designveloper will give you fundamentals to find out:

  • the definition of the agile sprint cycle
  • its potential benefits in agile development
  • how the sprint cycle is conducted
  • tips for the effective sprint cycle

Recommended reading: What is Agile Software development?

What Is the Sprint Cycle?

To understand what the sprint cycle is, you should learn about the sprint first. By definition, sprints are timeboxed phases in which small, manageable increments broken down from a large project will be completed. These periods often last from one to four weeks. 

What is the sprint cycle?
What is the sprint cycle?

Accordingly, the agile sprint cycle includes a limitless series of repetitive iterations to manage an ongoing project. Right after one sprint wraps up with a successful outcome in a predefined period, the next one will commence.

The sprint cycle requires the involvement of three critical players including:

  • The product owner – represent stakeholders to interpret their requirements, establish the sprint goal and vision for product development and identify user stories; 
  • Development team – build a product’s features and functionality;
  • The scrum master/ team lead – act as a bridge between the development team and the client, give instructions to ensure seamless performance, and manage team communication;
  • Stakeholders – external persons who indirectly affect the product development process, such as end-users or investors. 
FURTHER READING:
1. Agile Software Development Life Cycle Guide
2. 6 Agile Project Management Tools That You Should Know in 2022
3. Pros and Cons of Agile Methodology: Which Team Should Apply This Model
4. 12 Agile Principles and How It Looks in Practice
5. The Agile Mindset: What do you need to focus on?
6. Agile Sprint Planning: Definition and Generic Guides in 2022
Agile methodology topic

The Benefits of the Sprint Cycle in Agile Development

The benefits of the sprint cycle
The benefits of the sprint cycle

The sprint cycle is the heart of agile frameworks. And it contributes to the success of your product development as well as project progression for some reasons. Below is a detailed list of outstanding benefits the sprint cycle brings to agile teams:

FURTHER READING:
1. Agile vs Traditional Project Management: Key Points in 2022
2. Agile vs Scrum Methodology: Major Differences to Consider
3. Agile vs Waterfall Project Management What to Pick in 2022
4. Agile vs Kanban vs Waterfall: Definition, Purpose, Disadvantages, and Perform

1. Cost-Effectiveness

The sprint cycle helps your team develop a digital solution with cost advantages. Traditional approaches focus on building a complete product whose functions may become superfluous or old-fashioned at the time of launch. Re-developing a product from scratch proves cost-wasting. Not to mention that detecting flaws and debugging afterward can consume a significant amount of the budget. That’s why agile methods come into play to solve this problem.

2. Agility/Flexibility 

The evolving requirements of end-users make traditional development teams hardly build a complete product that satisfies them. But this problem is easily solved with the introduction of agile and scrum. 

When an entire project is divided into controllable pieces of work, agile teams can develop high-fidelity parts of software faster with higher regularity. This sprint method, in other words, allows them to release a minimum viable product with enough major features to customers. Based on feedback, they can frequently launch updated releases to meet the increased demands of customers. 

For this reason, the agile sprint cycle enables team members to quickly adapt to changes in market trends or user expectations. 

3. Improved Business Engagement and Customer Satisfaction 

The sprint cycle allows all agile team members to engage in product development. The product owner and stakeholders can speak up about their ideas from a business perspective. Meanwhile, a development team takes part in the technical analysis of a product. Beyond that, rapid releases allow team members to better understand user stories through user responses and make later improvements. Meeting user expectations promptly increases customer satisfaction. 

4. Higher Team Productivity

Working over sprints requires team members to frequently join agile ceremonies such as sprint planning, daily stand-up meetings, or sprint review. These meetings allow them to build a transparent, cooperative environment for constructive discussions and free access to information. This helps boost team collaboration, freedom to speak up without fear of being criticized, team morale, and productivity. 

5. Risk Mitigation

Risk mitigation is one of the visible advantages any agile team can receive from the sprint cycle. When the Designveloper team works on the agile methodology, we split massive workloads into smaller parts. This helps us quickly detect troubleshoots before they grow worse. Also, whenever bugs or flaws arise, we can make immediate tests and corrections within a sprint. So it mitigates the possibility of project failures and ensures the high quality of a product.

FURTHER READING:
1. What is Software Development Life Cycle Waterfall Model?
2. 10 Software Project Management Methodologies for Software Development
3. The Importance of Scrum to a software product
4. How to apply Scrum to your Software Development Company

Essential Stages in the Agile Sprint Cycle

Stages in the agile sprint cycle
Stages in the agile sprint cycle

The typical sprint cycle entails five major steps as follows:

1. Product Backlog Refinement

A product backlog is a detailed list of prioritized items determined by the product owner. To guarantee all items are ready to move to the next sprint, a backlog grooming (or a backlog refinement) meeting needs organizing. 

In this session, the agile or scrum team will analyze the product backlog items. They estimate how many tasks are essential and how long it takes to complete those items. This stage aims to refine items to clearer or smaller user stories that development team members commit to complete within the sprint. 

2. Sprint Planning

Next, the team holds a sprint planning session to define the sprint goal. They then discuss to pick up which well-groomed user stories should be prioritized to help them achieve that goal. Chosen backlog items are put into the Sprint Backlog after members reach a consensus. Besides new items, the sprint backlog can cover fixes for incurred problems from the previous sprint.

3. Implementation

One noticeable feature of the agile sprint is daily standup meetings that take around 10 to 15 minutes. These meetings are essential for members to communicate openly and see how the work is progressing. Accordingly, they will describe tasks they completed the day before and tasks they plan to complete that day. 

They can describe stumbling blocks they encounter. The development team then work with other parties (i.e. the product owner and the scrum master) to solve such obstacles.  

4. Sprint Review

The sprint review is when developers showcase their work to the product owner and stakeholders. All the parties examine the work and infer which should be modified. 

5. Sprint Retrospective

The sprint retrospective meeting is held so that all the members can do a self-assessment of their outcomes and working process. They will determine what and how they should improve. Also, they can look back at the ways they work and cooperate with others and find out how to work smarter. 

Do’s and Don’ts for the Productive Sprint Cycle

meeting with team

Understanding the agile sprint cycle doesn’t translate to your ability to conduct an effective process. Based on years of experience with agile methodology, Designveloper summarizes what you should or shouldn’t do to ensure the sprint cycle’s efficiency:

Do’s

  • Your team should understand its capacity and available resources. The product owner and the tech lead should establish realistic goals and determine how to measure the sprint’s success. Also, they should ensure all development members understand those objectives and user stories so that they can work in the same direction.
  • The product owner should design a refined backlog with proper priorities. 
  • Your team should build a good knowledge of velocity to calculate agile velocity accurately. 
  • Your team should make good use of sprint planning sessions to identify which backlog items are ready for execution. The product owner and the tech lead should motivate members to brief how they work on chosen user stories and fixes. Also, it’s essential to allocate time for QA and testing as well. 
  • Your team should estimate how big user stories are. Accordingly, members should work together to remove work that is complicated, not ready or comes with low certainty.
  • The tech lead should ensure an open, cooperative workspace to encourage members to communicate effectively. This promotes their positive collaboration and contributions even in sprint planning or daily standups. 

Don’ts

  • The product owner shouldn’t give team members a vague insight into what’s happing in the sprint. The owner, together with the tech lead, shouldn’t urge their members to work fast, but rather work sensibly toward the common direction.
  • Your team shouldn’t take over too many items and tasks or overestimate the team’s capabilities. This can make your team fail to reach predetermined goals.
  • Your team shouldn’t focus so much on speeding up the work that you ignore a product’s quality and possible technical debt.
  • Your team shouldn’t engage in high-volume or high-risk tasks. Team members should get together to seek proper solutions to deal with such work and leave them for upcoming sprints.
  • The product owner and the tech lead shouldn’t abandon any problems faced by members (e.g. highly uncertain tasks or overestimation). Once again, all members should find ways to resolve such concerns and make necessary adjustments. 

Conclusion

meeting with agile sprint cycle

Today, agile or scrum methods with sprints are key factors to boost the launch of working software in the market. Working with the agile development process for many years, Designveloper acknowledges the importance of the agile sprint cycle. There’s no standard formula for a perfect cycle. And understanding this terminology superficially is not enough. Practicing sprint methods, making changes to suit your business, and building the agile mindset is what teams are doing to manage projects resourcefully.

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