Effective planning and work management in Scrum

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Effective planning and work management in Scrum

Effective and efficient work planning plays a crucial role in the success of the Scrum methodology. In a dynamic business environment, it is essential to have the right strategy and tools to manage a project effectively. Sprint Planning is one of the key events in Scrum, enabling the team to develop an action plan for the upcoming sprint.
Do you want to learn what sprint planning is, the methods of estimation, and how to engage the team? You will find all of this in the following part of the article.

Sprint Planning: Organizing the Team’s Work

Scrum is an agile project management methodology that allows for a flexible and iterative approach to work. Sprint Planning is one of the key events in Scrum, which takes place at the beginning of each sprint. It is a meeting where the team and Scrum Master define goals and scope of work for the upcoming sprint.

The sprint planning meeting is divided into two parts: the first part focuses on setting sprint goals, and the second part involves creating a detailed action plan. During the first part, the Product Owner presents their vision and goals for the sprint. The team asks questions and clarifies any uncertainties to better understand the expectations. Then, the Scrum Team collectively decides which items will be added to the sprint backlog.

The second part focuses on breaking down the sprint backlog into specific tasks that will be executed during the sprint. Tasks are documented on task cards (known as user stories). Task cards should be specific, clear, and understandable to all team members. Often, tools are used to manage tasks, preventing chaos and allowing for progress tracking. Some popular tools for this purpose include:

  • Jira – is one of the most popular project management and progress tracking tools. Developed by Atlassian, Jira offers a wide range of features and flexibility, making it an ideal tool for teams working in the Scrum methodology. It allows for backlog creation, task tracking, priority assignment, scheduling, progress reporting, and much more. Jira also enables integration with other tools such as Confluence (for documentation) and Bitbucket (for version control).

Visualization of the jira program panel

  • Azure DevOps – is a comprehensive application lifecycle management platform. Developed by Microsoft, it is widely used for project management, including in the Scrum methodology. Azure DevOps offers diverse functionalities, including backlog management, task tracking, source code version control, automation of CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment) processes, and much more. The platform is fully integrated with other Microsoft Azure cloud services, enabling easy integration and access to advanced DevOps capabilities.

Azure DevOps Board

To ensure successful planning in Scrum, it is important to involve the entire team. All members should have the opportunity to contribute to the sprint goals, scope of work, and task estimation. Everyone should have a voice and the ability to express their opinions and concerns. The Scrum Master’s role is to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and that everyone is engaged. It is also important to focus the planning on outcomes and goals rather than just task lists. During the meeting, it is advisable to avoid getting too deep into technical details that may distract from achieving the main sprint objectives. The aim of planning is to create a clear action plan that will serve as a foundation for the work to be done during the sprint.

Below are the general steps typically taken during planning in Scrum:

Introducing the steps in a sprint

Task estimation – approaches for precise planning in Scrum

Task estimation is an integral part of planning and project management in the Scrum methodology. We often ask ourselves: why is it worth taking the time to accurately determine the difficulty and time required for tasks? The answer is simple: precise estimations allow for better project oversight, minimize the risk of delays, and enable effective deadline predictions.

When undertaking a project, it is important to be able to estimate the time and effort needed to complete each task. Estimations help the Scrum team determine which tasks can be accomplished within a single sprint and how long the entire project will take. They also aid in understanding requirements and priorities, as well as identifying potential difficulties or risks. It is crucial for estimations to align as closely as possible with the actual task completion time. Overestimating or underestimating the time can lead to improper sprint planning, team overload, or a loss of trust from clients or stakeholders. Therefore, consistent and accurate estimations are key to effective Scrum team work.

In Scrum, it is common to use time units called “Story Points,” which reflect the task’s difficulty and complexity rather than its direct time requirement. Estimations are typically based on team discussion and comparing tasks to those already completed in previous sprints.

In the Scrum methodology, several popular methods of task estimation exist to help the team determine the difficulty and complexity of tasks. Here are a few of these methods:

  1. Story Points: The Story Points method involves assigning numerical values to tasks based on their relative difficulty. The team discusses and compares tasks to others that have been previously completed, and assigns them appropriate numbers. For example, if a certain task is considered twice as difficult as another, it may be assigned twice as many points. This estimation takes into account both time and other factors such as risk, technical complexity, or uncertainty.
  2. Planning Poker: Planning Poker is an estimation technique where the team discusses and simultaneously evaluates tasks. Each team member receives a set of cards with numerical values (often using the Fibonacci sequence, such as 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc.). Tasks are presented, and team members simultaneously reveal their cards with the chosen values. If there are significant differences in the assessments, a discussion takes place until consensus or at least agreement is reached in task estimation.
  3. T-Shirt Sizes: T-Shirt Sizes involve assigning tasks to different T-shirt sizes (e.g., XS, S, M, L, XL) based on their difficulty and complexity. This method is more subjective and serves for quick estimation without the need for detailed discussions. Team members compare tasks to different T-shirt sizes representing different levels of difficulty.

It is important for the team to choose an estimation method that best fits their needs and is most effective for a given project. Regardless of the chosen method, the involvement of the entire team is crucial. This allows for a better understanding of the task, incorporates diverse perspectives, and achieves more accurate estimations, contributing to more effective planning and implementation of sprints in the Scrum methodology.

Does effective work planning mean project success?

Effective planning is a critical factor that influences project success, but it is not the sole determining factor. Efficient planning provides a solid foundation and structure for the project, enabling the team to focus on achieving goals and delivering valuable outcomes. Effective planning helps the team understand the scope of work, define objectives, establish a schedule, assign tasks, and track progress. This allows for better resource management, minimizes the risk of delays, and eliminates inconsistencies between client expectations and delivered products.

However, for the project to be successful, effective execution of the established plan, proper risk management, adaptability to changing conditions, and efficient communication and collaboration within the team are also crucial. Factors such as team members’ competencies, resource availability, as well as appropriate time and budget management, also contribute to this. If you want to find out whether there is a chance for better project management, schedule a consultation with our Project Manager, who will help improve the project process in your company:

About The Author
Izabela Węgrecka

Izabela is a Project Manager and Scrum Master with 6 years of experience in the IT industry. She has experience in leading diverse projects and effectively managing teams. She's a leader with the ability to create cohesive and efficient teams based on Scrum values. Regardless of the project's scale, she's able to establish a dynamic environment where collaboration, innovation, and delivering valuable products take precedence.