<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=443149619225659&ev=PageView&noscript=1"> How To Use Sprint Zero To Prepare An Agile Software Development Project

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How To Use Sprint Zero To Prepare An Agile Software Development Project

How To Use Sprint Zero To Prepare An Agile Software Development Project

For teams that are relatively new to Agile software development practices, following the right processes accurately is sometimes a challenge. This is especially true for companies making their initial attempt after years of using Waterfall practices.

The Purpose Of Sprint Zero

Sprint Zero enables software development teams to ramp up at the beginning of an engagement. It happens after the objectives and scope of the project is established in a Discovery or Project Initiation/Inception activity. This sprint should be treated just like any other sprint, although it may be a longer one than normal. The sprint should be a technical setup and process alignment stage, in which the team should:

  1. Create the basic architecture and infrastructure for the project and start building your DevOps infrastructure
  2. Define the basic UX concepts to be used
  3. Set up development, QA, communication and collaboration tools and environments
  4. Identify and groom the initial product backlog
  5. Hold a sprint planning session for the first few sprints
  6. Incorporate a kickoff ceremony with the team to communicate and clarify roles and responsibilities, and to share the product vision and project expectations

Build up momentum and work out details for the first few sprints during this period. If you  don't have a project management tool, you should decide whether to use JIRA or TFS to start building your product backlog and ensure everyone on your team has access to the tools. Team members should also agree on how they’re going to work together.

Any additional work is defined at the epic level as opposed to the level of user stories. There may be more research spikes than usual in this sprint as the team looks for best ways to build the product.

Common Mistakes Made In Sprint Zero

It is important to preserve the Agile nature in which you build value incremental value in an efficient way. This means that you should not be spending too much time doing a lot of planning and designing in Sprint Zero. One of the pitfalls of using Sprint Zero as a planning stage in an Agile software development project is that you may establish a dangerous precedent: you fall back into Waterfall mode.

One common mistake in Sprint Zero is to design the final product by completing the product backlog to the user story level in Sprint Zero. While this may make senior leaders happy, it doesn’t take into account that user stories and their priorities will change throughout the project. It also doesn’t take into account what the team thinks it will take to deliver the stories, distancing yourself from realistic estimation and disempowering the team from owning the backlog.

Leaders who actively “guide” the team by completely planning the work in Sprint Zero inadvertently create a hierarchy that tends to focus on following task assignments and reporting statuses, which is not the culture of Agile. You should aim for a flat organization in which your team takes ownership and works to deliver value independently.

Benefits Of Sprint Zero When Executed Correctly

Sprint Zero improves your team’s confidence for how they will execute a project. Developers gain a better understanding of the work ahead of them, evaluate information and ask questions.

Most importantly, Sprint Zero is a time for your team to self-organize and identify the right method for delivering a project, without top-down management and nonscientific planning impeding their progress. It also allows time for architects to research and identify the appropriate architectural approach so that the team aren't having to make huge technical pivots during the course of the project.

As you begin your agile software development project, don’t overlook the importance of getting your footing. Sprint Zero time-blocks the necessary technical activities the team needs before starting development.

Instead of slowing down development later, work with your team and business stakeholders to establish a solid foundation for development. Your payoff will be a more fluid development process, a happier team and a higher likelihood of creating a valuable end product.

Author's Note:

This blog was originally posted on June 9th, 2016, but has been updated with new insights and applications for relevance.

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About the author

Rob joined Small Footprint as an Engagement Manager and Senior Consultant in January 2010 and now serves as VP Global Practices & Strategy.

He has over 25 years of experience in technology leadership positions at start-ups and major corporations. He has held a number of executive positions (C-level, VP, and Director) in Application Development and Enterprise Architecture directing small and large professional teams at companies such as GMAC Financial Services, United Airlines, Comdisco, and SHLSystemhouse (EDS). He has significant experience in building large scale enterprise solutions and eBusiness systems.

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