How Do Sprint Cycles Work in Agile Development? - 7pace
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Published:Sep 22, 2022

How Do Sprint Cycles Work in Agile Development?

Sprints are the lifeblood of agile project management and planning them well is key to completing your user stories successfully and on time.

That’s why you need a repetitive process that you can follow each time you have to take on a new sprint. Technically, every sprint is made of four steps: planning, execution, review, and retrospective. This is what makes up the sprint cycle.

But simply knowing these steps isn’t enough. You need data to help you figure out the best way to tackle each sprint with maximum efficiency and speed. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at everything you need to know as a software development manager working on a software project to effectively plan and manage your next sprint.

What Is a Sprint Cycle: Understanding Key Terms

Scrum is a framework for solving problems and completing tasks in increments. Developers use it to take on complex projects by breaking them into smaller tasks.

According to the official Scrum Guide, an agile sprint is a fixed-length period of time that can span between a few days to an entire month. During this period of time, a development team works together to tackle a specific developmental task, also known as a user story.

A sprint cycle is a repetitive process that the scrum master and the scrum team must follow throughout the course of a sprint. It consists of five elements in total: sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review, and sprint retrospective — with the fifth element being the sprint itself, which is made up of the other four elements.

Understanding the sprint cycle and the scrum framework is vital to efficient sprint management, but it still doesn’t give you everything you need. There are best practices you can follow and data you can use to further enrich the agile methodology and scrum process. We’ll take a look at all of that below.

steps within a sprint cycle

The 4 Steps Within a Sprint Cycle

Before we jump into the four steps involved in a sprint cycle, let’s take a look at the various roles involved in the process of planning and executing a sprint:

  • Product Owner: The job of the product owner is to both own and manage profit and loss scenarios because they’re the ones with the actual stakes in the software product. Their day-to-day responsibilities include managing the product backlog and defining user stories with their in-depth knowledge of the product and its end users.
  • Scrum Master: The scrum master is basically the project manager on the team, who keeps track of individual and overall progress and helps the team achieve maximum efficiency within scrum rules. They perform important functions like holding daily standup meetings, hosting sprint planning sessions, assessing team members’ progress, and much more.
  • Development Team: The development team is responsible for the sizeable task of developing the software product as per the product vision, from designing the interface to writing essential code to ironing out bugs. They usually report to the project manager or scrum master.

Let’s move on to the sprint cycle itself, along with the steps involved in the process. The sprint cycle is made of four steps, as defined by the official Scrum Guide. Here they are in full detail:

  • Sprint Planning: The planning session is where the stakeholders and the development team sit together to determine the sprint goal. This is also where they figure out how the work will get done by defining the user stories to focus on during this iteration.
  • Daily Scrum: The daily standup is a way for project managers or scrum masters to stay in the loop with all the team members’ activities and progress. At the start of every day, the project manager holds a standup session where each team member reports on their work so far and addresses any roadblocks they might have encountered.
  • Sprint Review: During the review session, the agile team showcases their work throughout the sprint to stakeholders and other team members. This is the chance to address any discrepancies or disagreements before the work hits production.
  • Sprint Retrospective: At the end of the sprint cycle, the team exchanges ideas about what went right and wrong with the current cycle and suggests ways to improve on the upcoming sprint. It’s an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and further refine the sprint cycle.

Tips for Developing an Effective Sprint Cycle

Now that you understand the sprint cycle, here are some quick do’s and don’t’s to help you improve the process and make it more efficient:

  • Keep the entire team on the same page by setting a clear sprint goal and key performance indicators to measure success. Apart from being aware of their individual responsibilities, team members should also know and understand the overarching goal.
  • Create a comprehensive sprint backlogthat takes all priorities and dependencies into account. If your tasks aren’t in order, that can lead to interruptions and roadblocks for your team down the line.
  • Use data to estimate a time frame for each story and sprint, while also keeping in mind potential time-eaters such as team meetings and internal friction. The more data you collect, the better your estimates for time and effort will be.
  • Use tools to enable your sprint management process. With the right software, you can easily automate menial tasks in project management, time tracking, data sharing, and online collaboration. Example: Jira, 7pace, Monday.com, Google Workspace, etc.
importance of time tracking

Use Data to Make Your Sprint Cycles More Efficient With 7pace

The key to success in sprint management is to be extremely efficient, part of which comes from knowing when to do things manually and when to automate. With the right tools and software, you can save time and energy by delegating repetitive tasks to technology.

7pace is a time-tracking tool that automates the process of collecting and analyzing essential data and insights, all for the purpose of making your development team more efficient. While most time-trackers are built for invoicing or micromanagement, 7pace breaks the mold by being the only time-tracking extension built specifically for software development project managers and developers.

Fancy being able to track your hours, collect performance data, and view productivity insights without ever leaving your familiar development environment? 7pace works as a seamless extension for Azure DevOps, Azure Boards, and Github to give you the most native time-tracking experience.

Want to see how the magic happens? Download the 7pace extension today to get started!

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