While not officially a part of the SCRUM Framework, sprint pre-planning is an additional step that many agile teams have begun incorporating into their development workflows. It helps improve team coordination and ensures that the actual planning session doesn’t veer off course.
Since there’s no formalized process, the contents of the pre-planning session can vary across teams. However, the agenda typically focuses on coordinating with product owners to finalize the sprint backlog and come up with rough story points.
At 7pace, our product team is always looking for new ways to improve our collective workflow. That is why we’ve created a simple framework to make the most out of our pre-planning sessions when we choose to have them.
Want to learn how our product leads use pre-planning to empower team members without slowing them down? Keep reading!
What Is Sprint Pre-Planning?
Sprint pre-planning is an additional step that agile PMs sometimes use to improve the productivity of the actual sprint planning meeting. It typically involves team members gathering in advance to discuss the upcoming goals and objectives, review the backlog, and produce a general timeline for the sprint.
Though pre-planning is not an official part of the SCRUM Framework, it’s often a necessary step for project managers taking on complicated projects to improve collaboration and keep things on track throughout the sprint planning session.
Still, we use these sessions carefully and sparingly at 7pace, as over-strategization can have a negative impact on a team’s efficiency. We try to keep things pretty simple, which is why we have a three-step framework that project managers use to conduct each pre-planning session:
Step 1: Set a Comprehensive Agenda
Led by the Scrum Master, the pre-planning session should have a clear agenda — ideally in the form of a checklist or kanban. At 7pace, our agenda usually includes items such as:
Finalizing sprint goals and objectives
Assigning tasks and roles to team members
Discussing strategies and contingencies
Identifying any specific tools that need to be used
Establishing a points system for the product backlog
Step 2: Conduct the Main Event
Once the agenda is set and the team is ready to begin, make sure to establish a process for conducting the session. This might include assigning a facilitator, having designated times for team members to speak, and establishing ground rules to make sure the session is effective and efficient.
The facilitator should also report back to the team on any updates or relevant information that comes up during the session. This helps ensure that everyone is up to date on progress and decisions as they prepare for the upcoming sprint.
Pro Tip: You can timebox sessions to ensure that the pre-planning meeting stays on track and that everyone is given adequate time to contribute. Set guidelines for how long team members can speak, provide a clear timeline for the session, and address any issues that come up in a timely manner.
Step 3: Document the Whole Process
You can use a task board or project management tool like Trello to document pre-planning sessions for your development team. You can also save audio and video recordings for the whole team in the cloud so that the information is easily accessible.
In addition to documenting the session, the project manager should also provide a summary roadmap for all stakeholders that lays out the decisions that were made during the session. You should also take note of any decisions that need to be revisited or addressed in the future.
Collecting and Analyzing Historical Data Is Crucial to the Pre-Planning Process
As an agile PM, you should be constantly collecting historical data to better understand your team and product. You can use that historical data to guide the pre-planning process just like you would during the planning event.
For example, the data can be analyzed to identify areas of improvement from the last sprint, build out more accurate objectives for the next sprint, and create an informed story points system for the feature set. Gathering and analyzing data can also help team members not to approach their tasks with a blank-slate mentality.
Look at feedback and analytics from previous sprints to identify what changes should be made and what goals should be prioritized. Then, use that information to set realistic expectations for the sprint.
Collect Historical Data Natively Inside Your Development Environment With 7pace
7pace is more than a time-tracker. It’s a performance management tool built natively into your development environment, available as an addon for Azure DevOps and Github.
Our platform combines tracking, automation, insights, PPM, EVM, and OpEx to create the ultimate utility for product managers at high-growth organizations. A few software development teams that use our suite of tools to collect and analyze historical data include Deloitte, Xerox, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Siemens, and Motorola.