Agile Develop Success, Sprints, Planning and User Experience

In Agile Development, a “sprint” is one iteration of a continuous development cycle. Within a sprint, planned amount of work has to be completed by the team and made ready for review. During the sprint:

  • No changes are made that would endanger the sprint goal
  • Quality goals do not decrease

Sprints are limited to a short period of time (usually no more than a month). Sprints enable predictability by ensuring inspection and adaptation of progress. The short time frame allows organizations to adjust business strategies (pivot) quickly – adjust to changing markets, regulations, technologies, etc. and mitigates risk around quality and cost.

One of keys to a successful sprint is well-defined requirements. Requirements in Agile usually take the form of user stories. Since a sprint is a short amount of time, the user stories must be clear – there isn’t a lot of time for discovery when the clock is ticking to get the work done (and tested). If your user stories are not clear then you are not sprinting, you are walking. And if you introduce new stories in a sprint, you are not evening walking but crawling.

Prior to a sprint, is sprint planning. This is where the sprint team looks at the product backlog (list of requirements) and selects as many of the highest priority requirements (user stories) that they can complete in the sprint. This is the time to ensure complete understanding of the user stories and do any needed discovery.

It is up to the Product Owner to ensure that the product backlog has well defined requirements ahead of each sprint (development cycle). In addition to user stories, there may be user experience (UX) requirements that also need to be well defined prior to the sprint that needs them. UX requirements may take the form of wireframes, prototypes and/or specifications.

For the product backlog to be properly “groomed” (managed) ahead of the development cycle, requires planning. This is product planning. Product managers use tools like user story maps and product roadmaps to plan for releases. Good UX has its own UX roadmap that follows the product roadmap and realizes the experience designs needed for each release.

For more on UX in Agile, read Easy to Use 2.0.