Pre-project preparation is vital to project management, as it estimates scope, requirements, and resources while outlining project vision and product overview. In an era of growing complexity and limited resources, rapid discovery through methods like Sprint 0 is essential for feasibility and efficient information gathering.
What is Sprint 0?
Sprint 0, also known as “scoping sessions” or “business analysis sprint”, is an effective pre-project planning method that utilizes a framework to identify business needs. It consists of business tools and techniques for planning the initial product story, as well as other project components, including the time, budget, and technological background.
Sample Sprint 0
The multiple ongoing debates around Sprint 0 have sparked a lot of interest among many industry professionals. By allowing teams to get an idea of the work ahead of them, this framework leads to better self-organization and performance in the long run. A sample Sprint 0 involves:
- Backlog items—the team should prepare a list with a prioritized product backlog.
- A well-defined list of non-functional requirements highlighting key aspects such as the environmental setup, architectural design, performance, etc.
- A well-outlined role and set of responsibilities for each team member.
- The team’s expected throughput. This will be used for project planning and to help avert possible risks.
- A design for the project’s roadmap including milestones and a timeline based on the backlog list and the team’s expected throughput.
- The setup environment including the hardware and software tools that are required by the team and have been agreed upon by stakeholders.
- A plan of design requirements with the initial design frameworks
- An agreement on the final vision of the project, and the creation of an architectural vision.
- The development of a Sprint 0 plan in coordination with the road map.
Sprint 0 benefits
The Sprint 0 framework is often considered necessary for handling tasks that need to be done before the onset of a SCRUM project. It is not only about comprehensively planning future items but more about setting out the project vision, designing the initial backlog to align with the vision, and then using the initial estimates together with that information. Sprint 0 has proven to be invaluable in many situations and can provide benefits such as:
#1 Quick project analysis
In an era in which business value is heavily dependent on efficient management and delivery of projects, this framework consists of business analysis tools and techniques for quick project analysis. Product owners can, therefore, formulate better predictions of resources such as the necessary budget, tools, and timeline. Knowing scope and feasibility earlier on allows for making better decisions.
Projects are often not devoid of mistakes but these can be mitigated. The advantage of using Sprint 0 is that it offers a chance to discover and test assumptions and then assess their viability. Besides that, it can be used to divide the project and prepare a workflow that makes it easier to prioritize MVP resources.
#2 Promoting design-centric practices
This methodology gives designers enough time to brainstorm different practices and ideas. In doing so, Sprint 0 promotes creativity, individual growth, teamwork, and better project outcomes without burdening designers.
#3 Delivery planning
Sprints consist of minor iterative cycles that need planning. Project owners need to plan and determine the length of an upcoming sprint. They can assess questions such as how the project’s sprints will relate to the road map, release plan, and feature tests. Besides delivery planning, the framework involves minimal planning. Instead, the priorities are product features and user stories.
#4 Project efficiency
Sprints make project management more efficient by splitting huge complex undertakings into smaller more manageable chunks. This enables teams to produce high-quality work faster and more frequently, giving them more adaptability to change. The fact that a team can get to the crux of a task ahead of time means that they can organize themselves to ultimately perform better due to greater project clarity.
#5 More product insights
With Sprint 0, teams and their relevant stakeholders have a better opportunity to understand the problems they are dealing with. This is because aspects such as testing can take place from day one, and therefore vertical slicing can be done.
#6 Team orientation
For new team members, Sprint 0 offers the best approach to setting a team up and letting the members get to know each other. It is suitable for the onboarding period as it allows organizations to assess each member’s intuitiveness and thinking capabilities.
#7 Maximum team involvement
This approach gives teams the best opportunity to be fully involved in the project. Members can decide to adopt a learning and building cycle during the first sprint. This means that designers can also focus more on design thinking, allowing the developers to take part in setting up the environment.
Sprint 0 universality
There is no one-size-fits all method to work but there are still some businesses and agile teams that consider it a necessity to work with Sprint 0. It is used to first develop a project’s basic skeleton and plumbing in order to ensure that future sprints can truly add incremental value in an effective way.
If you are starting a new project, a new team, or going through an agile transformation, starting with Sprint 0 is a great decision. Its universality is based on the principle that it enables full focus on the project – “Sprint 0 produces everything you need to start working with an agile approach”. It can be used to handle activities such as:
- Architectural planning
- Product backlog creation
- Resourcing a team
- Infrastructure setup
- Test plan composition
Based on the above list, it is evident that this framework is versatile and plays an important role in the success of IT projects, just like SCRUM. As a results, it is ideal for use in developing complex systems, industry 4.0 projects, automation, and autonomy projects, etc.
Sprint 0 controversies
Some agile development teams prefer Sprint 0 and use it to save resources and handle common risks in the software development process. However, there are multiple controversies surrounding it. Some think it is not part of SCRUM, it has a short time-frame, or that it is based on an out of date mentality.
#1 No software delivered at the end of Sprint 0
The main goal of Sprint 0 is to first deliver usable value that the next team can build upon. This involves creating a project’s skeleton, developing a few user stories, and keeping the design minimal.
This feature conflicts with the core elements of SCRUM which basically involve the delivery of a working product for every sprint. This is controversial since if the team does not produce a software product at the end of each sprint, then they are arguably not doing SCRUM.
#2 Not user friendly
To some people, the Sprint 0 framework is not user friendly since it tests products’ needs in a general way. The fact that it needs numerous iterations for simple and complex projects makes it inefficient in testing needs accurately enough.
#3 Unpredictable projects
In a typical Sprint 0 setup environment, the project team would start to shell out on the project development backlog based on a story map created in collaboration with their stakeholders. Meanwhile, developers need to estimate the stories based on the information available. But as the design kicks off, it will inevitably be found that some features quickly outgrow their defined scopes while other features lead to the design of new features. Consequentially, this has made such projects unpredictable, especially when it comes to scope, time, and budget, leading to unpredictable activities and disappointments.
Even though there are controversies, debates, and criticism surrounding the use of Sprint 0 in software development, there is no doubt that Sprint 0 is a well-configured framework that can provide significant beneficial solutions to software development projects if:
- It is customized to meet the unique requirements of different projects.
- We consider the scale of the project.
Key factors for Sprint 0 success
If used effectively, Sprint 0 can help teams attain their project goals and minimize mediocrity or save projects from failing altogether. The software development life cycle’s time-boxed iteration facilitates planning the amount of work for the development team to handle within a set time frame and with pre-defined Sprint goals.
If the development team succeeds in meeting all its goals, then that is a successful sprint. Below is an overview of the key factors that determine Sprint 0’s success in project management.
#1 Set the Sprint 0 goal
Sprint 0 goals are based on the product objectives of the entire team. This allows development teams to come together to develop workable products with minimal user stories, story mapping, and project skeletons. This requires the involvement of developers, system admins, and testers, thereby enhancing the focus and supporting the cohesiveness of teams. It also encourages a collaborative approach by working with the SCRUM team towards similar project goals.
The sprint goal is set after the SCRUM master defines the sprint length. The product owner takes part in the goal setting process and communicates to the development team the stakeholder’s requirements. This will further help the team to redefine the sprint’s goal, setting the pace for its accomplishment.
#2 Set the Sprint 0 length
A sprint length is the period developers work on a single sprint. Generally, sprints in SCRUM have varying lengths, but the most common sprint length is 1-4 weeks. While it is up to the teams to decide what works for them, most sprints in the agile environment lean towards the extreme ends, either one week or four.
Based on the product roadmap defined by the product owner, the SCRUM team will set the defined number of sprints required to accomplish the product goal. Even though the length is versatile, a fixed sprint length is vital for 100% success.
#3 Conduct stakeholder interviews
It is important to identify interested parties in your business project, as well as their requirements, expectations, and possible constraints. The right stakeholders have knowledge of the product and will communicate their expectations clearly and on time.
#4 Inspect existing data
The purpose of inspecting the existing data related to the project is to determine what work has been done to date and use that information to decide the next steps. This includes analyzing technical specifications and customer feedback.
#5 Conduct market research and user research
Market research helps to determine the potential market size and people’s attitudes towards the product. Meanwhile, user research aims to find people’s pain points and the main motivations behind their behavior.
#6 Develop architecture
Apart from the agile team, the project’s success depends on its architecture. This includes the key technologies, systems, and processes to be used. Creating an architectural design gives an
overview of the project’s feasibility by highlighting possible risks.
#7 Resource planning
Resource planning is used to establish the needed resources and implement a roadmap of the key milestones and deadlines. Sprint planning allows agile teams to break down the project items into small components. This allows better clarification of each functional area as well as individual tasks. Thus, teams can function optimally based on effective resource planning. During this stage, the SCRUM master must involve the whole team, with members taking part in story point estimations regarding the goal of the sprint.
#8 Continuously review Sprint 0 deliverables
To create successful sprints, conduct review sessions to refine the information gathered in the discovery or goal setting phase. This helps eliminate unnecessary tasks and enhance proper project planning. Sprint reviews are great opportunities to update stakeholders on what is happening in the organization, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Pre-project activities are important in helping teams create the right product vision and drive forward product quality. Sprint 0 plays a critical role in the success of a wide range of projects due to its effectiveness in identifying business requirements before implementation. It incorporates the different needs of various groups of people, addresses concerns raised by critics, and can be configured to meet unique business needs, regardless of the type and scale of the project. Thus, this framework provides a more effective, efficient, and user-friendly software development process.