Better sprint planning through time tracking

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Time tracking is something we’ve always done at our Web design and development agency, Pelago. When we transitioned into a SaaS company five years ago, with our flagship online software Intervals, the time tracking practices followed with us. Agile development just came naturally to us, and our time tracking habits dovetailed with our rendition of Scrum. As we continue to iterate over our Scrum processes, we have discovered one indispensable fact — time tracking is the key to better sprint planning.

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Better sprint planning through time tracking

  1. 1. Better Sprint Planning through Time TrackingTime tracking is something we’ve always done at our Web design anddevelopment agency, Pelago. When we transitioned into a SaaScompany five years ago, with our flagship online software Intervals, thetime tracking practices followed with us. Agile development just camenaturally to us, and our time tracking habits dovetailed with ourrendition of Scrum. As we continue to iterate over our Scrum processes,we have discovered one indispensable fact — time tracking is the keyto better sprint planning.
  2. 2. Points as TimeSprints are defined by the number of weeks they will take. Agiledevelopment practices recommend planning sprints lasting two, threeor four weeks. Since we are designating the length or our sprints usingunits of time, it makes sense to us to do the same for our stories. Pointsequal time. To avoid the trap of over-analyzing the amount of time foreach story, we have a preset list of bracketed points to choose from —0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 24, 40, 100 are the only estimates allowed. This helps ourdevelopment team answer the question “how big is this story?” as wellas thinking through how many hours this story will require.
  3. 3. In our experience, the estimated amount of effort is different from theactual amount of effort. The word “effort” can be too abstract andinterpreted differently by our development team and Scrum masterduring the sprint planning process. Time tracking data gives us anobjective unit of measurement and common ground to keep the team’ssprint commitments in check. What is lacking in using points is that wecan’t look back at past sprints and compare actual points against theoriginal estimate. Time tracking data let’s us do that. Our sprint plansbecome more refined and accurate moving forward because we havean unobstructed view looking back.
  4. 4. Velocity as TimeVelocity is defined as the amount of effort a development team cancommit to one sprint. We look at velocity as the average number ofweekly hours worked by our team for the past several weeks. Becausewe’ve tracked our time on past sprints, we know how many hours perweek our team can handle. Our three-week sprints have a velocity ofthree times that number Our sprint planning is complete once we havecommitted to a list of tasks whose total estimated points are equal toour velocity.
  5. 5. Time tracking adds perspective and value to Scrum teams usingvelocity to plan and track sprints. Let’s say, for whatever reason, yourteam loses a member. How much effort did that person contribute toyour overall velocity? If we’ve been tracking our time using onlinesoftware, the answer is just a few clicks away. We can find out howmuch time that person contributed to each sprint, as well as the type ofwork they performed. The Product owner and Scrum team can use thisdata to adjust the velocity and plan the next sprint more accurately.
  6. 6. Predict, Track, Learn, Repeat…Scrum sprints are an iterative process. The goal of Agile development isto continually deliver something of value every few weeks. Teams iterateover the product to meet these goals, but they also iterate over theirprocess. Each sprint should be more successful than its predecessor.Sprint retrospectives are held at the end of each sprint to discuss whatwas successful and what wasn’t, and how we can improve. Timetracking data gives the team an objective measure of the last sprintand provides a platform for more accurate point predictions on the nextsprint.
  7. 7. Time is the common unit of measurement we use for establishing sprintlength, velocity, and points. Once we have all three on the same terms,our development team can fully understand expectations, and theScrum master has a baseline for holding the team accountable to itscommitment.
  8. 8. Check out the Inter vals blog for more ar ticles…The Inter vals BlogA collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades ofcollective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.www.myinter vals.com/blogPhoto credits:Time passages by Robert S. DonovanVelocity by Phillip CliffordToday’s Repeating Pattern by Kevin Dooley

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