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Sprint Controls are the project management tools that are used by the Scrum Master and Scrum Team to assess performance.
When to Use Sprint Controls
The two primary controls during a Sprint are the Scrum Board and the Burn Down Chart. These are baselined during the Sprint planning session and are updated daily following the Scrum Team meeting. The Velocity chart is created over a period of several Sprints and is used by the Scrum Master and Product Owner when doing Release planning to size Sprints.
The Agile/Scrum process does not rely on traditional project management tools and techniques. It is not a top-down planned and executed project. The project control tools are therefore quite different.
- The primary tracking tool is the Scrum Board.
- This tool uses the Kanban philosophy. Kanban is a visual scheduling approach that directs an activity to be started based upon a resource becoming available to do the work. Activities are not started and then left on hold, rather they are started and worked through to completion; then the next is started.
- The Scrum Board tracks the current status of all the Stories. They are either in the Sprint backlog waiting to be started, in the Work-In-Process (WIP) column while Scrum Team members are working on them, or in the Done column.
- The final column is the Roadblock column. This is the list of currently identified Roadblocks. The Scrum Master is responsible for finding a workaround for each Roadblock.
- Another column that is often used is the Not Selected column. This contains Stories that were not included in the Sprint Backlog.
- The Scrum Board is initialized during the Sprint Planning meeting when all of the Stories are placed in the Sprint Backlog column. Many times the Stories are further subdivided into Tasks to complete the Story.
- The Scrum Board is maintained by moving the stories from column to column as the work is started and completed. This is usually updated at each Scrum Team meeting, but some Scrum Masters update the Board more frequently.
- The primary topic of Scrum Team meetings is the status of the Stories so this meeting is usually done in front of the Scrum Board.
- The Burn Down Chart is a visual indication of the progress made on the Sprint as compared to the goal.
- The Burn Down Chart shows the amount of estimated effort needed to complete the Sprint Backlog.
- The Burn Down Chart is initialized following the Sprint Planning meeting. At that time all of the estimated effort for all of the Stories and Tasks in the Sprint Backlog are added and the value is the initial value of the vertical axis on the Burn Down Chart. The number of time increments for the Sprint – normally days – is then counted along the horizontal axis. A straight line is drawn from the total effort at Sprint time zero, to the total Sprint time and remaining effort of zero. This is the reference line on the Burn Down Chart.
- At each Scrum Team meeting, the Scrum Team members provide an estimate of the amount of effort needed to complete the open Stories. Following the meeting, the Scrum Master will add these estimates along with the estimate for any Stories that are still in the Sprint Backlog column. The total is then plotted and the team can see how much effort is still required as compared to the original planned estimate.
- Velocity is a measure that is created over a series of several Sprints and is used to better estimate the size of the Sprint Backlog.
- After each Sprint, the original estimate of time for each of the completed Stories from that Sprint are summed together to create a score of how much estimated work was done.
- This score is then tracked over several Sprints to determine a typical or average amount of work.
- This score is also sometimes used to improve the estimating done by Scrum Team members.
- There is often a high degree of volatility in these numbers until the Scrum Team becomes experienced then they stabilize, often with a slight upward trend.
Hints and Tips
- These charts are easy to create and maintain. If they are hard, you are doing something wrong.
- Senior managers and traditional project managers will not understand these tools. They may insist on a Gantt chart or RACI matrix. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to create them. Instead have the Scrum Master meet with them and explain the process.
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