The Benefits of Sprint 0

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Categories: Agile, Project Planning


By Christian Bisson, PMP

As most of you know, scrum works in iterations called “sprints” that can vary in duration depending on the product. However, there is some debate about what people call a “Sprint 0”: a sprint used for planning or prework deliverables that will help launch Sprint 1.

There are no one-size-fits-all ways to work, but personally I believe Sprint 0 is necessary in many cases. Here’s why:

A Minimum of Planning

One big difference between waterfall and agile is how planning works. Waterfall tends to focus a lot (sometimes too much) on planning, while agile tends to be the opposite. For most projects with lots of unknowns, planning too much will be a waste of time because the project will evolve and most of the work done in advance will be wasted. That’s why you plan as you go in agile.

However, when you start a product from scratch (e.g., a website, software, etc.), there are many decisions that will affect the entire product development — some of which can block developers from coding on day one. For example, what is the best programming language/framework to use? Teams need development environments amongst several other tools. This setup can use up a lot of time and prevents work from gettting done if nothing is available. Sprint 0 becomes crucial to give the team time to prepare so they can code properly from the start.

Sprint 0 helps with that by providing a first iteration that allows the team to plan enough for Sprint 1, whether with analysis, wireframes, designs, etc.

Team Orientation 

Chances are, the team has never worked together before. The Sprint 0 approach can help the team set up and get to know each other, which will help them at the sprint planning of Sprint 1.

Other factors to consider are estimating tasks, timing of ceremonies, understanding everyone’s role and so on — all important elements that make or break a team’s efficiency.

It’s also a perfect opportunity for the scrum master to get the lay of the land and identify where to focus first to help the team.

Many would argue that value should be delivered at the end of a sprint.  And Sprint 0 does not offer that to the stakeholders, which is true. However, not much real value will be delivered from a Sprint 1 that is wasted by the complete lack of preparation!

 

What are your thoughts on Sprint 0?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: April 13, 2018 02:08 PM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Thanks, Christian.
Certainly, an interesting perspective. If this approach was chosen, changing the name (Inception over Sprint 0) would differentiate it from the Sprint cycles and not dilute the true essence of the Sprint; delivering [tangible] value.

The team, just like the client, as many others are stakeholders, so if you look at VALUE from a stakeholder perspective, sprint 0 is invaluable for the team for the first phases of "team development"

It's possible, but as Andrew said, it goes against the purpose of a Sprint. Agile does have Iteration 0 for such purposes. Scrum could do the same but I would probably not call it a "Sprint" anything, so we can stay true to the core principles of Scrum. Perhaps as Andrew said, an "Inception" timebox can be performed (if justified) that doesn't have to match the Sprint timebox duration.

Call it Sprint 0, inception (as per DAD) or mobilization - unless you have a long-lived team working with an established product vision and backlog with the necessary underlying infrastructure in place, you need to have some startup activities.

In small, lean organizations, those might be done in a sprint. But in larger companies, it might be cleaner to do those as a startup phase and then start sprinting.

Otherwise, you'll start quick but bog down quickly!

Kiron

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Calling it something entirely different would indeed be a good idea, as Andrew mentioned, it would allow the "Sprints" to keep their intended goal of delivering value, and yet have an iteration to plan Sprint 1.

Cheers.

Awesome information "Voices on Project Management" blog team specially to Christian Bisson. I like the idea of having a sprint 0 since there is a higher possibility to succeed when using Agile methodology. As it was mentioned the team will have the opportunity to know each other but in the case of the company I work for stakeholders will also have that opportunity. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Thanks for sharing..this works more so as the 'forming stage' to get the project team to bond better on dev tasks and therefore Sprint 0 it is

Thank you for this interesting vision!

In every project, there is always a phase of logistics, hardware procurement, setting up environments before coding could begin. Whether we call this Sprint 0 or Inception, it's all symantecs. If a demo and a retrospective is held at the end of Sprint 0, then it is a legitimate Sprint.

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