Tom Nason Team : Project Manager Tags : Business Management Featured

Sprint Zero: Kicking off a Scrum project the right way

Tom Nason Team : Project Manager Tags : Business Management Featured

The Scrum framework centres around the delivery of value in rapid, iterative cycles.

Rather than preparing and working to a fixed Specification Document we prioritise our way through ever-evolving Product Backlog.

In place of distant, arbitrary launch dates, we arrange Product Roadmaps which lay out sequential Sprints, each resulting in a production release.

Short cycle times promote frequent feedback from the customer, allowing stakeholders to rapidly validate assumptions, reduce risk and adjust trajectory as required. This is perfectly suited to software projects, which are inherently complex and often riddled with unknowns.

This approach sounds like a great solution to many of the problems faced in traditional waterfall-driven projects, and it is. But how do we get started if we don’t have a Specification Document to anchor the team around? How do we know what technologies to use, or how to structure the system?

Introducing Sprint Zero

The goal of this initial preparatory Sprint is to front-load any work necessary to allow the teams to commence Sprint 1 effectively and without impediments. This includes preparing the Project Roadmap, creating the basic skeleton and plumbing for the project and readying the team for feature development.

Sprint Zero follows the same rules as regular Sprints:

  • Fixed in length (typically 2 weeks)
  • Begins with Sprint Planning
  • A cross-functional Scrum team works through a list of priority Backlog Items (Stories, Non-Functional Requirements)
  • Completed work is demonstrated
  • Concludes with a Retrospective

This consistency helps build a rhythm within the team that will persist through subsequent Sprints, each following the same pattern.

Sprint Zero Boilerplate

Sprints should have defined deliverables in the form of Backlog Items and Sprint Zero is no different. Some items will need to be project-specific, but many will be common from one project to the next.

We build our list of Backlog Items around the following list:

As a Scrum Team, we need to;

  • Prepare and prioritise a list of Product Backlog items
  • Define all applicable Non-Functional Requirements that will apply (performance, security, accessibility, etc)
  • Assemble any additional team members and define roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master, Developers)
  • Forecast expected Velocity (throughput) based on the selected team
  • Lay out a Sprint Roadmap based on Backlog priorities and Velocity (working time frames)
  • Tool setup including Jira set up and coaching
  • Prepare infrastructure and development environments
  • Agree on technical architecture
  • Prepare initial low-fi prototypes and design frameworks
  • Deliver at least one feature or interface to the production environment (often a holding or error page)

Typically, the above are resolved through a series of face to face meetings, demonstrations, workshops and research sessions involving key members from both client and vendor.

Start as you mean to go on

Sprint Zero is designed to set the project and the people involved on a path to success. Critical decisions will have been made and significant impediments removed. The team will have begun developing strong, collaborative working relationships and should be confident that they can achieve the projected Velocity together.

With each passing iteration the team will release high quality work, gather feedback, adapt and improve. Customers will receive a product that is closely attuned to their needs. Stakeholders will realise more value in less time (with less waste) and Developers will be filled with a sense of pride as each release hits the market.