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What Is Sprint Zero?

31 October 2016

Sandeep Paudel
Switchlane Inc.

What is Sprint Zero?

As an experienced Agile project manager, ScrumMaster, and Agile coach in industries ranging from health care to hospitality, I am often asked by stakeholders how I set up the first Agile/Scrum team and make sure that they work in an Agile fashion. The answer is that I get started with Sprint Zero. Keep in mind that Scrum does not recommend Sprint Zero. However, in my experience it is gaining popularity.
 

When to go for Sprint Zero

Sprint Zero is used to kick off new work efforts and should happen only once per major functionality. It occurs most often after the ideation phase that confirms the need for a new capability, feature, or solution. It is not focused on budgeting, as there is only one per release — Sprint Zero is a one-time event.
 

What happens during Sprint Zero?

At the starting stage of the project, it is important to not only identify the stakeholders but also the product owner(s) and core technical resources, based on the impacted domains and/or applications. It is also critical to engage the infrastructure group to let them know that an Agile project is beginning.

Prior to Sprint Zero, the infrastructure manager has set up an initial infrastructure requirements-gathering meeting (30 minutes). Participants include developers, technical leads, the ScrumMaster, application architects, testers, and key infrastructure areas. This meeting provides an early read on infrastructure requirements as preparation for the upcoming work effort. Performance testing should be addressed as early as possible in an Agile project. Nonfunctional requirements will evolve over time with the project but should be addressed early to provide input to the performance team. The performance testing team is contacted in the same time frame as the infrastructure team.

Agile is about bringing value to the business faster, all while producing working software. For Sprint Zero, we might not produce working software but we will bring value to the business by doing the following:
  • Identifying high-priority epics that drive the business need
  • Prioritizing epics and establishing an initial product backlog
  • Identifying low-hanging user stories that support the highest-priority epic
  • Identifying resources
  • Identifying key "land mines" or organizational impediments, risks, and critical nonfunctional requirements
The ScrumMaster works with the product owners to ensure that the product vision and road map are in a state that enables them to be shared or reviewed with the team as a part of the project kickoff meeting.

This table represents the types of activities (at a high level) that an Agile/Scrum project would perform in the various sprints.
 
Sprint 0
 
 
Sprint 1
 
Stories 1, 2, 3, 4
Sprint 2
 
Stories 5, 6, 7, 8
Setup:
  • Establish infrastructure
---------------------------------------
  • Establish development and test environments
  • Establish development and test data
  • Train the team
  • Obtain resource commitments
  • Establish PCB
  • Begin backlog grooming
  • Capacity and velocity planning
  • Pre-planning for next sprint
Sprint planning
  • Confirm the stories to be completed during the current sprint.
  • Confirm the detailed tasks that will be used to monitor sprint progress.
  • Create the detailed sprint plan for the current sprint.
  • Obtain sign-off on the sprint plan deliverable.
Sprint planning
  • Confirm the stories to be completed during the current sprint..
  • Confirm the detailed tasks that will be used to monitor sprint progress.
  • Create the detailed sprint plan for the current sprint.
  • Obtain sign-off on the sprint plan deliverable.
Initial architecture, including:
  • Process models
  • SAD
  • Information architecture
 
 
Create design for iteration
  • Ongoing architecture and design
  • Functional and nonfunctional requirement elaboration
Create design for iteration
  • Ongoing architecture and design
  • Functional and nonfunctional requirement elaboration
  Perform development
Including:
  • Requirements
  • Unit test
  • Code drop to test environment
Perform development
Including:
  • Requirements
  • Unit test
  • Code drop to test environment
Perform project planning activities Test
Conduct appropriate testing for the set of requirements in this sprint, both functional and nonfunctional.
  • Unit/Integration testing
  • Regression testing of previous iteration
  • Organization (or QA) testing
  • Usability testing
  • UAT
  • Test results summary
  • Performance testing as appropriate
  • Data manufacturing tasks
Test
Conduct appropriate testing for the set of requirements in this sprint, both functional and nonfunctional.
  • Unit/Integration testing
  • Regression testing of previous iterations
  • Organization (or QA) testing
  • Usability testing
  • UAT
  • Test results summary
  • Performance testing as appropriate — note "final" performance test needs to be regression in nature
  • Data manufacturing tasks
  Validate scope of next sprint
  • Plan and assess project status, risks, time lines, and budget.
  • Pre-planning for next sprint.
 
 
Validate scope of next sprint
  • Plan and assess project status, risks, timelines, and budget.
  • Pre-planning for next sprint.
  Complete the sprint demo
  • Including baseline verifications.
  • This documents the review and retrospective in Agile terms.
  • Approvals replace the formal WPR.
  • Includes requirement, design, and test artifacts created as part of the sprint.
  • It is expected that teams will be familiar with artifacts and will not need to spend additional time reviewing them.
Complete the sprint demo
  • Including baseline verifications.
  • This documents the review and retrospective in Agile terms.
  • Approvals replace the formal WPR.
  • Includes requirement, design, and test artifacts created as part of the sprint.
  • It is expected that teams will be familiar with artifacts and will not need to spend additional time reviewing them.
  Conduct sprint retrospective (lessons learned) Conduct sprint retrospective (lessons learned)
 
 
  • Update sprint and release plan progress.
  • Usually held to communicate key progress points to L2.
  • Actual timing determined by the team.
  • Update sprint and release plan progress.
  • Usually held to communicate key progress points to L2.
  • Actual timing determined by the team.
 

Sprint Zero antipatterns

  • Creating the solution design
  • Gathering detailed requirements as in Waterfall
  • Designing the user interface
  • Determining project phases or plans
  • Breaking down tasks and assigning them to resources
  • Forecasting how or when-will-it-be-delivered questions

 

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



Article Rating

Current rating: 4.3 (7 ratings)

Comments

Simon Roberts, CST,CSP,CSD,CSM,CSPO,REP, 11/1/2016 7:33:22 AM
To be frank I don't find Sprint 0 to be a useful concept (although I have used them in the distant past). The problem with sprint 0 in my view is twofold:

1. It tends to be used as an excuse for procrastination - for not starting to build the system.
2. Sprints should by definition result in a potentially shippable product increment and clearly sprint 0 doesn't.

I prefer to just talk about the minimum set of kickoff activities, which might include:

1. Creating a lightweight product vision.
2. Defining the definition of done and other team agreements.
3. Creating an initial product backlog (e.g. with story mapping).
4. Doing initial product backlog refinement.

Assuming availability of team members and stakeholders, new teams can typically go from 0 to first sprint underway in five days or less (including training).

I am not saying that your ideas for what should be done as preparation has no merit, just that in most cases we should avoid labelling it as sprint 0 and identify an even lighter weight set of kickoff activities.

Best regards,

Simon
Agile Centre LLP
Certified Scrum Trainer

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