What on Earth is a Sprint?

You’ll no doubt have heard our team refer to “Sprints”, which we’ve been using for two years to plan our Development team’s work. We’ve now taken things a step further by implementing this way of working within our Operations team too, who have successfully been using this methodology for the past 18 months. So - let’s have a recap of what exactly a Sprint is all about.

A Sprint is simply a two-week period of planned project work. The name comes from a project management methodology known as Agile, originally designed for banking institutions but equally applicable to our industry.

A Sprint is simply a two-week period of planned project work.

Under the Agile ethos, instead of attempting to plan an entire project, we break it down into manageable chunks called Sprints. We allocate 60% of our working hours to each one. That leaves time for us to cover unexpected issues arising with non-Sprint projects, such as a problem with a client website or some other issue which is too urgent to wait for the next Sprint cycle.

Each Sprint is then planned separately. Every fortnight, the teams get together to lay down the Sprint tasks, discussing each one in some detail. Each task is allocated to a team member and then all the team members make an estimate regarding the time required to complete it, which could be from one hour to 16 hours. The time chosen by the majority is then allocated to the task. That might sound a bit unreliable, but you'd be surprised at how close the views are between team members on how long a piece of work will take.

Once the Sprint commences, each team member updates daily the time remaining for their own tasks. So, gradually, the hours remaining will fall towards zero. Each team holds a daily Sprint catch-up meeting first thing to check the stats. A graph is produced, known as a "burndown" chart, which shows whether we’re on target to complete the tasks by the end of the Sprint. Ideally, it should be a nice sloping line.

Burndown Chart

The idea for naming Sprints is our own. We find it lends them a bit of character and takes away the feeling that they are just a repetitive work cycle. The Sprint name also helps give us material for social media which, we hope, provides a bit of entertainment for our followers!

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