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Sprint planning 101 for Product Managers
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photo of Reece Smith, Product Marketing Manager for Enhanced Search
Reece Smith
22nd December, 2023

Sprint planning 101 for Product Managers

The success of a sprint can depend on how well you run your sprint planning meeting. Read our sprint planning tips for Product Managers, and how Enhanced Search can help.

What is Sprint planning?

Sprint planning is the cornerstone of agile methodology. Whether your sprints run two weeks, three weeks, or even longer, this is the time for the whole team to get together and plan how the next sprint will run. For teams working scrum, kanban, or a bit of both, the sprint planning session sets you and your team up for success.
As a product manager, your role in sprint planning centres around the backlog. You are responsible for prioritising the tasks waiting in the queue. To do this, you should be aware of any upcoming deadlines, the urgency and importance of each task, and the impact on the business and your customers. Once you have prioritised the backlog, you can then communicate the business value and customer need behind each item to the wider team.

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The success of a sprint can depend on how well you run your sprint planning meeting. Each team member should decide on their own priorities, and the team should set clear goals, and identify and address any potential roadblocks. By the end of the sprint planning meeting, resources should be allocated effectively and the team should be aligned on their individual and collective objectives.

Four tips for Sprint Planning

1. Communication is key

For a successful and productive sprint planning session, invite the entire team. By involving each member of the team in their own planning, you promote ownership and will receive a higher level of backing. Your team will have a deeper understanding of why they are being asked to do certain tasks or prioritise specific tasks if they are included in the initial discussions and are given the opportunity to voice their opinions.

How Enhanced Search can help

Jira issues with recent discussions often indicate an active collaboration or a potential challenge. You can therefore monitor active discussions to identify any would-be roadblocks before they disrupt the sprint. Use this query to identify issues that you have recently commented on, so you can observe active discussions and reduce the risk of mid-sprint surprises.
1lastCommentedDate > startOfMonth() AND lastCommentBy = currentUser() 

2. Review past sprints

Before looking forward, we must first look back. How did your last sprint go? Were there any blockers, and how did you deal with them? What went well? What could have gone better? Learning from past experiences is the best way to stop these issues from cropping up again and again… and is key to running more effective sprints in the future. Perhaps a retro, or your own analysis, reveals that bug dependencies are your main downfall.

How Enhanced Search can help

Dependencies and blockers are the fastest way to derail your sprint. As a Product Manager, you need to stay on top of challenges as they crop up so you can re-allocate resources to clear the roadblocks and get your sprint back on track. Use this query to identify issues linked to open bugs so you can tackle blockers and dependencies head-on rather than after they've derailed your sprint.
1issueFunction in linkedIssuesOf("issuetype = Bug AND status = Open")

3. Set clear objectives

Before you get deep into prioritising your backlog, first take some time to think about your overall sprint strategy. What do you want to achieve? Defining your objectives for the sprint first better aligns the priority tasks to your overall product strategy. While focusing on short-term wins can be tempting, each new sprint is the ideal opportunity to take a step back and realign your sprint goals to your product strategy.

How Enhanced Search can help

Not all tasks are created equal. Some items in your backlog are quick fixes that need the attention of just one developer. However, some items in your backlog have ten subtasks and complex dependencies, involving people from different teams with different ways of working. When planning your priorities, think carefully about the time required to complete the task, and remember that being blocked, handing over to different teams, and untangling dependencies all add to the overall time to complete the task.
Use this query to identify tricky tasks and prioritise them accordingly. With the complex tasks receiving the attention they deserve, you can make sure your priorities are making an impact.
1numberOfComments > 5 AND numberOfAttachments > 3 AND issuetype = Task AND numberOfSubtasks > 10

4. Add some buffer time

Allocating story points to each task is an essential step towards understanding how many tasks your team can complete in the sprint. If your time estimations are too low, you will allocate more tasks than the team can tackle, resulting in missed deadlines. As well as overpromising and underdelivering, you risk sacrificing urgent or important tasks for lower-priority tasks. It is therefore vital that you allow enough time to not only get the job done, but to do it well.
Having said that, the unexpected is inevitable. Delays will crop up no matter how perfectly you calculate your tasks' story points. To allow for this, add some buffer time to each task. This ensures the team has some leeway to address challenges or delve deeper into tasks with significant attachments.

How Enhanced Search can help

While delays and challenges are unexpected, they are inevitable. Knowing where these delays are likely to crop up means you can prepare for them by building in additional time. For example, tasks involving additional stakeholders are very likely to send you off course as you are at the mercy of each individual's to-do lists and processes. Ensure these tasks are given priority so you can give them as much time as possible.
Use this query to identify tasks related to design or documentation to glean insights from attachments. Attachments can provide context, and understanding these can help you involve the right stakeholders as early as possible.
1attachmentType in ('png', 'jpg', 'docx', 'pdf')

Plan today for a better sprint tomorrow

Sprint planning is so much more than just a simple task-allocation exercise. Done right, it can be a strategic phase that sets the tone for a successful sprint. And with Enhanced Search for Jira Cloud, you can be better equipped than ever to achieve a successful sprint.

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