Agile Sprint in Software Development: Definition, Process, and Roles Involved

A sprint, in the non-digital context, is a short race done at fast speeds. Alternately, it’s just a short period of running extremely fast but with no race involved, like a runner who, near the tail-end of their three-mile run, decides to put on a final burst of speed for a strong finish.

Today’s increasingly digital society has boosted the demand for new applications, so the faster a company can release a reliable, useful app, the better. You could say that software companies are racing to stay ahead of demand!

This article ties these two concepts: speed and development, together in a discussion of agile sprint. We will explore what sprints are, why they’re needed, their benefits, and their processes and cycles.

Let’s first explore the basics; what is a sprint in Agile?

What Are Sprints?

Sprints are timeboxed iterations of a continuous project development cycle—short repeatable phases that last between one and four weeks. Sprints lie at the core of Agile and Scrum methodologies, an approach that takes large, complex product development projects and breaks them down into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Each sprint has the following characteristics:

  • It maintains a consistent duration throughout the whole development effort
  • A new sprint immediately begins after the successful conclusion of the previous one
  • The sprint has a predetermined start and end date

We should probably take a moment and mention a little more about Agile and Scrum. Agile is a method of software development and project management that emphasizes teams delivering work in small, regular increments. Scrum, however, is a subset of Agile—a framework dedicated to developing, providing, and sustaining complex products, especially in the field of software development.

Based upon a sprint definition, you can see how this process compliments both Agile and Scrum.

If you want to learn more information about these two concepts, check out this article on Agile, this article on Scrum, and this video tutorial on Agile Scrum.

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Why Are Sprints Necessary?

To make apps more appealing and competitive, developers sometimes resort to adding more bells and whistles to them. These additions increase the final product’s complexity, making the development project more challenging to complete.

However, if the developers break down the development project into sprints, they become easier for everyone involved. The sprint method makes development projects more manageable, allowing teams to produce high-quality work faster and with greater frequency. Sprints also give teams more flexibility to adapt to changes.

Since sprints are often associated and work well with Agile and Scrum, developers must familiarize themselves with this project management tool. Agile and Scrum are popular development tools, so it makes sense to learn more about sprints.

And speaking of learning more about sprints, let’s take a closer look at the sprint process.

What Is the Sprint Process?

Let’s face it, sprint terminology is confusing. For instance, people often use the words sprint, Agile, and Scrum interchangeably. Even worse, users toss around phrases like “sprint process”, “sprint cycle”, and “sprint process,” to the point where an outsider wonders which term means what.

In our effort to wade through the confusion and terminology, let’s set down some parameters.

The sprint process describes the different steps found in every sprint. The sprint cycle covers the entire workflow, which includes the sprint process itself.

The sprint process breaks down into the following steps, taken for each user story (also called requirement) in the development project. User stories are considered the smallest unit of work in Agile and consist of a general explanation of an application’s feature, provided by the people who will use the product.

For instance, say you were designing an image manipulation and maintenance app for a company. The users complain that previous apps can’t run a search to detect and eliminate duplicate images in their folders. The user story would then be “graphic artists want their software to find redundant images in their database and remove them.” Here are the sprint process steps:

  • Design
  • Test
  • Develop
  • Test
  • Integrate
  • Test

After the final stage, the requirement gets approved, then it’s “lather, rinse, repeat,” moving on to the next requirement until the entire project is done.

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What Is the Agile Sprint Cycle?

The Agile sprint cycle, or workflow, is the repetitive process that developers use to tackle a development project. A software project can take as many as ten sprint cycles.

Although there is room for variation, most sprint cycles break down like this:

Planning

The team covers the top priority user stories, deciding what the spring can and will deliver. This stage includes items found in the backlog. The team also decides on the specific tasks necessary to complete the cycle.

Backlog

The backlog is a finalized list, agreed upon by the whole team, that defines what the development team will complete during the sprint. This backlog includes tasks and possible changes to the product.

The Sprint

This part is the time frame in which the actual incremental work must be completed and doesn’t exceed 30 days. The ideal sprint takes two weeks.

Daily Scrum

The Scrum is a short daily meeting led by the Scrum master, where the team comes to talk about the assignments they are working on, what they have finished, and any issues or obstacles that are blocking the work.

Outcome

The sprint’s outcome is just another way to say the result, which usually is a hypothetically usable product. The product owner gets the last word to decide if the product is ready or if it needs additional features.

Sprint End

At the conclusion of a sprint cycle, the team gets together for two final meetings:

  • Sprint review. The team shows the completed work to the product owner, who ideally gives it the thumbs up.
  • Sprint retrospective. The team talks about what it can do to improve processes in the future, in the spirit of continuous improvement. Consider this as self-evaluation.
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Benefits of Sprint in Agile Development

We finally come down to the big question: How can sprint Agile sprint benefit your organization? Here is a list of the advantages that the methodology brings to the table:

Cost-effectiveness

Thanks to an approach that involves fixed timescales and evolving requirements, teams have a clearer idea of the project’s recommended budget. By dividing the project into smaller pieces, the team knows the real costs (instead of guessing) and can stay on-budget.

Agility/Flexibility

Sometimes a customer wants changes to their product, adding or removing features, or even changing its entire focus. A team using Agile sprint development tactics can react faster to unexpected changes.

Higher Quality 

Developers maintain product quality through rigorous testing. Sprints encourage increased testing since each stage and process gets tested during development. Instead of creating an entire project, then testing it upon completion, each component, designed with sprints, gets tested before the whole application is rolled out.

Transparency

Product owners and stakeholders stay in the loop when teams use sprints. This transparency ensures fewer surprises for the product owners, as they can see the application development process at every stage and make corrections as the need arises.

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Risk Mitigation

When teams use sprints, they break the project into smaller increments, making it easier to identify risks and deal with them before they grow. Risk mitigation works in tandem with transparency, as stakeholders are alerted about possible trouble spots and suggest mid-course corrections. Therefore, it’s less likely that a project will fail.

Better Customer Satisfaction/Business Engagement

Is there anything more disheartening than pouring your heart, soul, and sweat into developing an application, only to have the product owner be disappointed and say, “This is not what I had in mind”? The increased participation and transparency that Agile sprints bring results in fewer miscommunications and failed expectations and a happier customer. Increased satisfaction could lead to the customer giving you more design business and recommending you to their associates!

Increased Revenue

Each sprint's end produces a potentially releasable increment of a product or application before the scheduled release date. These early releases allow a complete version of the product to go on sale sooner. Incremental delivery means greater profits.

Better Speed to Market

If you want to dominate the market, you need to get your product out first. Agile sprints make it possible to release the original product and subsequent updates/revisions either ahead of schedule or right on time. Considering how many software companies (especially gaming companies) suffer delays, this benefit is a difference-maker.

Higher Team Morale

Agile sprints bring the team together for regular progress reports, work assignments, and brainstorming sessions. The collaborative, cooperative environment makes team members happier and more motivated, keeping morale high, manifested by a better attitude, and increased quality and quantity of work.

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