The Product Manager's Guide to Sprint Planning

SaaS Product Management
Jun 30, 2023
The Product Manager's Guide to Sprint Planning

Agile methodology has become increasingly popular in recent years and for a good reason. It helps teams of all sizes develop great products more quickly, receive feedback and act on it rapidly and collaborate more effectively.

Agile has quite a few rules that one needs to follow in order to do it by the book. One of them is in regard to sprint planning. So, if you want to make the most out of the Scrum framework so that you can plan out and manage work effectively, we’ve prepared a handy guide to sprint planning that anyone can follow.

What is sprint planning?

In agile methodology, sprint planning is a session when the product owner or scrum master arranges a meeting to discuss the unfinished product backlog items and how they relate to the product goal. In simpler terms, they arrange a sprint planning meeting to discuss the plan for the next sprint.

Before going any further, let us define what a sprint is. A sprint is a specific window of time when the product or development team set out to complete a certain amount of work. Typical sprints are 30 days long, but there are examples of shorter and longer sprints. For example, a two-week sprint might work better for your agile team.

According to, a sprint planning session aims to answer three questions:

  • Why is this sprint valuable?
  • What can be done in this sprint?
  • How will the work get done?

In short, sprint planning happens when the scrum team sits down (literally or metaphorically) to plan out the work for the period ahead of them.

sprint planning diagram

Why does sprint planning matter?

A good sprint planning session is always a good idea, but here are some practical benefits of hosting one every month or so.

  1. Get all your team members in one place and align around a common goal
  2. Review the sprint backlog to determine what was not done and why
  3. Determine the team capacity for new work
  4. Presenting feedback from other stakeholders to the team that is actually doing the work
  5. Discuss the sprint goal, along with the obstacles and dependencies

If you’re already doing scrum, then there is no doubt whether sprint planning should be a part of your regular routine or not.

Sprint planning as part of the Scrum framework

Planning out the upcoming sprint is just a part of the Scrum process. To understand the full value of a sprint plan, it’s important to look at it within the full context of Scrum.

  1. Sprint planning

This is where the team aligns on what needs to be done for the upcoming sprint. Deliverables are defined and the items to be done are moved from the backlog to the current sprint.

  1. Daily standups 

These are daily meetings (in various shapes and forms) where the entire scrum team presents what they are working on for the day. Even more importantly, they talk about their blockers, so that obstacles are moved out of the way early. They are also known as daily scrum.

  1. Sprint review

In the sprint review, the team analyzes what has been done, what kind of feedback there was from the customers, and whether the sprint was successful or not.

  1. Sprint retrospective

In the last step, you take a look back at the sprint behind you and consider what you learned from it and what can be applied in the new sprint.

It’s as simple as that. You don’t need all of the elements above, but it does help if you want to keep your team aligned and working by the Agile book.

Tips for running a successful sprint planning session

Now that you know the value of good sprint planning, let’s go through the best practices for organizing your next spring planning session that will help you create a meeting agenda and be more productive.

Set aside a specific period of time

One of the basics of a sprint is that it’s a timebox. It takes a specific amount of time and then the entire team moves on to the next sprint. The same goes for your sprint planning meetings - set aside a time limit and stick to it. Otherwise, as your team starts discussing the roadmap, the forecasts, and other sprint elements, a 30-minute meeting can quickly become 2 hours of talk time.

As you start learning from previous sprints, you’ll slowly figure out how long the typical meeting should be, so don’t be pressured to figure it out on your first try.

Use estimates and keep the goals realistic

An effective sprint is not one that is planned out so that it exhausts your development team. An effective sprint is one where you set out realistic goals and crush them. Within the agile framework, you can use estimation techniques and story points to determine what your whole team is capable of and what you can reasonably expect to finish within a month (or less).

agile methodology estimating
An example of agile estimation. Source

Determine your definition of done

What does it mean when something is done in software development? For developers, product team, upper management, and customers? Determine when something is officially done and dusted.

what does done mean in agile

Provide context for everyone

The only way everyone on your team can do their best work is if they understand what they are doing and how it aligns with the overall product goal. This is a problem as larger projects can cause you to get lost in the complex list of tasks in your favorite project management tool.

As your remote teams can’t read whiteboards and read metrics presented in an office setting, keeping your project management app tidy is crucial. Jira is a tool of choice for many developers and product experts but you may want something with more functionality and better UX.

In the sprint planning session, explain how each task that is moved from the backlog impacts your product goals and how it affects your customers. It may sound like a small thing to do, but it actually facilitates teamwork.

Keep your backlog tidy at all times

One of the basics for every good sprint planning workflow is an immaculate backlog. It’s the point of origin for all tasks that go into your next sprint, which is why it should always be well organized, made with clear descriptions, well-thought-out user stories and estimations. This is a process known as backlog refinement and should be done by your product manager or owner.

a typical product backlog

A clean backlog not only helps with determining what goes on in the next sprint, but it is also massively helpful for prioritizing and choosing between several fires you need to put out at the same time.

Keep things flexible

The basis of every scrum project is being able to take in feedback quickly and react on it. And while it’s a good idea to create plans for your next sprint, make sure to leave some room for flexibility.

As new feedback comes in and things unexpectedly break, you may need to switch priorities. For example, a new bug could cause you to change directions mid-sprint.

Wrapping up

Creating a great sprint plan requires two things: an understanding of the agile methodology and an understanding of your team, customers, and overall processes. The great news is that with a little bit of practice (and help from an experienced scrum master), anyone can become great at sprint planning, improving the lives of both your developers and your customers.

And if you want to help your team even more, take some work off their plates. There are certain things you can outsource rather than building them in-house. For example, you can get an analytics dashboard from Luzmo rather than build it from scratch.

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