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The Release-Ready Agile Team

By Tim Evko

This article was sponsored by Atlassian. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make SitePoint possible.

In today’s world of startups and exciting new products, engineering teams are expected to deliver long lasting and durable software in an increasingly short amount of time. Agile practices are helping teams meet this demand by enabling them to release early and often. If you’ve ever wondered how Agile can help your team, or how it helps the most successful teams to release on schedule with every sprint, then look no further. Over 500k agile projects are in JIRA, and Atlassian has taken a closer look at them in order to find the common trends that help to make these teams so successful.

Planning

Every successful team treats sprint planning as one of the most important phases of the agile process. Without a good sprint planning process, your team cannot guarantee a release on time and budget. So, what do the most successful agile teams do to ensure a productive sprint planning phase?

For starters, Atlassian found that on average no more than 30 issues were assigned to a sprint. This is an important part of ensuring that your engineering team isn’t taking on more work than they can realistically handle. When deadlines pile up, teams tend to see an increased workload. While this is often expected, it’s important to remember that rushed code is more likely to create technical debt over well planned and carefully written code. While sometimes a difficult standard to hold to, a limit on tickets per sprint will go on to help your team release code that lasts.

Another common metric found by Atlassian was that the most successful agile teams had an average of 12 “epics” in their backlogs. This is an important find because it highlights a team’s ability to visualize what’s coming next in the release plan. It’s also important to remember that backlogs are useless without communication. Your team might have a well-groomed backlog, but it’s important to make sure that your team leaders spend time looking through it while communicating the upcoming requirements to the rest of the team.

Tracking

Tracking the health of every sprint is another key factor that enables successful agile teams. One of the core metrics found by Atlassian was that on average, a sprint lasted for 10 days. If it seems difficult to fit an entire sprint in such a small time frame, it’s okay to move issues into a backlog. The key here is balance. Your team needs time to complete the sprint, but they also need time to review backlogs, adjust goals, and hold meaningful retrospectives. A sprint that lasts too long may detract from these equally important aspects of a successful agile process. Give your team time to reflect and refocus, and they’ll thank you with a successful release.

How much work should be in a 10 day sprint? Atlassian found that 73% of planned issues were completed. This usually occurs because teams often try to complete more work than they are capable of completing in a short time frame. Keeping track of your agile process gets a lot easier when your team is not overwhelmed by how many issues they have left to complete. It’s always better to decrease the amount of issues in your sprint if it means improving the health and clarity of your team.

Releasing

What would a successful agile team be without a successful release cycle? As it turns out, most teams wait just 15 days between releases. That may seem like a short amount of time, but the target is a lot easier to hit once your agile process is working correctly. In fact, Atlassian found that the best agile teams release about 20% more often than their competitors.

Another important part of the release cycle is the day that releases occur. Monday is the most popular release day according to Atlassian’s findings, but the key to a healthy release cycle is finding a day that works best for your business and team requirements. Whichever day you end up choosing, make sure that your releases are planned in advance.

Conclusion

Agile can be a difficult process to correctly implement. Once integrated however, it will enable your team to release quickly and efficiently. However you decide to explore the data from Atlassian, the key takeaway is to build the agile process that works best for you and your team. Of course, having access to more than 500,000 other agile projects and being able to see what makes them successful helps too.

No one understands agile teams better than Atlassian, and thanks to JIRA, they’re able to share that knowledge with other interested agile teams. Be sure to take a look at the infographic they’ve put together here.

View the infographic here

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