Adjusting A Sprint in Progress with MS Project Agile

A Sprint is a mini-project within a larger Scrum project, and it’s usually timeboxed for two to four weeks. Though timeboxed, a number of things can change within these weeks. In fact, adjustment of a Sprint in progress is the norm, not the exception.

In an environment with rapid changes in requirements and technological uncertainties, a number of areas such as scope, resources, risk, and even business priorities may change. Agile/Scrum, after all, is all about change. In fact, one of the principles in the Agile manifesto states: Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

For a project executed in Agile mode, one can have the following:

  • Addition, removal, or modification of work items within a Sprint, i.e., changes to the Sprint Backlog.
  • Refinement of Release Plan, i.e., change in features for the Sprints within a Release.
  • Refinement of the (Product) Backlog, i.e., addition, removal, movement, or replacement of backlog items, which can be features or stories.
  • Rolling-wave planning for upcoming Sprints, as the current Sprint draws to a closure, among others.

In this article, we will specifically learn how to adjust a Sprint which is in progress.

Current Sprint State – Timeline View

The current situation for our Sprint is shown in the Timeline view of MS Project Agile. Our Sprint is of two weeks duration from September 11, 2023 to September 24, 2023.

Sprint shown in Timeline View in MS Project Agile
Sprint Shown in Timeline View in MS Project Agile

As shown in the above figure:

  • There are 3 items to be delivered: Login to the online trading system, Create a new user, and Edit an existing user, which are 50%, 50%, and 10% complete, respectively.
  • The Sprint event of Sprint 1 Planning is 100% complete, along with four Daily Scrums. These are indicated with a tick mark for the events.
  • Our status date is September 18, 2023, which is one week after the Sprint begins on September 11, 2023.

As we proceed, we will perform several operations. These are important to know if you are really working in a Project with multiple Sprints. As any real-world Agile practitioner would tell you, all these operations may happen. 

However, before you proceed, there are important instructions you need to know before starting, which are mentioned in the below video.

Video: Operations within a Sprint [duration: 2m:38s]

Current Sprint State – Current Sprint Board

The current situation for our Sprint is shown in the Current Sprint Board view.

Sprint Shown in the Current Sprint Board View in MS Project Agile
Sprint Shown in the Current Sprint Board View in MS Project Agile

As shown, several items are either complete (shown with a tick mark on the Cards) or progressed as on the status date, i.e., one week into the Sprint.

The % Complete of features and Scrum events for the entire Sprint can be seen in the below Current Sprint Sheet view. You have to add this column.

Current Sprint Sheet in MS Project Agile
Current Sprint Sheet in MS Project Agile

As shown above:

  • The features Login to the online trading system and Create a new user are 50% complete, whereas the feature Edit an existing user is 10% complete.
  • A number of Daily Scrums are complete.
  • The Sprint Planning event is also complete.

Now, we will proceed with various operations.

Performing Activate/Inactivate Operation

When you try to inactivate a task in any column state, except in the Sprint Backlog state, MS Project software won’t allow it to function! The reason is simple – you can’t inactivate a work item, which is activated and in progress.  

A work item (or task) can be inactivated by going to the Task tab, then Schedule group, and using the Inactivate command. It’s highlighted in the below figure.

Inactivating a Task and Error Box in MS Project Agile
Inactivating a Task and Error Box in MS Project Agile

Now you may be wondering how to inactive such a work item. You have to take it back to the Sprint Backlog state to inactivate. This can be done either in the Current Sprint Planning Board or the Current Sprint Planning Sheet view.

Inactive Feature in Current Sprint Planning Sheet View in MS Project Agile
Inactive Feature in Current Sprint Planning Sheet View in MS Project Agile

As you can see, the work item is inactivated because of the column state (Sprint Backlog), and the % completion.

Performing Delete Operation

While you can’t inactivate an in-progress task, you are allowed to delete it. You can do so by selecting the work item in the column (workflow) state, right-clicking and using the Delete Task command. This is shown below.

Delete Task Command in MS Project Agile
Delete Task Command in MS Project Agile

But then the MS Project software will pop up a soft message for you, unlike the hard message shown for inactivation we saw earlier.  

Delete Task Soft Message Pop-Up in MS Project Agile
Delete Task Soft Message Pop-Up in MS Project Agile

As shown for the selected feature item of Edit an existing user, when the delete command is pressed, a message pops up. This message wants you to confirm that you really want to delete it.

If you proceed, the work item will be fully removed from all the views. In other words, the backend database completely removes the work item. Hence, be careful!

Performing Add Operation

This is another operation that MS Project Agile practitioners use. While scope addition during the Sprint is not encouraged, it’s very likely to happen in the real world. Even though you may not want your scope to expand, new tasks related to a feature might come up anyway, and those must be added.

You can add a new task by going to the Current Sprint Sheet view, right-clicking, and using the Insert Task command. Notice that as you add a new work item, the default Board Status used will be Sprint Backlog.

Add Feature Using Insert Task Command in MS Project Agile
Add Feature Using Insert Task Command in MS Project Agile

You can also add the new work items using the Gantt Chart view or the using the New Task command of the Current Sprint Board view. After you add a new work item and associate the resources to it, it can be properly visualized in the Current Sprint Board view with the needed fields. This is depicted below.

Add Feature in Board View in MS Project Agile
Add Feature in Board View in MS Project Agile

Performing Modify Operation

As you proceed with your Sprint, you are also likely to perform several edit or modify operations, such as duration, resources, start date, and end date, among others. This can be done by simply double-clicking on the Card (work item) in the Current Sprint Planning Board view and changing the necessary fields.

Modify Operation in MS Project Agile
Modify Operation in MS Project Agile

As shown for the featured item of Create a new user, I first double-clicked on the corresponding card, and then I can change the resources in the popped-up Task Information dialog box. You can change multiple fields with this option.

You can also select the card, right-click and choose the Information option from the drop-down list to see the Task Information dialog box.

Performing Move Operation

Not every work item included in the Current Sprint will be completed. It’s highly possible that some of the items are not started or are partially complete. In such a case, the items are to be moved into the next Sprint. This is one of the rules in the Scrum framework. Note that the incomplete feature items don’t count toward velocity. To move a work item into the next Sprint, again you can use the Current Sprint Board view. Select the work item (Card) and use the Move to Next Sprint command from the list.

Move Operation in MS Project Agile

When you use this command, the item will be moved into the immediate next Sprint, not any other! To be sure, you can verify it in the Sprint Planning Sheet view, which is for all the Sprints in the project. Keep in mind that once a work item is complete, it won’t be visible in the Current Sprint Board or Current Sprint Sheet view. This is because of the Sprint Planning Filter.

Move Operation in Sheet View in MS Project Agile
Move Operation in Sheet View in MS Project Agile

As shown in the above figure, the feature Edit an existing user is now part of Sprint 2. Earlier, it was part of Sprint 1.

As it’s moved into the next immediate Sprint, the board status is maintained as Next up. The % Complete value for this work item will also be preserved. Your team can work on this item in the next Sprint.

Performing % Complete Change Operation

While the % Complete mapping is done for the various workflow states in the Board, it’s not written on stone. For example, in our case the % Complete Mapping is %, 10%, 50%, and 100% for Sprint Backlog, Next up, In progress and Done, respectively. It’s possible that you may want to change this % Complete for a particular work item. This can be done by opening the Task Information dialog box and changing the % Complete value in the General tab. This is shown below.

Percent Complete Operation in MS Project Agile
Percent Complete Operation in MS Project Agile

As shown, for the work item, I’ve changed the % Complete to 20%, in place of the default 10%. You can cross-check this % complete update in the Current Sprint Sheet view.

Percent Complete Operation in Sheet View in MS Project Agile
Percent Complete Operation in Sheet View in MS Project Agile

While you changed the % Complete value to 20%, notice that the Board Status is not changed, and it still remains in the Next up workflow state.

Demonstration and Key Points

Now, let’s demonstrate what we have learned so far, along with some key points to remember while adjusting a Sprint in progress. I’ve prepared the below video for this purpose. For the best experience, you may want to go full screen in HD mode and plug in your earphones.

Video: Adjusting a Sprint in Progress in MS Project Agile [duration: 5m: 29s]

Conclusion

In some of the cases, it’s possible that while performing these operations, resources may be overallocated. You can quickly solve overallocation using the Team Planner view available with MS Project Online Desktop client, which has the Agile features.

Projects, like human beings, are living entities. Just as every human being changes, so does a project. If the environment is high-churn, then humans must rapidly adapt and adopt, and so does a Sprint project.

This article outlines certain key operations to adjust a Sprint project. I hope it gives you the understanding to perform various operations within a Sprint, the confidence to conduct any operation in a Scrum project, and brings value to your work.

References

[1] NEW Online Course: Practical Scrum using MS Project Agile, by MPUG.com

[2] Online Course: Mastering MS Project 2019 Agile (Scrum and Kanban), by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] Certification Course: Certified Hybrid-Agile Master Professional (CHAMP), by Satya Narayan Dash

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Written by Satya Narayan Dash
Satya Narayan Dash is a management professional, coach, and author of multiple books. Under his guidance, over 2,000 professionals have successfully cracked PMP, ACP, RMP, and CAPM examinations – in fact, there are over 100 documented success stories written by these professionals. His course, PMP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass, has made many successful PMPs, and he’s recently launched RMP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass and ACP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass. His web presence is at https://managementyogi.com, and he can be contacted via email at managementyogi@gmail.com.  
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  1. Nice detailed article!

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