How to Handle Sprint Interruption

We all love an ideal scenario where sprint backlogs are groomed, sprints are planned, estimated and delivered uninterrupted. But how often does that happen? Quite rarely right?

Sprint delivery depends on stakeholders ,product owners and development teams. These people can effect the delivery of sprint, and what to do when an interruption occurs?

A Sprint Interrupted By Out of Sprint Tasks:

During a sprint its quite normal that the development teams are interrupted by either a change request from product owner, a new functionality request by stakeholders or an error discovered by end user.

While all of these can be analyzed and prioritized for later sprints but there may be times when the interruption is of high priority and has to be adjusted in the current sprint.

To tackle these type of code-red situations, we have a concept of buffer. A buffer is a cushion that gives you room to allow changes outside sprint estimated time.

How Much Buffer Should be Applied:

Well this depends on how often is your sprint interrupted. If its less your buffer can be small and vice versa. The suggested method is to estimate a buffer and test it for some sprints and keep changing as required.

One thing you should keep in mind is that how much buffer can you allow in the sprint and if buffer is actually needed or not.

How to Track Buffer :

An agile team can track its buffer use, which is also known as “buffer penetration” to keep track of buffer usage during sprints. It can also help to make decisions about a team’s buffer usage needs.

For understanding purposes lets say that a team has 15 days sprint. Now if the team has used 80% of buffer in 8 days of the sprint. That means that during almost 60% of their calendar time, the team has used 80% buffer. In this case the product owner has to be very careful about allowing a change in the current sprint.

Now if the same team during a 15 day sprint has used 30% of buffer in 8 days of sprints that means they have used 30% only. Here the product owner can be lenient about allowing a change in.

So yeah that's how I usually handle sprint interruptions.