Software delivery projects are most often organized into “Sprints” of work where the team is executing in what can feel like a never-ending loop of plan, execute, demo, repeat. This non-stop, fast-paced cycle leaves little breathing room for reflecting on or implementing unplanned improvements or technical debt which the team is bound to accumulate through the lifecycle of a project. Sure, retrospectives can be a suitable time to discuss these improvements, but how often do those improvements get prioritized when the project is most likely on a tight timeline?
Consider what is known as the ‘HIP Sprint.’
What is a HIP Sprint?
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HIP refers to Hardening, Innovation, and Planning and is a dedicated time intended for the project team to pause on business-value efforts and focus on technical-value efforts:
- Hardening – The HIP Sprint is an ideal time for the team to catch-up on addressing bugs, executing additional tests, refactoring against technical debt, implementing improved DevOps processes, and any other technical improvements that can help to make the development team more efficient or the solution more stable.
- Innovation – Besides known technical improvements that need to be addressed, the HIP Sprint is an ideal for the team to focus on technical planning, solutioning, or POCs (Proof of Concept) for the coming deliverables ahead without the pressure of a looming demo at the end of the week.
- Planning – Lastly, along with technical planning, the HIP sprint is a perfect time for the team to review the coming iteration and project goals and reset or adjust those plans based on the gains of the HIP Sprint.
There are no planning sessions or demos as part of HIP Sprints, so it is a team decision, rather than a client decision, as to how the time can be used wisely and effectively.
HIP Sprint Additional Advantages and Disadvantages
Beyond the strategic Hardening, Innovation and Planning activities, there are other benefits and tactical opportunities in which HIP sprints can be a suitable time for:
- Workshops for road-mapping or technical implementation strategies.
- Completion of any carry-over stories or addressing any feedback given from the client during Sprint Demos.
- Catch up on requirements gathering and Backlog Refinement for the upcoming sprints.
- Catch up on test case creation or testing activities.
- Allows project managers and clients to level-set on the state of the project, upcoming goals, and milestone expectations.
As much as HIP Sprints can be a benefit to the project team, there are still some caveats to watch for in practice:
- If something needs to be refactored or addressed to prevent further technical debt from being accumulated, consider working with the client to ensure this is prioritized rather than waiting for the HIP sprint.
- Like point 1, if there are planning discussions or POCs that need to be performed, consider keeping these as priority items for the sprints, but ensure that the team members involved have their capacity planned appropriately.
- Make sure team members understand that the sprint commitment before the HIP sprint should still be kept on track, rather than considering the HIP sprint to be a buffer or extension of the prior sprint.
- Added testing can also bring about added bugs! Make sure the team understands priorities if more bugs are found during the HIP sprint.
There are activities that all project participants and stakeholders can take advantage of during a HIP Sprint but should be cautious to not save critical work solely for these iterations. HIP Sprints can ultimately act as a much-needed time to allow technical team members to re-gain focus on the bigger picture of the project to ensure they can deliver the highest quality end-product possible.