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In Scrum, Is It Possible To Cancel A Sprint? If So, When?

By Expert Author: Mrugesh Panchal

The scrum framework and importance of sprints
Scrum is primarily about dealing with changing market conditions and introducing changes in the product definition while it is being developed. It is very difficult, and in certain cases impossible, to incorporate changes in the features and functionalities linked with the product while its development is currently underway. Traditional development methods such as waterfall do not offer facilities to change the product features once the development has started, since the entire development occurs in stages and it is not possible to reverse the stages, or “undo” the work carried out, nor it is possible to “pause” the development activities and restart them with new ideals and objectives. Scrum makes this possible because the actual development is carried out in sprints which generally last for two weeks. It is very easy to add on, or update the functionalities associated with a particular feature of the product.

In scrum, the project requirements are defined in the form of user stories, or product backlog items, which constitute the product backlog. The user stories are arranged as per their priorities and importance in the backlog, and whenever development is to be carried out, a small portion or a set of the backlog, usually the top portion which is more important and carries a higher business value, is transferred to the sprint backlog. During the sprint, each user story contained within the sprint backlog is taken up for development by the team members. After the sprint is completed, the completed user stories are taken up for verification and adjudged whether they are shippable, and are bug free.

The main feature of scrum which makes it unique is that it supports development in iterations known as sprints. The framework is specially designed to control the sprint, with its checks and counter checks that help to fulfill the objectives defined in the project. If any new feature or functionality needs to be introduced in the project, it can simply be defined as a user story in the product backlog, and subsequently transferred to the sprint backlog for development. The sprint is the most important activity of scrum, and the framework has laid down many rules regarding how it should be controlled. The rules are mandatory, and should be implemented to get the most out of scrum.

Is it possible to terminate a sprint abnormally before it completes?
The team members have to complete their development tasks before the sprint ends. It is imperative that the sprint process be time boxed, and completed properly if positive results are to be achieved out of scrum implementation. However, under some rare circumstances, a sprint may be terminated before it can complete its full iteration or cycle. The product owner decides whether the sprint can, or should be terminated.

The product owner may terminate the ongoing sprint if:

• The management or the stakeholders change the priority of the user stories taken up for development
• Market trends and changes render the current development as redundant or obsolete
• A technology change may offer newer and more effective ways of working
• A technical solution might offer a faster and more cost effective way of carrying out the product development
• The management may experience difficult times or a financial crisis, and may not be able to support the development work
• The new product launch may make the current development superfluous and unnecessary

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