Basics of Scrum … Part 2: What are the scrum time boxes and how will we use them in our the distributed, virtual and part-time world?

The second part of a small series as mentioned in A pre-amble to the basics of Scrum, this post is focused on the scrum time boxes and how we see them fit into the Visual Studio ALM Rangers world of projects. It continues from the post Basics of scrum … Part 1: What are the scrum roles and how do the fit in with the Rangers?.

Clipart Illustration of a Group Of Black People Seated And Holdi IMPORTANT POINT: It is important to emphasize that the intent of these posts are to share my understanding of Scrum, my initial thoughts on the distributed Rangers environment and the use of Scrum, and to discuss the content to be in a position to formulate a Scrum-based framework which will add benefits in our distributed, virtual and usually part-time Rangers projects that warrants the cost. Your candid feedback is therefore appreciated, either by adding a comment or sending me an email

Basic Scrum Time-Boxes

  • Release Planning Meeting … used to establish a plan and the goals for all the stakeholders. In essence the meeting answers how we can turn the agreed vision into a wining product, meeting or even exceeding stakeholder expectations.

  • Sprint … a time-boxed iteration, during which the scrum master protects the team from vision or scope creep that could affect the sprint goal. If a goal cannot be met, the sprint is aborted abnormally and restarted from the planning point.

  • Sprint Planning Meeting … a time boxed meeting (~5% of sprint duration).

    • During the first half, the team decides “what” to complete during the sprint from the product backlog and defines a sprint goal.

    • During the second half of the meeting the team decides “how” to complete the selected backlog items.

  • Sprint Review … a time boxed meeting (~5% of sprint duration).

    • Product owner identifies what has been done.

    • Team reports on what went well and what went bad during the sprint.

    • Team demonstrates the work done.

  • Sprint Retrospective … three hour time-boxed meeting.

    • Team inspects the last sprint in terms of people, process, collaboration, tools, etc.

    • Identify actions that can be implemented in the next sprint to improve.

  • Daily Scrum Meeting … time-boxed 15-minute meeting, during which each member explains:

    • What has been accomplished since the last meeting

    • What will be done next before the next meeting

    • What any obstacles/impediments have emerged

Highlighting the key roles on the Visual Studio ALM Rangers Projects Scrum Guide quick reference poster:

The following map shows the key areas on the poster that are focused on the roles. Note that this blog is based on the poster dated 24-April-2010.


The quick reference poster …

  1. … has an area for the team to agree on the start date, the sprint duration and days on which to hold the (daily) scrums.

  2. … has an area to define the product vision, using a basic template.

  3. Sprint Meeting

  4. Sprint Review and Retrospective Meetings

Some initial thoughts on time boxes within Rangers projects

Release Planning Meeting, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective Meetings

The suggestion is to use the planning, review and retrospective meetings as defined by the scrum basics, using technology such as LiveMeeting, Office Collaboration Services and MSN Messenger. Pre-meeting planning and preparations are essential, to ensure that information can be presented in a concise manner and such that remote users, joining over bad  or unreliable communication channels, can participate.

Relative sizing can be done using a LiveMeeting/OCS poll as shown:

The advantage of LiveMeeting is that all of the Rangers have access to the technology, that the sessions can be recorded, that video streams (including Microsoft RoundTable) can be included to bring together a virtual team, and that distributed collaboration is possible through a number of effective features such as desktop or program sharing.

If the complete team is distributed across all three time zone areas as mentioned in Basics of scrum … Part 1: What are the scrum roles and how do the fit in with the Rangers? the team attendance should become optional and the scrum-of-scrum masters and leads mandatory. Those that cannot attend the meeting due to the time zone challenges, or other production issues, can watch the session recording and submit post-meeting feedback where needed.

Meeting Proposed Rangers Preparation Time by PO, SM & Leads Proposed Rangers Meeting time by PO, SM & Leads
Release Planning Meeting 4h 1h
Sprint Planning 2h 0.5h + 0.5h
Sprint Review 2h 0.5h
Sprint Retrospective 2h 0.5h


Learning from past Rangers projects and taking the challenges into consideration, a four-week sprint is the recommended iteration duration. Selecting a shorter iteration adds immense administrative effort on the team, whereas a longer iteration increases the risk of the sprint not being completed successfully due to the part-time nature of the project teams.

Some of the phenomena's encountered during typical part-time projects:

  • Declining interest and commitment, with resource drop-off’s

  • Two spikes and a dip of activity and energy

  • Growing “Angst” over time  … what is the actual status?

  • Frequent scope, requirements and priority changes

Using scrum we can counteract these phenomena by introducing complete transparency across the projects, by introducing frequent inspections through scrum, review and retrospective meetings and by adapting our project teams and processes to introduce continuous improvements, promoting productivity, quality and making sure that the projects are “fun” from start to finish.

By carefully analyzing and managing the reduced and volatile team velocity we can ensure that the cost (admin, time and effort) introduced through the distributed, virtual and part-time teams is not under estimated.

based on recent experiments on distributed projects, using a four week sprint the team is able to deliver a tangible product, while the scrum masters can maintain full transparency, deal with impediments and minimise both the loss of resources and the status “Angst”. A shorter duration negates the benefits due to increased administration and interruptions, while longer sprints increase the chance of the phenomena mentioned above.

(Daily) Scrum Meeting

As outlined in Basics of scrum … Part 1: What are the scrum roles and how do the fit in with the Rangers? the biggest challenges for the Rangers are the distributed, virtual and part-time teams. Running a daily scrum is not practical for a number of reasons.

  • Working with part-time resources, availability and bandwidth, the average ability to deliver anything within 24 hours is minimal.

  • Agreeing on what is a common daily scrum time slot is difficult if we span two time zone areas ranging from 8-18 hours in difference and impossible when we span across all 24 hours.

    • Expecting anyone to be productive in the evening (family) hours or at 3AM in the morning is not feasible!

    • Expecting everyone, especially those Rangers working part-time and on a voluntary basis, to be available at all times is not feasible!

Therefore, the recommended approach to the scrum meeting is as follows:

  • Scrum duration          15min time-boxed

  • Scrum participants    
      --> SoS                    PO, SM, Regional SMs
      --> Teams                [SM], Regional SM, Team members

  • Scrum Recurrence      Weekly

What do you think?

Next … Part 3: What are the scrum artefacts and how will the Rangers use them?

Comments (3)

  1. I completely agree with 4 weeks sprints.

    Also i think having weekly scrum meetings makes sense since most likely the contribution to the project is happening more to the weekend. So possibly having the scrum meeting Monday makes sense as well.

    Of course this should be decided within the team.

  2. Rohit says:

    Thanks for such a wonderful post. I have also tried to write about Scrum: An Introduction to this simple-powerful agile methodology. I would really appreciate if you can provide your valuable feedback on the post at

Skip to main content