How does a Developer Handle Spare Capacity Within a Sprint?

During a sprint planning meeting, the Developers select the number of backlog items they reasonably believe they can complete within the sprint. They do this knowing that while there are specialists on the team (e.g. Coders, Testers, DBAs, Graphics Artists, Copywriters, etc), it is up to the entire team to complete the selected sprint work. This means that there will be some blurring of traditional roles with each team member helping in ways outside of their traditional role.

Sometimes sprint capacity opens up for an individual team member even after they have helped out wherever they could. In this case, what are these individual team members to do?

Of course the first action is to inform the rest of the team at the Daily Standup meeting just in case someone could use their help. Assuming their spare capacity cannot be utilized, there are always background tasks that could be done depending on their traditional role. Using the Coder or Tester roles as an example, they might do some of the following:

  • Learn the typical duties of other team members so they can help more in future sprints.
  • Coordinate with the rest of the organization so code can be deployed.
  • Refactor code (so long as it doesn’t impact other team members and delivery of current sprint work).
  • Write unit tests to improve quality before formal testing.
  • Update documentation and organize project files.
  • Look for defects in previously delivered code.
  • Identify technical debt and make recommendations to the Product Owner for new backlog items.
  • Investigate new toolsets that would benefit the team.
  • Create automated test case suites.
  • Research upcoming backlog items requirements and solutions.

Any number of activities could be done as long as the work will be beneficial for the Scrum Team now or in future sprints.

© 2012 William Patrick Swisher

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