Plan Iterations

An iteration is a single complete development time box usually resulting in an internal release. An iteration produces intermediate deployable code that has been discussed, designed, implemented, and tested. Each iteration is a subset of the final product under development and builds on the functionality of the prior iteration. The iterations grow incrementally to become the final system. A project can contain one or many iterations.

Planning iterations includes the following:

Manage the iteration schedule

To manage your iterations, click the Plan tab. From the Plan section on the right side, click Actions, then select Manage Iterations.

Determine capacity

The capacity for the team is derived from three simple measures for each team member:

  • Number of ideal hours in the work day
  • Days in the iteration that the person will be available
  • Percentage of time the person will dedicate to this team (keep in mind vacations, holidays, meetings)

Naming conventions for iterations

There are no best practices for naming your iterations. Use a convention that makes sense for your organization. Some teams simply use Iteration 1, Iteration 2, and so on. Other teams use more creative names, such as using elements in the periodic table, animals (alphabetically: aardvark, baboon, cat, dog), or foods (alphabetically: apple, banana, carrot, donut).

Iteration length

Iterations should last between one and four weeks. Typically, two weeks works best for most teams.

Create more iterations

From the Manage Iterations screen, you can use one of the following three ways to create an iteration:

  • Click Add. Enter the iteration name and specify details later.
  • Click Add with Details.
  • Copy an existing iteration. If your previous iteration worked well and had good cadence, click the gear icon next to the iteration and select Edit. Change the iteration name and other details as needed, then click Save.

Iteration planning meeting

Iteration planning is a collaborative effort involving these roles:

  • Scrum Master: Facilitates the meeting
  • Product Owner: Represents the detail of the product backlog items and their acceptance criteria
  • Delivery team: Define the tasks and effort necessary to fulfill the commitment

Before the planning meeting

Before getting started, ensure:

  • The items in the product backlog have been sized by the team and assigned a relative story point value
  • The product backlog is stack ranked to reflect the priorities of the team
  • There is a general understanding of the acceptance criteria for these ranked backlog items

Equal opportunity backlog

The product backlog addresses new functionality and fixes to existing functionality. For the purpose of iteration planning, the important characteristics for a product backlog item are:

  • It is small enough to be completed in the iteration
  • We can verify it has been implemented correctly

Right-size backlog items

Product backlog items too large to be completed in an iteration need to be split into smaller pieces. The best way to split product backlog items is by value, not by process.

Compound stories can be easily split through disaggregation. Complex stories present a different challenge. Bill Wake enumerates twenty techniques at:

Plan based on capacity

Mature teams may use velocity to determine what product backlog items to commit to during the iteration.

New teams may not know their velocity or it may not be stable enough to use as a basis for iteration planning. An approach for new teams is to make commitments based on the team's capacity.

Planning steps

  1. The Product Owner describes the highest-ranked product backlog item.
  2. The team determines the tasks necessary to complete that product backlog item.
  3. Team members volunteer to own the tasks.
  4. Task owners estimate the ideal hours they need to finish their task.
  5. Planning continues while the team can commit to delivery without exceeding capacity.

If any individual exceeds their capacity during iteration planning, then the team collaborates to better distribute the load.


  1. Opening
    Welcome meeting participants, review purpose, agenda, and organizing tools.
  2. Product vision and roadmap
    Remind the team of the larger picture.
  3. Development status, state of our architecture, results of previous iterations
    Discuss any new information that may impact the plan.
  4. Iteration name and theme
    Make a collaborative decision on name and theme.
  5. Velocity in previous iterations
    Present the velocity to be used for this iteration.
  6. Iteration timebox (dates, working days)
    Determine the timebox and total working days. Subtract days for holidays or other whole team-impacting events.
  7. Team capacity (availability)
    Each team member calculates their capacity based on personal availability, allocation to this and other projects, productive time for tasks in this iteration each day.
  8. Issues and concerns
    Check in on any currently known issues and concerns and record as appropriate.
  9. Review and update definition of Done
    Review the definition of Done and make any appropriate updates based on technology, skill, or team makeup changes since the last iteration.
  10. Stories or items from the product backlog to consider
    Present proposed product backlog items to be considered for the iteration backlog.
  11. Tasking out
    Delivery team determines tasks, signs up for work, and estimates tasks they own. Product Owner answers clarifying questions and elaborates acceptance criteria as appropriate; Scrum Master facilitates collaboration.
    a. Tasks, b. Estimates, c. Owners
  12. New issues and concerns
    Check in on any new issues and concerns based on tasking out and record as appropriate.
  13. Dependencies and assumptions
    Check in on any dependencies or assumptions determined during planning and record as appropriate.
  14. Commit!
    Scrum Master calls for a fist of five on the plan. Agile team and Product Owner signal if this is the best plan they can make given what they know right now and commit to moving to the next level of planning—daily.
  15. Communication and logistics plan
    Review and update communication and logistics plan for this iteration.
  16. Parking lot
    Process parking lot—all items should either be determined resolved or turned into action items.
  17. Action items plan
    Process action plan—distribute action items to owners.
  18. Retrospect the meeting
    Because we want these meetings to be useful for everyone, we solicit feedback on the meeting itself.
  19. Close
    Celebrate a successful planning meeting!

Use the Plan page

New! The Plan page now has an option to try out the new board view for planning. The new view installs a copy of the Iteration Planning Board app on the page. You may also plan by creating a custom page, and then install the Planning Board and other apps for a single, concise view.

Plan work by selecting user stories from the backlog and scheduling them into an iteration using the Plan tab.

To schedule a work item from the Plan page:

  1. Locate the work item to be scheduled in the backlog pane.
  2. Click the work item and drag it into the desired iteration.

    Your work item is now scheduled into the selected iteration and the related fields on the User Story detail page are updated to reflect the scheduling information. The user story is scheduled and can be viewed in the related Iteration Task Status view.

To begin planning an iteration, use the Plan page to organize your backlog and iteration backlog. Work items in the Plan and Backlog sections pertain only to the project selected. The Plan page has the following components:


This displays all unplanned artifacts (user stories and defects) in prioritized order. These artifacts are candidates for pulling in to a iteration. The Plan Estimate field displays the total number of points for the artifacts listed in the backlog. Toggle between artifacts by clicking on their corresponding icon .

With the backlog, you can:

  • Use the Actions button to add a new user story to the backlog.
  • Filter the user stories by ID and State.
  • Use the drag icon to change prioritization. As you move artifacts in to the iteration backlog, the percentages for each iteration updates to prevent over-committing your teams during a iteration.

Click the + icon to view all artifacts currently pulled in to the iteration.

Define tasks

A task is a unit of work that, when performed, contributes to the fulfillment and completion of a scheduled work item. Tasks allow decomposition of scheduled items into manageable units of work. You don't need to assign ownership of tasks; rather, use a pull-based system. Tasks are the main units of work for a project team member. Most tasks are self-explanatory and do not require a description.

During iteration planning (also known as sprint planning) team members:

  • Break stories into tasks
  • Estimate the effort required to complete each task
    • Rally recommends you estimate tasks in hours. If a task is estimated at more than eight hours, you should break it down in to smaller tasks.
  • Assign owners
  • Commit to the overall plan for the iteration

Once the iteration is underway, team members work on their tasks and let the rest of the team know how the work is progressing, and whether they are blocked. As they get deeper into the task, they also have a better picture of how many more hours of work there is left to do. They update their tasks to share this information with their team and with others in the organization who have a need to know.

Create tasks

Your task is now ready for detailing. To prioritize your tasks with respect to a parent, select the drag icon to drag the task up or down to establish a relative priority among its siblings when viewing the Iteration Task Status.

Copy tasks

Copy tasks to quickly create a set of similar work assigned under a common work item, or when you need to duplicate a task from one item to another. When you select the copy command, an editor window displays where you may re-assign the copy to another work item and edit other details such as owner or description.

On the Task Summary page, select the Copy icon to the right of each listed task to make a copy. From the Task Detail page, click Actions and select Copy.

You can also copy a task from the Iteration Task Status page.

Copy tasks from another work item

Does your organization have a common set of tasks that need to be completed for many, if not all, user stories or defects? You can speed up the process of tasking out by copying this set of common tasks from one work item to another.

In fact, some organizations will create a user story or defect that they designate as a template (by putting Template: in the name) and then copy tasks from that template into the user story or defect that they are currently planning. These unofficial templates can be kept in a team's backlog or even in a special project for templates that all teams can access.

From the Iteration Task Status page

  1. Select the copy tasks from Copy tasks from icon to the right of the work item you want the copied tasks associated to. A chooser window displays.
  2. Use the drop-down menu to select search criteria. You may search by work item name, FormattedID, or project.
  3. Enter text into the Search box, and click the Search button to filter results in the chooser.
  4. Select the radio button next to the work item that contains the tasks you want to copy. You may only copy from one work item at a time.
    Copy from chooser
  5. Click Copy Tasks. Task copies display under the work item.

From detail pages

  1. Navigate to the detail page of a work item.
  2. Click the Tasks link from the sidebar menu.
  3. From Actions, select Copy Tasks from. A chooser window displays.
  4. Enter text into the Search box, and click the Search button to narrow down results in the chooser.
  5. Select the radio button next to the work item that contains the tasks you want to copy. You may only copy from one work item at a time.
    Copy from chooser
  6. Click Copy Tasks. Task copies display on the page.



  • You may use these steps to make a copy of all tasks within the same work item. If you do so, (Copy of) will be appended to the name of the new tasks.
  • You may only copy tasks between the same type of work items. For example, you may not copy tasks from a defect to a user story.


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