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Release Planning during Agile Project Management

Posted by on Aug 21, 2012 in Agile Project Management

Joe’s Approach to Release Planning

(A repost from Joe Little, Agile Coach and Certified Scrum Practitioner)

Here’s what I think Release Planning should comprise.  For a 3-6 month release, most teams could do this in about 1-3 days.  With good enough quality to then start sprinting the next day.I want to say quickly that we don’t just do the initial Release Plan.  We also do Release Plan Refactoring every Sprint. (And possibly some Sprints there are no changes.) The adaptiveness of agile release planning is perhaps its most essential aspect.

I will explain release planning more in later posts.

I do NOT guarantee that release planning is needed in all situations, nor that the approach will work in all situations.  Still, I have done this now with many many teams, and it seems to have worked with all of them.  My experience is that everyone I have done this with has liked it after they did it.  And thought it was worthwhile.  And actually did almost all of it (and almost all that it implies to me, but is not stated here).

  1. Vision
  2. Product Backlog
    • Roles
    • User Story Workshop
  3. Business Value
    • What is BV for this project?
    • Priority Poker –> BV points
  4. Effort
    • DOD
    • Planning Pokers –> Story points
  5. Risks, Dependencies, Learning, MMFS, Other
  7. Make scope-date trade-off
  8. Calculate the budget for the release (usually a simple calculation)

(Note: MMFS stands for Minimum Marketable Feature Set. See Software by Numbers by Denne and Cleland-Huang.)

Then we have to talk about some other things, and see where we go.  For example, sometimes we find that the skill sets needed are different (now that we see the product or project more clearly).

Then we have to do Release Plan Refactoring every sprint, until the plan is more solid (sometimes it is always being improved).

As I have said elsewhere, the real value in doing this is NOT the ‘crappy’ estimates that the team arrives at after the initial release planning.  It is that everyone is now ‘on the same page’ about what the elephant is.  At least a whole lot more than we ever had before.  And I and most others find that tremendously valuable.

Note: If they do really bad or no release planning, I think it increases the chances a lot that the stories are not small enough.  This means that lots of stories just can’t get to done, done in the sprint.  So, in that and other ways, good release planning is linked to having good sprints!  Now, this problem (stories too big) can be fixed later, but god, all hell is breaking loose then. Do Scrum professionally from the beginning.