Agile Release Planning

by StarAgile

April 06, 2020
Category Agile and Scrum


Sketching an action before carrying out any job will lead to success. It is important because it provides an idea about the outcome. Also, it helps people to calculate how much money and time is required to accomplish a task. Further, it acts as a reference to check the progression. It offers a clear direction when many people are involved in doing a particular job. Planning offers many more advantages. 

In an agile scenario that is dynamic, planning is very important to save efforts, time and money. There are different stages of planning involved namely the

  1. Daily 
  2. Iterative 
  3. Release 
  4. Product 
  5. Portfolio 
  6. Strategy

However, release, daily and iterative planning are the most commonly focused planning which leads to successful product delivery. 

Agile release planning allows the development of a user story for a product release. The main purpose at this level is to define the scope of the project, identify resources and schedule an activity. It is the first step in a project and part of the process. It gets updated periodically at the inception of every iteration. 

How to generate a plan

To bring an increment to the product release, planning is generated. In general, the SM will facilitate the meeting and the PO will represent the product backlog overview. The team will discuss and share the possibilities. End-user and other stakeholders will provide suggestions that will help the PM to take a decision. 

What is required to make the plan effective? 

  1. Vision - Create a vision at a high level. 
  2. Understand the customer, market and the business 
  3. Product backlog - Identification of the product backlog and rate them. 
  4. Features - Taking few features and include in the release 

Components and data of an agile release planning 

  • Marker and whiteboard to make note of the agenda.
  • Make use of projectors to share the planning details with the audience.
  • Collect data from the previous release result and iterations.
  • Make a plan keeping previous plans as a benchmark.
  • Collect the velocity from the past estimations. 
  • Gather information from all the team members and stakeholders. 

Outline of the agile release planning 

  • Start with an icebreaker and address the gathering. Give pointers about the plan, tools, and the purpose. 
  • Present the high-level image of the product. 
  • Review the past releases to understand any bottlenecks. 
  • Check for the present status and adjust the roadmap accordingly. 
  • Share the previous velocity and plan for the current one. 
  • Decide on the timelines after discussing the different issues. 
  • Assess the DoD and modify it based on team capability, and technology. 
  • Identify the features and the user stories for the current release. 
  • Calculate the size for every unknown velocity. 
  • Map story and iteration.
  • Distribute the action between the respective team.
  • Collect feedback from the team upon successful release. 

4 step agile release planning process 

1. Identify the vision and define 

Product vision identification is the key to successful release planning. Knowing this will pave the way to decide on the feature, effort, people, and cost. Which feature to prioritize, how much effort is required by how many people and how much funding need to be allocated can be done only with the vision. 

After identifying the vision it is important to talk to the stakeholders and define the vision scope. Align it with the business vision. 

2. Product backlog ranking 

Now with the vision, you can create product backlogs and rate the features to add them to the respective release increment. The PO will draft the plan with the goal, rate the user story and announce the release date. This will provide an idea for the team to start working accordingly. 

3. Conduct the meeting 

The draft just give an idea and the meeting will bring all people to the table and the SM will facilitate the discussion.  The stakeholders will take a look at the plan and provide their consent. In case of any changes required they suggest for edit with an explanation. Then they will check the architecture for technical details. Here they will recommend for any dependencies, etc. The meeting will follow after this where the team will look at the road map and understand their role in the product delivery. 

Next, the velocity is reviewed and if it is new then the timelines are calculated based on the experience. Iterations are scheduled after assigning points to the user story individually. Every iteration plan will define the scope, time required and work distribution among the team members. Finally, a DoD is defined which will help the PO to check for the task completion under each user story. 

4. Freeze the plan 

Step 3 is crucial as most of the action plan is done in that stage. After everything is discussed and made clear, consent is obtained from all. It is mandatory to publish a calendar as the last step to bring all in one platform. The calendar should be accessible to all which will remind each person to focus on their respective task. 

The outcome of agile release planning 

A well-planned release will foresee any issues and offer solutions to correct them. It will throw some light in the dependencies and make the team equipped to handle them. Prepare the team for any upcoming assumptions to act accordingly during the actual situation. Continuous monitoring will recommend changes in the plan. The entire team will stay committed and stick on to the deadlines. 

PO and agile release planning 

If you are aspiring to become a PO, then you must follow these tips to make release planning successful. 

  1. Always start with the goal, understand the benefits and plan to achieve the results. 
  2. Not just know the dependencies but understand the uncertainty as well. 
  3. Remember to release before time and habitually. This will give room for corrections. 
  4. But never release work that is not done.
  5. Acquire the complete ownership in dictating terms to the team about the release process.
  6. Work towards continuous release improvement. 
  7. Make sure to create a minimum one releasable increment during every sprint. 

Feeling confused about so many inputs. Don’t worry you can quickly register for a Product Owner Certification to know the role of a PO. Here you will learn about release planning with practical exercises. Know the tools that help in planning also master the art of planning without any tool as well. Equip yourself as a PO and you need to own different levels of planning to deliver the end product to your customer. 

Abbreviation 

  • PO – Product owner 
  • SM – Scrum Master 
  • PM – Product Manager 
  • DoD – Definition of Done 
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