8 Steps to an Effective Agile Release Planning

Editorial Team

8 Steps to an Effective Agile Release Planning

A product or project’s main root is its planning. The planning does not only include the objectives, tools needed, the stakeholders involved but must also include the most fundamental element, the release of the products. Every planning must include the stages from the very beginning until the stage of product release.

When one envisions the release planning of the product, then only they could align and specify what are the necessary objectives, schedules, tools, and all the important aspects to achieving the said objectives. Doing this systematically may provide you with a rough idea of the approximate time needed before the release of the products.

There are several things that should be noted in release planning. First and foremost, release planning should be done with the presence of important developers and stakeholders. During this meeting, they will decide on the project’s potential course of action along with what they expect from the project. Meetings could be done regularly or according to preferences in order to monitor the progress of the project, ensuring everything is on track. Next, during release planning, one of the biggest priorities is the customers’ expectations and needs. The developers must be able to narrow down if the product brings special features that may be needed by customers. Lastly, release planning must include all of the estimated statistics, such as schedule, budget, job scope, and many more. These will serve as a guideline to be achieved as the project progresses.

Agile Release Planning

Now, let’s have a closer look at agile release planning. The term agile in project management could be defined as the approach where projects are broken up into several stages. Agile release planning refers to the project management technique where the increase of project launching is planned. It contradicts from the conventional strategy where the major launching or releases are focused on. It takes into account the dynamic essence of software development. Agile release planning is important to ensure that the project is constantly moving on the right track.

In agile release planning, the launching of the project will be segregated into stages or also known as sprints. The sprints segregation may vary depending on your team and project scale. Some sprints may also occur simultaneously. However, bear in mind that every time a sprint reaches the end, that does not mean the product or project is ready to be launched. This planning assists you to plan which product increments could be released along with their release time. In simpler words, some features may be launched earlier compared to other functions of the same projects. It is also easier to track and resolve flaws when using agile release since they are monitored regularly and in a more specific scope.

Steps to an Effective Agile Release Planning

We have looked into the key components of agile release planning. Now, let’s look into some of the steps to prepare an effective agile release. This article will provide eight steps on how to prepare agile release planning.

Step 1: Determine The Project’s Vision

Determining the visions of the product or project is the biggest and most crucial stage. A clear vision will provide the gist on what future decisions should be made, in terms of prioritizing the functionality of the products, the critical path of the project, resources and materials needed, costs, and necessary adaptations that could be made along with the project’s development.

A project vision must be on consensus with all the important stakeholders of the project. It should be aligned with the requirements and expectations of the organization, as well as meeting the demands of the market. There are a lot of things to consider and this stage should be proceeded with extra caution and analysis.

You may want to specifically determine the short-term and long-term goals of the project or product to ease the development. Doing this may provide clearer gist on what priorities that need to be focused on first.

Step 2: Assessing The Roadmap Or Workplan

After the objectives have been established, we can now proceed to prepare the roadmap of the projects. Since the goals have been categorized accordingly, it is much easier to plan the roadmap while prioritizing which outcomes need to be realized earlier than the others.

Roadmap planning must also be done with the team members and stakeholders involved. Everyone needs to be aware of their tasks along with the expected duration of the milestones to be achieved. Doing this with clear guidelines will guarantee everyone’s performance since they are well aware of their jobs, and regular monitoring should be done so that everyone is kept on track with the project’s progress.

Step 3: Checking On The Product Backlog

The product backlog is obtained from the feedbacks by the development team, the customers, and the stakeholders. These feedbacks will become the guidelines on what features need to be improved on or added in order to further boost up the functions of the products. Review the backlog of the products then narrows down what are the functions most desired by the customers or stakeholders. Also known as user stories, it refers to the descriptions provided by the user on what other feature they deemed necessary for the product, aside from the improvements that could be expected from the released products or functions.

However, do note that while it is important to see the desired additional functions from the feedbacks, all of these should be aligned with the main goals and priorities of the product itself. Some additional features may be useful but irrelevant to the products, some may even hinder the progress of the release. Hence, be clear of the main objectives of the products.

This stage is crucial in mapping out which functions should be released sequentially, based on the priorities analysed from the backlog. It allows you to clearly see the viability of the functions offered in the products.

For a more organized categorization, you may consider grouping the items into ‘higher-priority’, ‘mid-priority’, and ‘low-priority’ items. Higher-quality refers to the ones that need immediate improvement and may boost the value of the product as a whole. Mid-priority, on the other hand, refers to the one that needs refining but not urgent. Lastly, low-priority items are independent items that are not critical for the product in the early stages. Items should start to be refined and readied to be added into the consequent iteration cycle. Make sure to organize them nicely so you could clearly see the importance and urgency of each item. A colour-coded system is highly recommended.

Step 4: Establish Release Goals Aligned With Backlog Items

After reviewing the user stories on the backlog, it is best to recreate the release goals to meet the expectations of the users. At this point, after considering based on priorities, demands, criticality, and so forth, you may resort to releasing multiple functions at the same time instead of merely one viable feature. Take note on the users’ story but make sure to prioritise well with the goals of the products as well as the requirements of the organizations.

Step 5: Discussion And Meetings

After all the stages above have been done, it is crucial to hold meetings with team members and stakeholders to present the agile release planning developed at this point. Let the involved parties review the planning, either for the purpose of amendments, improvements, editing, or even to just informing.

No matter what project or product you are working on, meetings on a regular basis is a must to ensure everyone is well versed with the product and the features it may bring. Regular meetings and monitoring will also alert everyone of their jobs, tasks, and ensure everyone could achieve the milestones established before the launching of the products.

The matters to be discussed during the meetings can include reviewing the schedule. This will check everyone’s understanding of the goals of the product. Assessing the development progress of the products is also crucial. If there are any adaptations that should be done to the schedule, you may want to implement schedule compression or any other appropriate techniques. 

Step 6: Segregate The Release Into Several Sprints Or Iteration

This stage requires extra analysis and planning to ensure the feasibility of the sprints. It is recommended to keep each sprint short and focus on a smaller number of user stories. Prioritize which user stories to focus on for each sprint and work on one iteration at one time. Avoid performing multiple iterations at one time because it may high chance for errors and mistakes. At this stage, it is important to set the scope accordingly so that team members are not pressured with the burdening tasks. Prioritize, set achievable targets,  

Step 7: Develop The Product Release Schedule

We have come a long way in analysing and segregating the sprints or iterations of release planning. Now that all of the steps have been taken, we could start developing the product release schedule. In case you are a beginner project manager who just started to familiarise yourself with agile release planning, it is suggested to refer to any available template for agile release planning you could find on the internet. You could even review any software or application that may ease the tasks of creating this release plan or schedule. Many offer a free version of software and once you have gotten the gist on how to use the application, you may want to purchase the software to ease your planning and scheduling tasks.

Step 8: Share The Established Product Release Calendar

After discussions, meetings, editing, and finalizations have been done when developing the product release roadmap, it is important to share the calendar or roadmap with every stakeholder involved in the project. The schedule of the product release must be accessible to all stakeholders and team members at all times. In case amendments or modifications are done to the roadmap, it is very important to ensure that everyone is aware of them. This will allow smooth progress of the project and preventing from going off track with the intended goals, especially if the time frame is short.

In terms of presentation or format, you may consider displaying the calendar using a more visual and interactive format such as process flow charts, Lucidchart, or many other kinds of visual presentation that could be more understandable and simpler to the viewers. If you are not familiar with these names, you may want to search for information or tutorials on how to use these kinds of charts online. The main point here is to be clear with the timeline so everyone is on the right track.

Bottom Line

Agile release planning is useful since it could define a degree of goal and priorities as aligned with the imminent roadmap. It could help to further accelerate the feature creation by operating the team to standard design specifications. This could then remove the need for back-and-forth meetings and saves time for more productive purposes of the project or product development. You may find many references available online on how to construct an effective agile release planning. This article has listed down a total of eight steps to an effective agile release planning. You could integrate the information here with other resources you could find from other websites. We wish you the best of luck with your project!