Regardless of whether it is a part of the project management paradigm or something else, the first step in any process is planning.
A detailed plan can lead you through various obstacles and project milestones to an early completion date. With an efficient plan at hand, you can control the various phases of a project, identify bottlenecks and resolve issues to make sure tasks are accomplished on time.
Agile release planning plays a similar role in Agile processes. It is a project management methodology that aims to help you with sprint planning, releasing iteration, scheduling regular standup meetings, and using feedback to create a more optimized end product.
An agile release plan is a flexible methodology that guides you through every step of the process by helping you incorporate feedback obtained from end-users and stakeholders.
With the help of an agile release plan, Agile professionals can carve out a schedule for the release of new increments, etc. The flexibility in the plan allows you to incorporate changes on the go, without having to start anew.
In this article, we will walk you through the basics of Agile release planning and how to plan a release.
What Is Agile Release Planning?
Agile release planning is an incremental project management methodology wherein releases are divided into iterative sprints. In simpler words, the development of software features is divided into different releases, each release is time-bound with a specific scope in focus.
The method is a flexible one in which you have the freedom to incorporate improvements during the process. An agile release plan is a customer-centric methodology that aims to develop a product release roadmap. The release plan can help you schedule each release, and define how each task will be accomplished and when will it be made available to the end-user.
The releases, in question, are often planned for a large period, sometimes extending to several months or a year. During the development process, changes can be incorporated taking into account customers’ feedback and stakeholders’ opinion.
What Is the Purpose of Agile Release and Why Is It Important?
The purpose of an agile release plan is to make sure that your project is headed in the right direction. It takes feedback from consumers and incorporates relevant changes during the process to ensure the success of the release. In addition, the plan makes sure that the developmental processes are in line with the project roadmap.
In terms of benefits, release plan for agile projects:
- Sets clear expectations for all the team members involved in the project
- Makes sure team members’ goals align with the goals of the project
- Helps team members stay on track and complete their tasks on time
- Increases productivity by highlighting goals, the deadline for release, etc.
- Helps identify and mitigate potential issues and risks
- Allows you to measure your performance and make relevant adjustments wherever necessary
The people involved in agile release planning include:
- Scrum Master: The one who leads and facilitates the team.
- Product Owner: The product owner shares the product backlog.
- Team Members: Offer valuable insights into the feasibilities and dependencies of a project.
- Stakeholders: Contribute to the project with their valued feedback.
Steps Involved in Agile Release Planning:
How to plan release? Just as how an agile release plan breaks project deliverables into timed releases, there are some definite steps in creating a release plan for agile projects. The general steps involved in the making of an agile release plan are as follows:
- Identify and define your vision of the product
- Prioritize your product backlog
- Schedule a release plan meeting
- Break releases into sprints or iterations
- Set a deadline for the release
- Share the release schedule with your team
- Keep on updating and improving the plan
1. Identify And Define Your Vision of The Product
No matter the scope of your project, you have to have a clear vision in mind. Having clarity on the goals and expectations can guide you through the whole process.
Once you have identified the vision, you can carve out the details in accordance with it. It will also help you in setting your priorities and identifying key areas demanding your focus. With a clear vision, you take better decisions for the improvement of the end product during the development process.
An important point to note: Discuss the goals and expectations of your product with relevant personnel i.e., stakeholders and top management to make sure that the goals align with the latest market trends and are in line with the company’s vision.
2. Prioritize Your Product Backlog
The second step in how to plan release in Agile includes prioritization of the product backlog. The step entails the identification of the most important features to be released. You rank the features per their importance and priority status.
The step involves the use of stakeholders’ input and the vision for the product set earlier, to determine the priority rank of the features and create user stories.
You have to make sure that the top priority features are the most viable and relevant, the ones below can be released later.
3. Schedule A Release Plan Meeting
Once you have clearly outlined the vision of the project along with the prioritization of the product backlog, you must schedule a sprint meeting with the stakeholders and your team members.
This meeting is a way of making sure that all the relevant personnel have a unified vision of the project and are clear on their responsibilities and expectations.
A release plan meeting can help you make sure that everyone is on the same page and that their individual goals are in line with the overall goals of the project. You can also communicate about the technical developments in the release plan with the concerned team members.
In addition, the meeting can help you plan iterations i.e., how much work will be accomplished in a single iteration, the assignees included, and the overall schedule that will be followed for each iteration.
Important Point to note: You can highlight what completion entails for each release in what conditions are to be fulfilled for a release to be considered complete. Once these conditions are met, you can forward the release for review, this simplifies and streamlines the process for more efficiency.
Resources for Meeting Management:
4. Break Releases into Sprints or Iterations
As we mentioned earlier, you can plan iterations during agile release planning. Iterations or sprints are basically the division of the release into smaller, accomplishable chunks.
You have to make sure that each sprint is neither overloaded nor deficient, it has to have a balance. A release plan agile example with too much target work can burden your team and might also compromise the quality of your release.
In opposition, a release plan agile example with too little work will lengthen your work across months, delaying your original release dates.
You can determine the number of iterations in a plan by discussing it with your team or keeping in view the previous examples.
5. Set A Deadline for The Release
Setting a deadline is the highlight of an efficient agile release plan. Herein, you and your team can set specific deadlines for the releases.
The deadlines will help you make sure that the team follows the plan and accomplished their tasks on time. With a target date in mind, your team can focus their efforts and time on the successful completion of releases within the deadline.
6. Share Release Schedule with Your Team
The next step in the process is sharing your release plan with your team. We have already mentioned the importance of aligning team goals and making sure that everybody involved is on the same page.
Sharing your release schedule can help you gather valuable insights for improvement in the plan, it can also play a pivotal role in unifying the team and will be effective in making sure that the team is clear on the things expected of them.
7. Keep On Updating and Improving the Plan
A plan is always prone to changes so you cannot get too rigid about following the plan as it is. You might have to change a few things here and there to make sure that the processes run smoothly and the release is delivered to consumers with the highest quality on time.
You can make adjustments to the plan with the ongoing processes and improve the outcomes. You can also take into account the feedback obtained from stakeholders to make relevant modifications to the plan.
All in all, the aim is to develop a high-quality release so adjusting the plan accordingly will only contribute to that goal.
Agile Release Planning FAQs:
1. When does release planning happen in Scrum?
Release planning usually comes after you have outlined your roadmap as well as the product vision. Since the main focus of Scrum is simply to focus on shorter sprints, some of the teams actually work without release planning at all.
Instead, they simply choose the product increment as well. That helps to keep the focus on speed and adapting to the stakeholder needs at any moment.
2. Who is responsible for the release planning in Scrum?
In Scrum, the process of release planning is not reversed for the C-suite executives and the product managers. Your Scrum team and the product owner must also participate wholeheartedly. The team can also be solely responsible for the plan depending on your company structure.
The Scrum team is often better connected with the current state of the software and with the different stakeholders as well, so they tend to lead the decision-making process. The release cycle should always be driven by those closest to the project. If not, you risk creating a roadblock instead of a roadmap.
3. How long is a sprint in Agile/Scrum?
A sprint in Scrum is typically 2 weeks to 1 month long. However, it can also be shorter or longer if this is deemed more appropriate for the development project.
4. What Is the Difference Between Releases, Iterations, and Sprints?
The releases refer to a scheduled development as well as deployment of software features that change over a time period of 1 to 3 months. In iterative, agile, and hybrid projects, releases are simply broken down into multiple iterations that have a smaller scope as well as a shorter time frame, usually between 1 or 2 weeks and 1 month as well. In some of the agile frameworks such as Iterations, Scrums are also regarded as sprints.
Start Creating Release Plan for Your Agile Projects Now!
Agile release planning is your key to the successful completion and delivery of end products.
Hopefully, this article has answered all your questions about what is agile release planning and how to plan release. With all the steps explained above, you can start creating your own agile release plan and improve your work for the better.