Software development in Agile is fluid and ever-changing. Without a road-map that ebbs and flows in tandem with the development process, teams can lose focus, get stuck, or face problems and delays. Consistent, clear organization is a staple of any successful project management team. When using Scrum in Agile, release planning is a valuable process that will make development smooth and easy.
What is ‘Scrum release planning’?
Scrum in Agile is popular because of its efficiency, and it works so well because of the attention to detail and meticulous planning. A Scrum release plan is a guide that lays out what will be completed, when, and general progress. In addition, the release plan also factors in budget, deadlines, new priorities, and specifications. Despite being in Agile, release planning in Scrum has a rigid structure.
When to plan, and how long it takes
Your team’s individual needs will determine how often you create a release plan, but a good rule of thumb is to have a planning session between sprints. Just like backlog grooming, release planning must be done regularly. Planning sessions typically last one or two days.
Throughout the release planning sessions, individual roles are more or less involved depending on what stage the plan is in. The key players are the scrum master, the scrum team, and the stakeholders.
Components of a release plan
The components of release planning varies from project to project. Usually, the following topics make an appearance:
- Backlog items – the reprioritized items from the last backlog grooming session
- Feature plans – functions of the product that will be in the final vision
- Iteration plans – what iterations the focus on next
- Individual tasks for features and iterations – a checklist of the smaller jobs for iterations and features to make them whole
- Deliverables – defining what makes an increment complete and when it will be delivered
- Deadlines – anticipated release dates, and client deadlines
- Velocity – a calculation of how fast the Scrum team can complete the tasks
Why you should use Scrum release planning
Besides being helpful for keeping the project on track, there are plenty of other benefits to release planning.
- Timeline transparency – The stakeholders and investors are a little more at ease when they can see what will be released, and when.
- Clarity and organization – A well organized team has far fewer delays and issues that could arise
- Cost and labor tracking – When you’ve calculated the team’s velocity, you can predict these things much more easily.
How to make a release plan
- A backlog of all the uncompleted tasks in your project
- The estimated velocity of the Scrum team
- Clearly defined parameters for completion
1. Solidify the end-goal
Even though the end-goal has a tendency to change throughout development, having a vision for the final product is the first step to getting prepared for making a release plan. What will the product do? What will it look like? When will it be finished? The vision shouldn’t be finely detailed, but there does need to be some shape to it. The client, stakeholders, and analysts must be consulted during this stage to make sure that the goals align with their expectations.
2. Refine the backlog
Using the vision, the primary features to focus on are chosen, then examined to determine individual tasks. These items should reflect the objectives outlined by the stakeholders. During this time, the Scrum team leads make a rough outline, which has the main features to focus on and their anticipated release dates.
3. Have the meeting
Once the next features to add are chosen, the Scrum team and the stakeholders meet to discuss the plan, and make any changes they need. This stage is to ensure that all members of the team agree on the goals and other features of the plan.
The meeting is, of course, the most important facet of release planning. Here is how a typical release planning session looks:
- Review the outline of the plan
Everyone discusses the plan and agrees on all the items before moving on. There shouldn’t be too many or too few items on the list. Balance is important in keeping sprints short, yet productive.
- Discuss the architecture
The stakeholders then examine the structure and other details of the software to be built. Any issues or other factors that could affect development are also discussed during this time.
- Iteration and velocity discussion
By examining the complexity of the items in the new release plan, and comparing them to the team’s past performance in terms of development speed, the team finds the estimated length of each task on the release plan. Once each iteration has an estimated completion date, all the dates are compiled into a schedule. to tell the developers which projects will be completed when. Individual tasks are also assigned to specific team members.
- Agree on the definition of done
Lastly, the team must agree on the criteria that define completion for each iteration. Typically, this means that all items on the list have been finished and are ready for release, but some items may have different demands to meet.
4. Release the plan
After the meeting, finalize the plan and tie up any loose ends, then share it so the entire Scrum team has access to it. Everyone being able to see the release plan removes uncertainty and answers questions the developers may have about their specific role. Now, the team can start the next phase of the project, fully organized and in the know.
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