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The purpose of release planning is to commit to a plan for delivering an augmentation of product value. Release planning is a collaborative effort, and it usually involves the following roles:

  • Scrum master – Facilitates the meeting
  • Product owner – Represents a general view of the product backlog
  • Delivery team or agile team – Provide insights into technical feasibility and dependencies
  • Stakeholders – Act as trusted advisors as decisions are made around the release plan

When it comes to building software, you need to make sure everyone on your team, plus other stakeholders like marketing and support understand what you’re trying to build, why you’re building it, how long you expect it to take, and how the project is tracking towards release.

At the same time, if your team is geographically distributed, planning and communicating not only becomes more of a challenge, but also more critical to the success of your project. That’s where a centralized release planning page comes in.

Before getting started, release planning needs:

  • A ranked product backlog managed by the product owner
  • Input from the team about overall capabilities, known velocity, and technical impacts
  • High-level vision, market, and business objectives
  • An acknowledgment of whether new product backlog items may be needed

Release deadlines are often fixed, imposed externally by such things as tradeshows, accounting pressures, or contractual obligations. But since the goal is to get working software into the users’ hands as quickly as possible in order to make “course corrections” as soon as possible, every effort is made to keep release software development cycles as short as possible.

Agile release cycles should certainly be kept shorter than a year, and are often as short as 6 months or 3 months. A release is, in turn, made up of iterations. For a given project, iteration length will typically be fixed at a length somewhere between a week and a month. If the release is in 6 months and iterations are going to be 2 weeks each, the release will consist of 13 iterations.

The agile community has several good resources available that explain release planning. Mitch Lacey’s structured approach to release planning assumes that an estimated and ordered backlog exists and that the team knows its velocity. Tommy Norman’s “Agile Release Planning 101” goes a little deeper into the steps leading up to and including release planning.

Need more help with your release planning? Just send me a quick message and I’ll make sure your next release runs smoothly.

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