When you're developing software of any complexity to create a new product, it's nearly impossible for every facet of product development to go according to plan, which is the nature of software development. While it's great when software can be released on schedule and without any bugs, this rarely happens, which is where Agile release planning comes into play.
If your team is tasked with meeting strict deadlines, the development process will likely be filled with ample amounts of stress and late nights for everyone on the team. Agile release planning mitigates these issues by utilizing incremental iterations. The following guide tells you everything you need to know about Agile product release planning, how your company can benefit from it, and how this product release planning meeting agenda template can help you get started.
What Is Agile Product Release Planning?
Before you start using Agile release planning in your business, it's important to understand how you can benefit from it. This is a product management technique that centers around releasing incremental versions of a product or piece of software. When performing Agile release planning, your team will be tasked with preparing for staged releases. These releases can then be broken down into several iterations or sprints. It's possible to run several different sprints concurrently if your team is large enough.
A sprint only ends once a product increment is ready. However, this doesn't mean that the product increment will become a product release. To better understand how sprints work, imagine that you're writing a book. A sprint is similar to a draft of a novel. As such, a sprint that your team completes could be similar to a rough draft that a novelist writes. You don't release a rough draft. Instead, you continue iterating on it and improving it. The same is true with a sprint. While each sprint should be reviewed by the team manager, a release might not be on the table until future sprints occur.
Once you start integrating Agile release planning into your software development strategy, it should become easier for you to plan which versions of the product will be released to the market and at what times these releases will occur. By taking this approach, your team should be better equipped to adapt to the unexpected changes that tend to occur in software development. Keep in mind that each iteration of software should include the improvements and features that were made in the previous iterations.
What Is the Purpose of Product Release Planning?
The main purpose of using product release planning as part of the Agile methodology is to make sure that the product is pushing forward constantly and that releases are occurring on a frequent basis. Keep in mind, however, that a release plan doesn't need to include mapped out plans for the next few years. Instead, it should detail the releases that will take place in the immediate future.
When you're developing an Agile release plan, it's important to understand that work isn't outlined for every release. Instead, batches of sprints or iterations are used when mapping out development. Each sprint or iteration will have more details about the kind of work that needs to be done. Among the best aspects of Agile release planning is that every version of the product will be consistent with the others, which means that development shouldn't become too unwieldy.
When to Do Release Planning in Scrum?
Once you've created a product roadmap and vision, you can go forward with release planning. Combining numerous sprints into a large product release is highly recommended for the best results. Whenever you make UX changes, batching changes with sprints is a great way to allow users to become acclimated to these changes. If you didn't implement Agile release planning into your software development strategy, any major UX changes could result in users becoming frustrated and upset with the software as a whole.
If you're using the Scrum framework to implement the Agile methodology, Scrum focuses primarily on shorter sprints with relatively small teams of 3-9 people. In this scenario, some of the team will complete their work without performing any release planning. The teams that don't release plan will instead release the next product increment.
Who Is Responsible for Release Planning in Scrum?
When using Scrum, the entire Scrum team and product owner are able to participate. Depending on how your company is currently structured, you could ensure that sole responsibility for release planning is given to the Scrum team. When setting release dates, it's essential that the people who are closely involved with the project are the ones who determine when and how a release occurs.
How to Implement Agile Release Planning
If you're currently familiar with the Agile methodology but have yet to implement Agile release planning, the following is a step-by-step guide on how to do so.
1. Assess Your Product Roadmap to Identify Potential Outcomes and Results
The product roadmap and vision that you currently have for your product should be used as a structure for the entire release planning process. During this stage of the process, you should focus primarily on outcomes or results. Identify the outcomes that will help your business reach short and medium-term goals.
You should also discuss these goals with your customers and stakeholders. Keep in mind that a project can have several different desired outcomes. If you have multiple outcomes, rank these projects by priority when making your Agile product roadmap.
2. Broaden Product Backlog
If you're currently using the Scrum framework, you and the entire Agile team should hold a meeting to further discuss what to do with your product backlog. This meeting should be centered around product backlog refinement. The desired outcomes that you have for the project should be separated into different user stories, which should then be added to the backlog. Make sure that each item in this backlog has an estimated timeline and impact.
When prioritizing the backlog, you should begin with a minimum viable product. It's important that you don't waste your time working on products that aren't currently viable. If the product can't currently function or work on its own, don't focus on it. If you aren't using Scrum but are instead using a different Agile framework that doesn't have a product backlog, the action you take at this stage depends on the framework you're using. With Feature Driven Development, you'll want to use the features list to access the same information.
3. Create a Logical Release Goal
When you're creating a release goal, this goal should consist of at least two detailed user stories in order to implement notable changes for the user experience. Let's say that you want to provide the user with access to numerous analytics reports on their mobile phones. In this scenario, the reports should be released at the same time as opposed to incrementally.
4. Use Multiple Iterations or Sprints for Your Releases
Now that you've created user stories and a release goal, you can plan the sprints that you will use with Scrum. Make sure that the final release isn't too large. When you're planning your sprints, it's important to take the Scrum values into account. These values are:
- Have the courage needed to go away from the release plan
- Make sure that your sprints are short
- Take everyone's perspectives into account when estimating sprint scope
- Plan each sprint individually
When implemented correctly, Agile release planning can keep risks at bay and help you release timely product updates without extensive delays and roadblocks. Once you have a well-laid plan in place, the entire development process should be considerably smoother.