Release Planning

This content is syndicated from Agile & Business by Joe Little. To view the original post in full, click here.

This is a short post to summarize our recommendations for Release Planning.

First, R.P. is that initial part of Scrum, where we plan the Product Roadmap and develop the first Release Plan. It is pretty important. We do it before we start doing Sprints.

Some people believe one myth about Agile (and maybe others). This first myth says: "we always leap in without looking or thinking." This is a myth, ie, incorrect. We must look and we must think first. But, how much??

Within Agile there is always this tension, between thinking just enough and YAGNI (you ain't gonna need it). Each team must resolve this tension its own way. Experience has shown that we learn most from real experience. So, suffice to say we do not, in agile, have a 6 month planning 'phase' (for any project that I have ever been on... and I accept the possibility that there just might be a fundamentally different kind of project than I have ever experienced before).

So, should it be done in one day? In 3 days? In 3 weeks elapsed time? The simple framework of Scrum does not answer this question. Use common sense (which is quite uncommon).

Still, the Product Owner and the ScrumMaster must set a high-level time box and day-by-day time boxes for the Release Planning. And try to get the participants to stay within them. It is hard. But the law of diminishing returns tells us not to waste that 'extra' time.

OK, what to do?

1. The Vision
2. Build the Product Backlog (stories)
3. Organize the stories with Business Value (I like BV points from Priority Poker)
4. Estimate the effort of the stories (using relative Story Points)
5. Discuss risks, dependencies and other things.

6. Order the work (based on all the info developed above)
7. Decide on (a) scope and date (together), and (b) cost.

We generally assume that the team is a constant cost per Sprint, so once you know the number of Sprints, you can easily calculate the cost.

Over-simplified. Left out some key things (well, not left out, but maybe not made fully transparent to some readers; assumed by me).

Having completed the R.P. you have achieved two main benefits.
1. You have established an "early warning system", which, when improved, can give you some advanced notice if your effort is getting into trouble.
2. You have all the "pigs" (and others) much much more on the same page about what the effort is really about. At a good medium level of detail. This is very very valuable.

Oh, yes, and we have the initial scope and date. The quality of those is technically termed 'crappy', so I minimize them as benefits. But soon, when revised and improved, they will become decent guesses.

Eventually (maybe up-front), this release plan must be developed further into a Product Roadmap (I don't really care what name you call it). Typically this is a rolling 12-month plan. After the current release, this is typically at a pretty high level (small to medium epics). Most businesses need about a 12 month plan. Some less, some more.

To close on a semi-controversial note: NO Sprint Zero! We did some release planning, now let's do a real Sprint (with a demo of working software at the end)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one + 19 =

There are 101 ways to do anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”


“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”


“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”


“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”


“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”


“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”


“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”


“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”


“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”


“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”


“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”



To explore how we can help you, please get in touch