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What you need to know about Agile release planning

Last updated

15 May 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Mary Mikhail

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Agile release planning uses Agile methodologies to outline the path from product development to final release. 

It connects a team's day-to-day Agile activities with the company's overarching goals and strategy, aligning Agile teams with stakeholder expectations and user needs. 

This planning results in a roadmap that guides team members on expectations at each project stage. 

Let’s learn about Agile release planning benefits, what a good release plan entails, and a few tips for maximizing your planning efforts.

Why is Agile release planning important?

Agile methodologies work by breaking a project into smaller, more manageable steps. Agile release planning combines these smaller steps into a cohesive plan. 

It ensures that development remains aligned with business goals and customer needs by including all stakeholders in the planning process and conducting regular check-ins. 

When release planning follows Agile methodologies, it provides greater flexibility by allowing adjustments as new information arises.

When does release planning happen in scrum?

Scrum is an Agile methodology that organizes work into short, fixed-length periods called sprints. These typically last two to four weeks and have ete goals. While sprints are fairly rigid, release planning is more flexible. 

The release planning process should begin before the first sprint. Typically, alignment will take place at the end of each sprint during the sprint review. This lets you update your plan with the information you learned from the sprint. 

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Who is responsible for release planning in scrum?

Each person involved in the development of the product has a role to play in release planning.

Product owner

The product owner defines the product vision and is responsible for keeping release planning aligned with business goals. 

They prioritize the product backlog so the most essential items come first. The product owner also liaises between the team and other stakeholders.

Scrum master

The scrum master conducts release planning meetings and keeps the team focused. They support or coach the team on scrum practices and assist in backlog management. 

The scrum master also identifies and removes any obstacles that may hinder development.

Development team

The development team is responsible for providing estimates about how long backlog items will take. They offer technical insights that help stakeholders craft a realistic release plan. 

The development team is also responsible for ensuring the product meets quality standards.

What should be included in an Agile release plan?

For an Agile release plan to be effective, it needs to contain the right information. 

Specific items may depend on the nature of the product. Here are some items that every release plan should address:

Product vision and goals

Create a clear statement outlining the overall vision of the product and the goals the release aims to achieve. 

Release scope

This is a detailed look at what the release will include, like features, improvements, and bug fixes for existing products. 

Sprints

Create an initial breakdown of the release into sprints, explaining the objectives and backlog items of each sprint.

Timeline and milestones

Outline a schedule with key dates, such as the start date, estimated release date, and significant milestones.

Dependencies

List any external dependencies the team must complete or address before the project can proceed. 

Risks and mitigation strategies

Assess any potential risks that may delay the release or degrade its quality with mitigation strategies to address them.

Quality assurance plan

Form a plan detailing the testing and quality assurance processes to ensure the release meets quality standards.

Communication plan

Ensure you’ve got a plan for updating stakeholders on progress throughout the process, including the frequency of updates and channels to use.

Four steps for building an Agile release plan

It's helpful to follow a concrete set of steps while creating your Agile release plan to ensure it includes the most important elements. 

Follow these four steps for an effective release plan:

1. Determine your product vision

Without a clear vision, a product release is much less likely to be successful. The same applies to the release plan, so the first step is to clearly define the product vision. 

Once you’ve finalized your vision, communicate it clearly to all stakeholders involved in creating the release plan. 

2. Review your product backlog and rank the features

The product backlog lists all the features, functions, and requirements that make up the product during development. 

During this step, review and prioritize the items on the backlog so your team takes care of the most important items first.

3. Host a scrum release planning meeting

Scrum meetings for an Agile release plan are like any other. During this step, the entire scrum team meets with relevant stakeholders to discuss how to finalize the release plan.

The goal is to ensure everyone aligns on project goals, timelines, and expectations. 

4. Finalize and release the planning schedule

The final step after the scrum meeting is to clarify and refine the plan. This may include changes to the timeline, scope, or other details. 

After making final adjustments, clearly communicate the finalized version to team members developing the product and any stakeholders who will play a role in the project.

How to implement Agile release planning

After creating and communicating the plan, it’s time to execute it with these six steps:

Integrate into daily workflows

Armed with the initial list of sprints in the release plan, assign specific tasks and responsibilities. Ensure everyone working on a task is clear about expectations at each stage.

Leverage Agile ceremonies

Implementing the release plan should also follow Agile methodologies. This includes sprint planning, daily stand-ups to track progress, and sprint reviews and retrospectives. 

Monitor and adapt

Track the release's progress against the plan. Use project management tools to track task and sprint progress and resource allocation. 

Remember the Agile process and remain flexible when you need to make changes.

Engage stakeholders

Provide regular updates to stakeholders according to the communication plan in the release plan. Actively seek stakeholder feedback so your team can make changes as product development evolves.

Ensure quality

Integrate quality assurance practices for each sprint. This includes code reviews, automated testing, and user acceptance testing. 

Ensure all sprint items are complete and meet the quality expectations in the plan.

Conduct post-release reviews

After the release, reflect on what went well and what you could improve. Evaluate all phases of the process, from creating the release plan to adhering to it during development. 

Use insights from this process to improve the next release plan creation process.

Release planning best practices 

To complement the steps above for creating and implementing an Agile release plan, let’s go over a few tips to ensure a smooth process:

Staggered releases

At one time, deployment technology required a product release to be one big package. Now, patches and SaaS distribution allow for continuous refinement. 

Staggering the release of new features helps you test them in real-world scenarios. This provides the chance to fix bugs incrementally rather than experiencing widespread issues from many new features. 

This method also allows for more frequent responses to user feedback. 

Definition of Done

For each criterion, establish a clear 'Definition of Done.’ People may have different ideas of when a feature or modification is complete. That’s why it’s important to have objective criteria agreed upon by stakeholders. 

Project management software

Project management software greatly improves the planning, organizing, tracking, and management of project tasks and resources. 

Using this software will enhance collaboration among team members and give scrum masters and other stakeholders a more complete picture of the project’s progress. It also provides a unified place to document and track all Agile ceremonies.

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