In this article, we will explore the benefits of release planning. Release planning is a key step in agile software development that ensures the delivery of the product vision, project success, and efficiency.
Release management is the process of planning and scheduling software releases, including testing and deployment processes. It involves preparing iterative, incremental project schedules, outlining product goals and objectives, and defining a timetable for completion. By taking the time to plan, teams can avoid common pitfalls and anticipate potential challenges.
What is Agile release planning?
Release planning is about defining the desired outcome of one or more major releases and maximizing the chances of achieving it. This involves: setting clear, specific, and measurable goals that describe the outcomes or benefits that the product should deliver.
In Agile release planning the Product Owner and the product team plan incremental releases of a product instead of linear, long-term projects. It means you make releases in phases and then break them down into several sprints or iterations that can run simultaneously. Agile release planning differs from traditional, Waterfall software planning methods where you focus on one major release at a time.
Release planning involves creating a document about which product versions will be released and when. Sharing the agile release plan of milestones already achieved and those to come until product release keeps stakeholders informed and helps agile teams stay on track.
Agile development methodology breaks down the development process into releases, rather than trying to release all the features developed in one huge and complex project, typically over a quarter. Agile release planning also creates flexibility for projects and openness to change.
A successful two to three-week sprint ends with the completion of a new product increment, but this does not necessarily mean a product release. An agile approach to software development supports more frequent releases of smaller increments, as continuous delivery means more frequent value creation for customers, less stress for the development team, less preparation for DevOps, and less risk if something goes wrong.
Release plan and product roadmap – what is the difference?
The roadmap provides a high-level view of the strategic implementation of the product vision, while the release plan provides a detailed description of the project tasks and their deadlines.
The release plan is more detailed: it outlines the specific features, functionality, tasks, deadlines, and improvements that will be delivered in a given release.
Product roadmaps generally provide an overview of the direction of product development over a 6-12 month period, while release plans typically provide more detailed information on specific features and enhancements to be implemented in the short term.
What is a release planning session?
Product release planning is a bit like sprint planning: they are also essential to develop common goals and shared knowledge within the development team. The release planning meeting is an important collaboration and a critical opportunity to get buy-in from the dev team and DevOps. A well-managed release planning session is led by the Product Owner or the Product Manager and empowers participants to further communicate and confirm relevant details with the rest of the delivery team.
Release planning starts with having the right representative in the room and inviting key staff from different departments with complementary skills. For maximum effectiveness, aim to have at least 4 and no more than 7 or 8 people plus the PO.
Start it by discussing (or revisiting) why product release matters
Ask questions like:
- By when do we anticipate seeing these results?
- How will we measure success?
Take care to assess team alignment at this stage.
Discuss how the product or feature should work
Now we can start to discuss features and functionality:
- What is the task the user wants to accomplish?
- Which user(s) wants to accomplish this task?
- Why do they want to accomplish this task?
- How often will they want to complete this task?
- How valuable will this feature be?
In agile software development, the goal of each sprint is to release an “increment of a potentially deliverable product”.
Splitting the story map into several releases helps to decide which features should be delivered in which order, hence the name ” release planning “. You can think of slicing up a story map as simply drawing a horizontal line under the details of all the features that should be included in the first release called MVP (Minimum Viable Product.
Release planning and release management with StoriesOnBoard
Now let’s see how StoriesOnboard can help you with release management. StoriesOnBoard is a lightweight product management tool built around user story mapping. You can use story maps as visual product backlogs that everybody quickly understands.
Here’s how you can slice out and manage releases in user story maps:
In developing a new product, the very first release includes the user stories that form the backbone of the product being developed: only the minimum usable and marketable features are included. You can create your first release and future releases by selecting the user stories that are essential to the product’s value proposition.
Here is our step-by-step article on how to define your MVP by mapping user stories:
Release view and release management
The release view is a simplified list view of a release on the story map. It can be useful for easier tracking of the status of a project. It provides a simplified list of stories based on their status. Release view can be shared via a link with project participants and external partners, decision-makers, and even the customer, to show the team or stakeholders the relevant part of the story map.
StoriesOnBoard allows you to provide details about your releases. You can enter different information for the release details and set the start and end date of the release. In the release summary, you can also find status reports by card or estimated time and effort of the implementation.
The status report shows the number and status of stories in the release and also shows a pie chart of them, where you can choose to list story cards by status or estimate. It is also possible to find cards that do not yet have an estimate.
It is also possible to synchronize release dates, release statuses, and dates with JIRA and GitHub.
You can also manage your releases: name, rename, archive, or delete them.
Parallel releases and the simultaneous use of multiple story maps for a large project also require transparency due to the complexity. There is of course a solution to this in StoriesOnBoard.
The release roadmap and the portfolio roadmap summarize the releases of multiple story maps. These work great if you are using the releases to group user story maps to get a high-level overview of the project.
- Release planning is a key step in agile software development that helps ensure communication between team members, project success, and effectiveness. Release planning also provides a clear prioritization of planned product features and the prioritization of different product versions over time.
- Agile release planning involves planning incremental releases of a product instead of linear, long-term projects, creating flexibility and openness to change.
- A successful release planning session involves having the right representatives in the room, discussing project goals and measures of success, and aligning the team on features and functionality.