What Is Release Planning In Scrum & How To Go About It?

Every project comes with its set of challenges. The most obvious are time frames, quality, and how to deliver the project. Whether it’s a software build/application e.g. asset management software, product marketing software, or database software e.t.c., proper planning is always the first step.  

Scrum has a unique solution called release planning that can benefit most software organizations and help make the headache of delivering large projects easier, more predictable, and without compromising the quality.  

What is Release Planning? 

Before delving into what release planning is, here is a quick glossary of some of the terms you will encounter to help you better understand the context.

  • A release –This is the project in question. It could be a substantial software you’re building or an application.
  • An Agile team — Refers to the team of employees or contractors wholly dedicated to completing the release within the set timeline. 
  • Scrum — Scrum is a software or framework that allows for effective team collaboration on complex releases. 
  • A sprint — A time box of one month or less within which a releasable product increment is completed. 
  • Velocity — Is the measure of the amount of work a team can tackle based on previous work rates within a sprint.
  • Iteration –An iteration is a shorter period within a sprint. If your sprint is a month, an iteration can be a week or two. 

With the above terms in mind, release planning is the process of determining the desired outcome (including the timeline) of one major release and positioning yourself and your agile team to maximize the chances of achieving it. 

With release planning, you break down the project into small chunks and set a sprint within which the project’s specific features should be completed. This allows the teams to focus on small challenges at a time and maximize quality, slowly compiling multiple sprints that finally add up to the entire release. 

How to Create a Release Plan 

Despite the critical role of release planning for businesses working with agile teams, it’s not always practiced effectively. Like every other business, strategy, planning, and groundwork are everything. 

Define the vision 

The first step in release planning is creating the roadmap for the release. The roadmap will determine the amount of time, effort, and resources each of the features requires and the strategies to use. 

To avoid pitfalls in your plan, ensure you consult with executives and high-level stakeholders in the company to ensure that your vision and roadmap align with the company’s objectives.  

Review your product backlog 

Similar to using customer feedback to improve your software, this phase also requires input from various stakeholders and high-level management to ensure proper execution. 

You will need to review the product backlog and break down the various features to determine priorities.

In this phase, you can create a basic release plan that will include the release goals, target release dates, and the different features in each sprint.  

Get the team together 

Once you complete the initial outline, and the major stakeholders agree with the initial plan, gather the troops. These will include agile teams and other stakeholders.

In the meeting, review the proposed plan to make adjustments, add or edit the plan, and ensure everything is aligned with the deliverables.

By the time the meeting is complete, everyone should be on the same page with your vision, strategy, and tactics to deliver the release. 

Some of the critical points of your meeting should include:

  • Review the roadmap – Look over the roadmap and vision you have created for the product release. Ensure everyone understands the details and the overall goal for the product. 
  • Check the technicalities – Discuss the potential challenges that could affect the release plan estimates and possible solutions to such problems. The issues can include assumptions, things you might have forgotten, and inaccurate estimates.
  • Confirm the velocity and iteration schedule–Teams have different velocities. You should be sure the teams you pick for the different sprints are okay with the time limits and can complete each iteration as required.
  • Determine the definition of “Done” for the release–Understanding the end goal is critical for everyone involved with the project’s management. Ensure there’s a comprehensive understanding of what the completion of the project means. 

Finalize the release calendar and share it with the team

After all outstanding issues are ironed out in the meeting and any uncertainties addressed, you can make some last-minute adjustments to the release plan and share the calendar with your stakeholders.

Going forward, everyone involved with the project should have ongoing access to the release plan for reference and updates. 

If the release plan is done right, your agile teams should stay focused on the right tasks at the right time, smoothly working towards the primary goal.

The Takeaway 

Even with release planning, you still need to practice effective communication and exceptional leadership to ensure all the teams are on track to complete the work at hand on time and to the required standards.