At CAF we pride ourselves on our continually evolving approach to Agile project delivery, enabling us to adapt our product design and development to the needs of various customers and markets. One way in which we do this is via release planning. The purpose of Agile release planning is to transform a product vision into a backlog of valuable stories and reach a consensus as to which user stories are to be included in the next product release. This includes estimates of technical and business risk vs. value for each requirement.
These are our five tips that have helped us deliver successful release planning:
1. Calculate Return on Investment (ROI) on all user stories in backlog – By estimating the business value - which should include Risk - and development effort on all user stories in the backlog you can then derive ROI (BV / DE = ROI). The three estimates together help to inform decision making and prioritise stories in the backlog.
2. All stakeholders need to understand the product vision, the key risks and the value drivers - Use the product vision to continuously question whether a user story contributes to the wider vision and value. Remember, the vision can be refined over time if it is no longer accurate.
3. Communication, communication, communication –The client must be fully engaged in the release planning process. They should know how and why the backlog and estimations have been shaped. This way, as challenges arise, the development team and the wider client team will have been on a continuous journey and all parties will understand how and why things have to change.
4. Ensure the client has a Product Owner – Despite the temptation, proxy Product Owners do not work; the client needs to take full ownership of the product. A Product Owner safeguards the client's proximity to the product and the development teams’ proximity to their expectations.
5. Representation is crucial - All project roles need to be represented at release planning although not every individual in the team must attend. Each role brings a unique perspective to a project and therefore requires representation during estimation, including design and QA. Not doing so will only come back to haunt the project at a later point, after expectations have already been set.
Following these tips has helped us with successful release planning. Getting the right people together, focussed on a collective vision forces a thorough introspection of how much value can be built within a release. Helping us to deliver better value for our clients for their investment.