Release Plan

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Sohrab Salimi

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3 Minutes

Definition Release Plan:

A release plan in Scrum reflects the features in the backlog to be worked on in the upcoming sprints and provides an approximate date for the release. The plan should include the responsibilities, resources, and activities needed for each release and their potential priority.

The release plan is not an official part of the Scrum Guide or the Scrum Framework. But some Product Owners or Scrum Masters like to use a release plan to sort their backlog or to see if any anti-patterns show in the long-term development. Some agile teams also use a Scrum Product Planning and a dedicated planning board for internal stakeholder or organizational meetings where other teams use more traditional project management tools to show their work items.

Sometimes organizations use a dedicated release planning meeting where Product Owner, Stakeholder, ScrumMaster and even sometimes the development team meet. Since the Release Planning isn't an official ritual in Scrum, it is sometimes used to go through the Product Backlog and user stories with people outside the scrum team, like internal stakeholders. In this case the initial release planning is used as a kind of pre-sprint planning for upcoming high-priority iterations and features that are in terms with the overall product goal or product vision. The Product Owner can also show where trade-offs must be made when something changes short-term.

Synonyms for a release plan:

Product roadmap, release backlog, agile release plan, requirement roadmap, high-level plan, Sprint Backlog (wrong, because the Sprint Backlog is what is deliverd in the running Sprint)

Use of a Release Plan:

The release plan is broken down into multiple sprints and what is to be accomplished in each sprint is recorded. The release date is estimated based on the number of sprints needed - multiplied by the velocity of the team.

Especially when you come from traditional Project Management, a scrum release plan can help to show the feature-driven development and also remind everyone of the fixed-scope of each sprint.

Usually a release plan is more granular when it shows the next release or product increments. When up-to-date and well-defined, a release plan can also show final user stories or even the task-level and story points, while later sprints usually only show upcoming Epics and are much more coarse-grained and of lower-priority.

Since each upcoming sprint will usually go through one or more product refinements, there is no final prioritization made. All backlog items can be re-estimated or re-prioritized in the product backlog since they are not a part of the actual sprint backlog.

Benefits of the release plan:

  • Accurate estimation of total time and resources needed for the release process.
  • The team gets both a shared understanding and a shared vision of what needs to get done.
  • The product owner gets guidance for prioritizing stories and tasks.
  • Team members don't get off topic as quickly because they don't do unplanned work.
  • Can be shown at the end of the Sprint Review to show the upcoming major releases and the progress made.
  • Can be used as an extension to the Scrum product backlog and show every known iteration or potential business-value of later Epics to the product team and other product manager.
  • Can function as a Burndown Chart for Epics to show the large-scale product roadmap.
  • Creates a bigger buy-in of stakeholders and shows step-by-step how goal-oriented the Scrum Team works in their Agile release planning.

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