How to Create an Agile Release Plan (+ Planning Tips)

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
capacity-planning

Without a project plan, you cannot successfully execute any project. Agile release plans are of great help to project managers and software development teams, helping them reach positive project outcomes.

A well-laid plan is a first and crucial step in achieving all the goals in your project and completing them at the time allotted.

With an Agile release plan, you have an accurate project roadmap that provides a sure guide, useful information, and direction about the product vision, goals, and expenses.

This article will reveal how the agile release plan can help product and project managers easily achieve their project goals.

What is an Agile Release Plan?

An Agile release plan is an effective method used in agile project management for planning, directing, and releasing projects (product releases) in increments for a better customer experience. 

The release planning process does not concentrate on major releases because it is different from traditional software planning (the Waterfall approach). Instead, the focus is on planning incremental releases.

In simple terms, the Agile software development life cycle helps break down the agile development process into stages called releases. 

Agile project management follows this path instead of working on every feature in one regimented project and making feedback a priority from previous iterations.

Agile development - agile project management
Source: FAVPNG.com

An Agile release plan maps out when the release target date is and how to send product releases to the final users or product owners. 

By creating project schedules into Agile releases, product managers can better identify key milestones and project constraints and manage them. 

Agile roadmaps are better than traditional project schedules with milestones for tracking planned product releases. Its iterative schedule and high-level planning make Agile product development so effective for product owners.

The developmental stages may be full of various evolving needs and challenges. However, the Agile release plan makes tracking progress and adapting to project changes easy. This plan helps keep the product and project managers on the same page.

Here is an agile release plan example. 

Multi Team Release Plan Example
Source: Tcagley

Key Elements of Agile Release Planning

Agile release planning has a lot to do with flexibility in product development. The plan is open to adjustments and change and is very different from structural planning in a waterfall methodology.

To a reasonable extent, there is a bit of structure to the Agile and Scrum release planning. 

This structure is drafted for the agile team, with some differences between organizations but the basic elements are listed below.

  • Proposed release for the project
  • Plan for the release
  • Iterations (agile sprints) for the release
  • Plans for each iteration
  • Product Features development
  • Tasks needed to deliver product features
Agile Release Planning for Alignment in Hybrid Organizations and Projects
Source: Project Management Info

What is the Purpose of Agile Release Planning in Agile and Scrum? 

Agile release planning within the Agile methodology aims to ensure that products are always going in the right direction and that logical releases happen regularly during the release date.

A detailed release plan displays immediate future releases but does not consider a release plan for years to come. The release scope does not go beyond the present products at hand. 

Agile and Scrum release planning go beyond the surface for a product roadmap; it is detailed.

Product Readmap - Agile and Scrum release planning
Source: ProductPlan

Regarding project management, Scrum and Agile frameworks are perfect for this task, especially if it has to do with projects that require rapid development and testing within short periods. 

They make the work easier for the development team by providing a clear outward perspective and putting individual sprints in the context of the larger strategic product vision. 

The Scrum Master is responsible for organizing all the meetings of the product development team, including sprint planning and agile sprints, along with the Scrum framework. You can acquire several Scrum Master certifications to become a Scrum master.

Finally, Agile and Scrum are popular in IT projects. This software release plan is a standard method of managing software development projects by software development teams.

How to Create an Agile Release Plan? 

To Create a workable Agile release plan, following these vital steps is a sure guide.

1. Define Your Product Vision

Defining your product vision makes it possible to make the right decision when prioritizing features and know how to adjust to certain changes encountered during the release planning process.

As a product manager, you will have a clear-cut direction on how and where to direct your efforts and resources for the product release to go perfectly well.

Consulting with the organization’s executives and high-level stakeholders will help in making sure your vision is perfectly in line with the objective of the organization and the market demand. You will require the help of your team members to achieve this. 

2. Review and Rank the Product Backlog

You can use the vision and get other stakeholders involved in the suggestions to determine the product's priorities and map user stories. User stories are user-centered reports of the presented features.

The product manager should outline a basic scrum release plan or product roadmap, including the release goal, target date, and ranked user stories.

The primary goal of this step is to identify the most important features and prioritize them during the agile product development process. When prioritizing the backlog, start with an MVP (minimum viable product).

Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog
Source: ProjectCubicle

3. Have an Effective Release Planning Meeting

Organize a scrum release planning meeting to review the presented plan and edit the plan so it can properly align with the product deliverables.

This step aims to ensure that the product, project managers, key stakeholders, and team members (agile teams) agree before executing the project.

4. Conclude and Share The Product Release Calendar

After a careful planning meeting, you can begin the finalization process where you review the release plan and make important required changes. At this point, you can share the release calendar with the stakeholders. 

Granting the stakeholders access to the release plan and allowing them to be actively involved in the planning process will give room for updates and references to the plan.

The scrum release plan will enable the Scrum team to stay on track when executing their tasks.

Finally, a product manager must know that an agile release plan can influence a project's future success and use this vital information to the project’s advantage. 

An important decision is establishing clear timelines and process flows that all stakeholders and team members can access to preserve the details.

What to Discuss in an Agile Release Planning Meeting 

You must discuss specific important points to have a successful release planning meeting. 

1. Review Roadmap

The meeting should begin at a high point, with the most important item like the product roadmap discussed first. 

This discussion aims to ensure that the project manager, stakeholders, and the scrum team members clearly understand the vision and the organization’s goal for the product.

2. Review Architecture

At this point of discussion, the stakeholders' primary focus for the product release is the architectural and technical details.

Examine certain constraints that could affect the release planning estimate and scope to prevent unnecessary delays.

3. Examine Velocity and Iteration Schedule

Present the estimated velocity based on previous projects or iterative processes with the presented iteration schedule. Score each user story based on the effort required to complete a task. 

The project manager calculates the velocity by adding all user story points within a release. This calculation shows how fast the team members could finish that iteration. After this, you can outline an iteration schedule based on the scrum team’s velocity.

The iteration schedule displays how much work to include in a certain release and how to assign jobs to team members.

4. Establish the “Definition of Done” for the Release

At this point, the organization forms clear acceptance criteria across all user stories in the release. You can confirm a release is complete when it meets all the criteria.

The “Definition of Done”  means the team completes every task listed under a user story and recorded work for the scrum product owner to examine.

Tips for Better Agile Release Planning Process

To have an effective release plan, you must follow certain vital steps. The effectiveness of a release plan is largely dependent on the product owners, and it is their job to make it the best it can be.

1. Spot the Tasks Dependencies

You can not start or complete certain tasks until a different task starts or ends. These tasks are dependencies. Dependences are tasks or user stories in the product backlog. 

Recognizing dependencies makes it possible for the scrum team to keep working without delay or interruptions. You must be conscious of dependent user stories in your release plan because they can affect the whole project if ignored. 

2. Focus On The Release Goals 

Various distractions may arise to sway you off the set goals. Ensure you remain focused on the purpose of release planning.

Never take your focus off the most important things like goals, benefits, and results. The features will show up if you properly pay attention to the goals.

3. Release Done Work

Have a definition for your user stories and project deliverables to guide every task to completion. 

Releasing work will help avoid product backlog, which is expensive to fix and time-consuming, and you may miss the release dates.

4. Keep Improving

As a product owner, you must keep improving and never remain stagnant. Identifying improvement areas and making proper changes is part of a product owner’s job. 

The improvement should be gradual. Involving your agile team, running tests, and getting detailed feedback from user stores will go a long way.

5. Release as Often as Possible

Have different release dates, often in line with agile release plans. Do not get too comfortable with where you are; make it mandatory to release regularly. 

Doing this would get feedback on user stories and make adjustments so you can release them again. Finally, do not release just to release, be intentional and strategic.

Start Your Agile Iteration Planning  

With this useful information, you do not have to delay starting your Agile iteration planning. Start immediately for more effective product delivery, increased customer satisfaction, and to enjoy all other benefits. 

Agile release planning is the solution to aimless development.  You can ensure your stakeholders get what they want and satisfy your existing customers with your decisions. Taking advantage of Agile release planning is a wise choice.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.