Agile Release Plans tells us how we are pursuing our goals.

Agile release plans tells us how we are pursuing our goals.

Why do we perform the tasks needed to create an Agile release plan?  Release plans answer the “what will you get” and “when will you get it” questions as precisely as they need to be (a loaded statement). However the release plan provides information to the project and organization for much more fundamental uses. The release plan is an input to strategic direction and alignment of the business though development’s impact on product or platform evolution plans and to support the tactical direction.

All projects are part of a larger portfolio of work. There are multiple mechanisms for portfolio planning ranging from methods like Kanban to tools like VersionOne and PlanView. Portfolio management tools provide the organization with a strategic view with how products will evolve or for internal IT organizations with a view of how internal capabilities will change. The release plan continually “informs” or updates the overall portfolio so the organization can understand not only the backlog of work IT has on their plate but how the organization’s capabilities will evolve.

On a tactical level, any department that relies on software to enable their capabilities needs to understand how their tools will be impacted in the short-term as well as in the long-term. Agile release plans help those who use IT tools understand how they need to staff or when disruptions might occur. On the positive side, when tactical business changes occur, IT and the business can understand the impact of reacting. For example, recently a local grocery store chain closed its store in the city where I live. Their competitor quickly changed their zone pricing model to take advantage of the lack of competitive pressure. Other work had to be paused impacting a number of projects. The impacted project had (three teams) to stop their sprints and re-plan which changed their overall portfolio plans. The impact to the release plans rippled through the organization.

Agile release plans, which are dynamic, answer the basic questions of what will be delivered and when they will be delivered. As importantly, Agile release plans are significant inputs into the more strategic process of portfolio planning. Portfolio planning provides a critical view of the of the future capabilities of the organization and/or the evolution path of their IT enabled products. Tactically, having a release plan allows managers to balance the impact to the organization when a short-term shock occurs. With a release plan we are in a better position to know whether we need stop a specific project or wait until the end of the sprint to change directions.