The second activity and third stage in the Agile Roadmap to Value is release planning. A release, in agile terms, is a group of usable product features that you release to production. A release does not need to include all the functionality outlined in the product roadmap, but should include at least the minimal marketable features. This is the smallest group of product features that you can effectively deploy and promote in the marketplace. Your early releases will exclude many of the medium- and low-priority requirements you created during the product roadmap stage.
Agile project teams typically conduct the initial release planning activity once at beginning of a project. Project teams also start each new release with release planning – just like they start new sprints with sprint planning. When planning a release, you establish the next set of minimal marketable features and identify an imminent product launch date. Following are the goals of each release planning session:
- Delivery cycle: plan the release timing
- Release goal: communicate the goal for the release
- Requirements: plan which features, requirements and user stories to include
- Priorities: communicate the feature development order within the release; adjust as necessary
- Estimates: create initial high-level estimates for release features
As with the product vision statement and the product roadmap, the product owner creates the release goal and establishes the release date. The development team, with the scrum master’s facilitation, contributes to the process. Following are the key results of release planning:
- Release plan: the release plan is the third artifact from the Agile Roadmap to Value. It provides a midrange goal that the team can accomplish. The plan includes the release goal, release target date, and prioritized product backlog items that support the release.
- Product backlog revisions: adjust the product backlog with changes from the release planning meeting. Keep in mind that your list of requirements will probably change throughout the project and that there is no need to create a new, separate sprint backlog during each release planning activity.
The product backlog and release plan are some of the most important communication channels between the product owner and the team. These documents serve as the foundation for the remaining stages in the Agile Roadmap to Value.