For SUGSA’s first event of 2012, Patrick Vine shared his ‘just do it’ attitude to planning agile releases.

With an emphasis on simplicity & transparency, he starts with high-level release planning using magic estimation at a feature level to generate a gut feel release date, develops detail in backlog grooming, and uses a comprehensive set of spreadsheets for reporting. These and the talk slides are all available on Patrick’s blog.

The overall message was an emphasis on communication throughout the release.

Communicate that:

  • The first guess is just that – ultimately just an input into a “go / no-go” decision on the project,
  • Change will happen – make sure everyone understands that
  • Communicate all changes as more detail becomes known, and
  • Communicate alternate options so that decision makers are informed

I liked the point “the numbers rarely lie… but you may have forgotten something” – followed by a useful list of things we frequently forget to accommodate.

Discussion points:

  • How to handle large unknowns (epics and themes) – suggestion: use estimates as constraints when fleshing out the stories
  • Who should estimate, when (sometimes the PO’s gut feel can help clarify expectations)
  • In groups: how we handle release planning in our teams – lots of good sharing here