Nov 27, 2015

Release Planning With Customer Focus

I've written about our Release Plannings already (here, here, here and here), but maybe there's still something to add. These blog posts also help me understand how things have evolved over time.

This time we had agreed the Release Planning Day, our common company event, would only serve as a deadline for having the Release Plans done. So all the actual planning was done before hand. One tool that we extensively used was Microsoft Yammer. It has proven to be handy for sharing something get insights from different stakeholder around the globe. In addition there was a lot of face to face planning between the Product Managers, Product Owners and Development teams.

I had split the day's agenda into the following parts:
I think out of these probably all other items are familiar from SAFe except the Launch Plan. And actually even that is in SAFe. There the name is simply Release. But in our company lingo we have used the word Release for both the Potentially Shippable Increment (PSI) and for the actual Release.

Previously our Release Process ended when the PSI was done. Development and releasing were decoupled. Although this is often beneficial, it had proven to generate a lot of confusion. Sometimes we had a PSI, but no plan on what to do with it. We had concentrated too much on the technical side and forgotten what our whole system was supposed to do: provide our customers with new increments of working software and added value.

Launch Plan is an attempt to look at the same topic, Release, from the customer angle. In bare minimum I want the Launch plan to answer these questions:
  • Who are the target audience for this Release?
  • How will we communicate about this Release to our target audience?
  • How will we deliver the Release to our customers?
Also the Launch Plans seemed to reveal interesting new things about the organization. What we talk about as Release is usually just release of the software component. Creating the PSI doesn't take into account how it will be delivered, configured, trained to new users or marketed. All these are really relevant topics and especially relevant for the customers.

I think generally the Release Planning Day was successful. It was shorter, more focused and took the customer view better into account. In short I would claim it was the best release planning we have ever done. But just as a note for if you plan to try this in your organization: this wasn't our first time. Without the shared history and previous steps on our path I don't think it would have gone like this. So don't try this at home. (Or who am I to decide. Maybe this is the killer recipe that works as a silver bullet. I've tried it once and it worked for me. :) )

As a main takeaway for next time I think we'll be increasing the cross functional collaboration and trying to take all relevant functions into the game, not just development. I think by tweaking our system we can reach so much further than where we are today!

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