Experiences in Release Planning: Two Days in the Life of an Agile Newbie


work on a plan that does fit. Tomorrow, we'll go through this process again".

She continued:

"We'll meet here at 8:30 a.m. Product management will present first, rearranging some things and reducing scope if necessary, and then you'll all have two more hours to revise your plans. By 11:00, we'll present the work in process again to the entire team. By the end of the afternoon, we'll have a plan we can commit to, or we'll do it all again on Friday."

That Evening

Given that our graphics project was not in the worst shape, we were pretty confident as we started to head out to dinner. However, just before we left, the coach, Bill, asked if he could meet with us (Scott, Lawrence and me) for 15 minutes before we headed out. The dialogue went something as follows:

Bill: It looks like you guys are in pretty decent shape for the release? But the plan looks pretty heavily loaded?

Me: Yeah, we think it's doable.

Bill: I see you have some stories in the hardening iteration. Do you think you've identified every story that you will need to meet the release objectives in the earlier iterations?

Me: Well most of them .

And then the killer question sequence came in rapid fire...

Bill: What's the probability that no new and significant stories will be discovered in the next 60 days"?

Me: ummm, probably zero.

Bill: What's the probability that you have estimated all the stories you have identified accurately, or overestimated the time it would take for each?

Me: ummm, probably zero .

Bill: What's the probability that every dependency you have on other teams will be addressed exactly as planned?

Me: ummm, probably zero .

Bill: " What's the probability that no one on your team will be sick or take a currently unannounced vacation in the next 60 days?"

Me: ummm, probably zero.

Bill: " What's the probability that integrations with the other components will work as smoothly as you hope?"

Me: ummm, probably zero.

Bill: " So w hat's the probability that you will be able to deliver your component on time?"

Me: ummm, ummm, probably zero.

Bill: "I think you need to rethink your release plan and come in tomorrow with an answer way above zero"

Well so much for our evening off. Lawrence, Scott and I spent the rest of the evening working together and on the phone with developers who had not made the trip. We went through the release plan and revised the estimates with their input. They had a number of requisite infrastructure stories we hadn't envisioned. It became clear as we went that our plan was in deep trouble. Cripes, our plan was getting worse, not better! Later, Lawrence appealed to the senior product manager to see if it would be ok if we only ported Road Rage, the first of the two games, for the first internal release. He agreed somewhat reluctantly. Even then, it didn't look like we were going to be able to make it so a bit of a panic set in.

However, just when all was lost, Sergey, one of the sharpest junior developers on the team called Scott and told him that if he could program in Python, which had recently been released our on our mobile OS environment, he thought he could redo all the existing GUI way faster than recoding from scratch. That could save us three to four weeks of developer and testing time! Scott said he would talk to Sergey and assess the risk of the new technology. He

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