Project Release Plan

Project Release Plan

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Leonard Bernstein: “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.

Alan Lakein: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Problem – Project Release PlanProject Release Plan

During the discovery phase of a project, you need to estimate a timeline for your project. A high level timeline will enable you to determine when key functionality will be released to your customers so they can start accruing value. In addition, the high level timeline will help you develop a budgetary cost estimate for your project. However, you will probably require this budgetary cost estimate to request funding, which is likely to occur before you have access to a full project team.

Ideal State – Project Release Plan

The ideal state during project discovery, is a credible timeline and a realistic budget that provides you the opportunity to deliver the target value. The credible timeline is your project release plan.Project Release Plan

Root Cause – Project Release Plan

The root purpose for a project release plan is to translate a business strategy into an actionable tactical timeline.

Context – Project Release Plan

The context for a project release plan is you have a clear vision and value proposition for your project. Project Release PlanYou also have a solution approach illustrated in your future state architecture. You have even captured your business strategy in a value added roadmap. Now you need a high-level project release plan to translate your business strategy into an incremental delivery of value.

The main purpose of your project release plan is to establish a timeline for your project’s deliverables. This timeline is one of the inter dependent performance dimensions in your project’s triple constraint. The other standard project performance dimensions are value (or scope) and cost.

Your project’s primary performance dimension is value. The expected value explains why your organization is doing this project. Your project’s secondary performance dimension is schedule. The schedule indicates when your project will deliver the expected value. Your project’s third performance dimension is cost. Project Release PlanYour project’s cost will impact your project’s return on investment. If you increase the intended value then you will probably also have to increase your project’s timeline or cost. If you fix the scope but unexpected delays increase your schedule then this is also likely to increase your project’s cost.

However, your project’s triple constraint actually has a fourth performance dimension; namely quality. Quality is not the same as scope. Scope is the functionality that your project is designed to deliver. Quality is a measure of how well the delivered functionality meets the target need. Three of the most important components of quality are performance, reliability and safety. If your customer demands higher quality then you may need to reduce value or increase schedule or cost. Be careful about increasing quality beyond the point of diminishing returns for value.

Solution – Project Release Plan

Denis Waitley: Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.

The goal of your project release plan is to determine your project’s schedule and illustrate your execution methodology. You should decompose your project’s schedule into phases. Each phase should represent a different type of activity. These activities indicate which types of resources you need to complete each activity. For each activity, you can determine the inputs, expected outputs and time for completion. The sequence of activities and their outputs enable project team members to understand their role, responsibilities and deliverables. This sequence of activities also enables project team members to estimate their effort for each activity which will help you determine the cost to complete each phase and estimate the overall budget to complete the project.

Three popular project execution methodologies are waterfall, iterative and agile. Many organizations treat waterfall as the traditional project execution methodology but see agile as the future. Iterative can be used as a stepping stone from waterfall to agile.

For example, a waterfall project will usually have a planning and analysis phase, a design phase, a construction phase and a quality assurance phase. If you can clearly articulate the goals, requirements and constraints of your project then team members and impacted groups can use their experience to help estimate the effort and timeframe for each phase. In turn, you can estimate the project’s total budget, by estimating the timeframe for each phase, the activities required to complete each phase and the deliverables for each phase. Of course, your budget will also have to include other non labor costs, such as licensing, equipment and maintenance.Project Release Plan

Waterfall projects usually have a very long sequential schedule before a “big bang” release. A waterfall approach is low risk if you, and your project stakeholders, have perfect information about your customers’ wants and you also understand all solution options that are possible. However, lean management techniques recognize that perfect information is rarely available. Consequently, to minimize waste caused by imperfect information that can drive you in the wrong direction, lean project management techniques favor short, iterative releases. Short releases ensure early user validation of your deliverables which enables you to implement quick course correcting counter measures.

An iterative waterfall approach divides your project’s deliverables into a sequence of shorter releases. Each release iteration is time boxed. Each time box includes shorter versions of the standard waterfall phases. For example, a monthly time box will deliver one release per month.

Project Release Plan

Similarly, an iterative agile approach also includes short, time boxed releases. However, each time box includes the standard agile ceremonies. These agile ceremonies include a planning meeting at the beginning of each time box. They also include a product show case and a separate project retrospective meeting at the end of each time box.

Project Release Plan

The standard agile execution methodology includes a Sprint 0, where the requirements are documented as a backlog of user stories. The user stories in the backlog are prioritized and groomed. Grooming includes adding sufficient detail to each user story, usually as acceptance criteria, to enable the project team to build the functionality and know when the functionality is complete. Groomed user stories are then assigned to Sprints. At the beginning of each Sprint, the team decomposes, into sub tasks, each of the user stories assigned to that Sprint. Those sub tasks are then assigned to developers for design, construction and unit testing. Some organizations standardize on two-week Sprints. Other organizations prefer three-week Sprints. At the end of each Sprint, the functionality is demonstrated to project stakeholders, in a product showcase, for feedback and possible course correction. The project team will also hold a Sprint retrospective meeting to determine what they did well and what they can improve. Quality Assurance occurs within the Sprints. However, some QA activities are deferred to the Hardening Sprint when all functionality for that release is developed and holistic testing is possible.

Project Release Plan

Experienced project stakeholders will help you determine the best execution methodology for your specific project. This will enable you to determine the appropriate phases for your project then estimate the effort and duration for each phase.  In the case of Agile, analysis and experience will enable you to estimate the number of Sprints required for each release. Whatever methodology you select, the number of phases and their duration will enable you to determine the timeline for your project release plan. In turn, your project release plan will help you estimate a realistic budget for your project.

Your Feedback

Enter your comments below so we can update this post and provide better solutions for the community. Also, if you have created any project management tools or templates that you would like to contribute for communal use then please send each one, with a brief description, to

Business Opportunity

There is an opportunity to systematize the lean startup process for projects. Let us know if you would like to collaborate as a part of our community to transform these opportunities into an easy-to-use solution that will help assure project value and improve project failure rates. Alternatively, if your company is willing to contribute some of your time to help specify a solution to meet their specific needs then they will receive free licensing for an agreed period of time. Each project requires a project manager, an architect, a business analyst, a developer and a QA lead.

Simple Life Lesson

Project Release Plan

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. Pablo Picasso

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan. Tom Landry

A good financial plan is a road map that shows us exactly how the choices we make today will affect our future. Alexa Von Tobel

To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan… believe… act! Alfred A. Montapert

Innovation Incubator

  • Are you tired of using the same old Project Management tools and techniques and getting the same unacceptable results?
  • Have you developed a project management tool or technique that has improved the performance of your projects?Project Release Plan
  • Is your organization interested in trialing innovative project management tools and techniques?

Contact us to list a project management tool that you have developed or to trial of any of the following innovations:

6SigmaPM – A proactive project health check. It measures your project’s vital signs then recommends corrective actions to prevent a negative trend becoming an actual problem. The benefit is predictable project performance.

JoinMyOrder – A group purchasing system. You submit a purchase order, other like minded customers also make a commitment to buy, then suppliers compete for the high volume purchase order in a reverse auction. You receive the price, terms and conditions normally available only to much larger organizations.

Crowd Bootstrap – A startup ecosystem in an App that offers innovation as a service. You sponsor a startup accelerator and determine its industry focus. The accelerator invests business services from independent contractors into selected startups to help accelerate their progress. You get access to the startup’s team, knowledge, products and services. You receive the benefits of an accelerator without the usual costs. It is “innovation-as-a-service” in an App

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