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​Fixed-Scope Release Planning in Scrum

Organizations often find it useful to plan some distance out into the future. Perhaps their goal is deliver on a known future date (the most common agile approach). If so, then fixed-date release planning should be used. 

If an organization has determined that the scope is more important than the date, it should take a moment first to revisit whether this is true. Most organizations can find ways to turn a fixed-scope release into a set of smaller, fixed-date releases. This is especially true when they let go of the idea of going to market only with a fully implemented solution. When organizations approach the minimum releasable features (MRFs) from this angle, they are often surprised at how much they can winnow down the MRFs.

If, however, your organization must do a fixed-scope release, then fixed-scope release planning in Scrum has 5 distinct steps.

Fixed-Scope Release Planning: Step 1

The first step in fixed-scope release planning is to groom the product backlog to include at least the product backlog items (PBIs) the organization must have in this release by creating, estimating the size of, and prioritizing the PBIs that comprise the MRFs.

Fixed-Scope Release Planning: Step 2

The second step in fixed-scope release planning is to determine the total size of the PBIs to be delivered during the release. Do this by summing up the estimates of the must-have PBIs.

Fixed-Scope Release Planning: Step 3

The third step in fixed-scope release planning is to measure or estimate the team’s velocity as a range.

Fixed-Scope Release Planning: Step 4

The fourth step in fixed-scope release planning is to divide the total size of the PBIs for the release by the fastest velocity in the range. Round the answer up to the next integer. This will indicate the lowest number of sprints required to deliver the MRFs.

Fixed-Scope Release Planning: Step 5

The fifth step in fixed-scope release planning is to divide the total size of the PBIs for the release by the slowest velocity in the range. Round the answer up to the next integrer. This will indicate the greatest probable number of sprints required to deliver the MRFs.

Example

When asked how many sprints it will take to deliver the fixed scope, you can now answer using a range: somewhere between the greatest probable number of sprints and the least number of sprints. Suppose, for example, your MRF is estimated to be 150 points, and the Scrum team’s predicted velocity range is 18-22 points per sprint. You can estimate that the MRF will be delivered in 7-9 sprints. If you are running 2-week sprints, this would equate to 14-18 weeks.

Read the blog post "Burn Charts for Communicating Progress Through a Scrum Release" to see ways to communicate your team's progress throughout the release.