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7. Techniques

7.8 Planning Workshops

Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide

Planning Workshops are used to determine what value can be delivered over an agreed time period.

Planning Workshops facilitate the commitment to the delivery of a set of functionality or features within an agreed time period. They enable customer collaboration and response to changes that result from feedback and learning.

Frequently, Backlog Refinement, which involves analysis to get a reasonable gauge of the size, scope, and complexity of each backlog item occurs in preparation for the Planning Workshops.

Typically there are two levels of Planning Workshops:

  • one that covers the current release of the solution and takes place prior to the start of iterations, and

  • a more detailed session that focuses on work to be done during the iteration or specified amount of the backlog.
    Planning Workshops can be used at any planning horizon (Strategic, Initiative, or Delivery). The goal and the level of detail is based on the context of the horizon.

  • Planning Workshops at the Strategy Horizon focus on organizational goals, metrics to achieve these goals, and initiatives that can deliver value toward these goals.

  • Planning Workshops at the Initiative Horizon produce release plans showing the intended sequence of delivery of user stories or features over the whole release or initiative.

  • Planning Workshops at the Delivery Horizon are performed at the beginning of each iteration. In a flow approach, the team identifies the appropriate, regular time to review the next set of backlog items needed to be reviewed. It is important that the team understands and focuses on the iteration objectives, the value associated with a particular minimal marketable feature (MMF), business issues, and story decomposition.

In agile approaches, Planning Workshops are performed on a frequent and regular basis because the solution continually changes based on feedback and learning. Planning Workshops are used to make decisions regarding the prioritization and sequencing based on feedback or changing needs.

In Kanban, the amount of work being performed by the team is limited by restricting the number of work items that can be in any workflow state, not based on iterations. Planning Workshops are used to increase knowledge sharing across the team.

Planning Workshops are organized into two parts:

  1. What: the product owner discusses the goal, the desired outcome, the date needed, the highest priority backlog items, clarifies specific details, and ensures alignment to goals.

  2. How: the team discusses how each item can be completed and what is needed for the team to successfully complete them.

.1 Estimated and Ordered Backlog

Business analysis practitioners provide estimates and order the items in the backlog as a key input to the planning workshop.

.2 Team Velocity

Prior velocity (throughput capacity of backlog items) is critical to enabling the team to schedule a realistic amount of work. When using Kanban, work-in- progress (WIP) limits will be used to manage this workload instead.

.3 Iteration Goal or Feature Set

Frequently, an overall goal for the iteration is set to help guide the selection of features. This is a subset of the release goal or roadmap goal. It is an objective that will be met through the implementation of the backlog.

.4 Backlog Item Selection

At the beginning of the meeting, the iteration goal and the highest priority backlog items are selected from the release plan by the product owner based on organizational value and team velocity. The backlog is composed of feature and non-feature items identified as necessary to achieve the iteration goal or deliver a minimal marketable feature (MMF). For example, there can be bugs to be fixed, a system or environment set up, research initiatives, management work items, or any other activity that adds value to the project.

.5 Task Planning

Backlog items can be broken down into smaller manageable tasks that can be assigned to specific members of the team.

.1 Strengths

  • Stakeholders can communicate and collaborate frequently about product vision and evolution of the solution.

  • Stakeholders and product owner can guide the solution at every iteration.

  • It's easier to understand, estimate, and plan the scope of small iterations instead of the scope of big releases.

  • Plans can be changed in advance based on feedback from incremental delivery of the solution.

  • Iteration planning can facilitate visibility of the whole solution and synchronization between multiple teams.

  • The delivery team can discuss any dependencies between backlog items.

.2 Limitations

  • It is necessary to get all team members together in order to avoid interruptions and rework, especially when working with distributed or concurrent teams.

  • If enough time is not set aside to complete the planning workshop, the team will need further conversations to understand the goal and backlog.

  • If the solution or backlog items are not well understood during the iteration planning workshop, it is possible it will result in a sub-optimal plan.