Release Planning


Product Manager, Customers

We plan for success.

Imagine you’ve been freed from the shackles of deadlines. “Maximize our return on investment,” your boss says. “We’ve already talked about the vision for this project. I’m counting on you to work out the details. Create your own plans and set your own release dates—just make sure we get a good return on our investment.”

Now what?

One Project at a Time

First, work on only one project at a time. Many teams work on several projects simultaneously, which is a mistake. Task-switching has a substantial cost: “[T]he minimum penalty is 15 percent... Fragmented knowledge workers may look busy, but a lot of their busyness is just thrashing” [DeMarco 2002]. Working on one project at a time allows you to release each project as you complete it, which increasees the total value of your work.

Consider a team that has two projects. In this simplified example, each project has equal value; when complete, each project will yield $$ in value every month. Each project takes three months to complete.


Although I’m describing value in dollar signs, money isn’t the only source of value. Value can be intangible as well.

In Scenario A (see Figure 8-1), the team works on both projects simultaneously. To avoid task-switching penalties, they switch between projects every month. They finish Project 1 after five months and Project 2 after six. At the end of the seventh month, the team has earned $$$$$$.

In Scenario B, the team works on just one ...

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