Release dates are determined either by cadence (e.g.: monthly) or by the sum of the feature set. In either case, release dates are communicated to internal and external stakeholders. Ensuring that release dates are met depends on effective planning.
To accomplish this, we recommend a combination of feature prioritization and high-level estimation. There are two key "estimation phases" when planning software releases: high-level estimates in Aha! and detailed estimates in your engineering system of choice. Having two separate phases leads to more predictable outcomes.
Prioritizing features is always optimal, but it becomes crucial when a release has too many features to meet its target date. Use the Aha! Scorecard to rate each feature against a small set of strategic metrics, such as "increase sales," "improve performance," or "reduce support tickets." With the Aha! score as your leading indicator of priority, you can rank your features so the most important ones are kept in the release.
High level "ballpark" estimates
To communicate delays early or manage release tradeoffs, it's important to know whether all of the features will fit into a release. High-level estimates assure teams that a planned release is attainable. Estimates don't have to be perfect, just within your "ballpark." To get this high-level estimate, we suggest working directly with a development lead or manager. Use capacity planning to ensure that the best features are included and your release date stays on track.
Enable capacity planning in Settings > Product > Configure (assignee, scorecard, capacity, workflow, ideas).
Release dates are not "officially" set until your development team refines feature estimates to ensure that any adjustments can be made. This step typically happens within engineering and the tool that engineering uses for their work (e.g. Jira). Since agile teams focus on one sprint at a time, this makes high-level estimation even more crucial when a release must be communicated to the rest of the non-technical organization. For this reason, you can also use external release dates in Aha! to roll them up to a week, month, quarter, half year, or year.
Note: Some integrations, like Jira, automatically send estimate updates from the development system to Aha!
When dates change
Some changes to release dates are unavoidable, but most teams want to learn from these experiences. Aha! provides several visual views of your roadmap that you can track changes against. Just add them to an Aha! presentation at the beginning of each release as a "Snapshot", and then an additional page as"Live View". This will let you see the difference between the original plan and today.
The Releases > Overview view tracks release phases, milestones, feature dates, and dependencies across your entire portfolio. The Releases > Details > Progress view provides a visual burn-down chart to see what has been added or removed and how quickly work (features and requirements) has been completed.
This process works in organizations that use both traditional and agile software development methodologies. Scoring and estimating capacity at a high level before sending features over to engineering ensures that you know what's needed to deliver each release. This also leads to fewer delays, trade-offs, and unseen surprises.