A lot hinges on getting products out the door and being in sync with the rest of the non-technical organization. Whether we want to admit it or not, release planning impacts the whole business. Well-managed releases depend on efficient team collaboration. At their best, they can create thought-leadership, excite customers, and motivate the team.
Regardless of which development methodology you use, you must plan for what and when the team will deliver. Dates still matter for nearly every team.
The Releases > Gantt page allows product teams to plan the different phases and milestones to manage each release. Phases and milestones are meant to manage the success of the release, not the feature workflow. If you want a more complete template, including features and dependencies, you can copy an existing release. This article shares both options.
Create release phase and milestone templates
Templates can be created at the product line level if your release process is shared across all products in your product line, or at the product level if the templates apply to just your product.
To create a template, start by navigating to the product line or product that will be using your release templates. Use the settings icon to navigate to either Settings > Product line > Release phases and milestones or Settings > Product > Release phases and milestones.
Create one or more release templates that include phases and milestones that are appropriate for different types of releases (e.g. SaaS vs. on-premise, beta vs. GA, major vs. minor releases). While creating phases and milestones for your template, you can also add to-dos, which help you to ensure that the various cross-functional tasks defined throughout your template are easily repeatable with each new release — set the number of days in between phases and define dependencies between your phases and milestones.
When you add new releases, you can choose from the following release phase template options.
- Default: A simple template provided by Aha! to help get you started
- A custom template: Any template that you created for the product line or product
- No template: Choose to create a release and enter all of the phases and milestones manually
Customize the release view
Once you have selected a template and created a release, you can always adjust it.
- Add or remove phases and milestones according to the unique needs of your release. Select the release to bring out the release detail drawer (or go to Releases > Detail). To remove phases or milestones, hover over the desired one and click the x to the right. To add, click the Add Phase or Add Milestone buttons.
Note: The Releases > Detail view is hidden for new Aha! accounts. If you would like to enable it, you can do so by customizing your menu navigation.
- Use the Product name and Release name dropdowns to include or exclude other releases in your Gantt view. This is useful for coordinating cross-release and cross-product dependencies.
- Use the Release settings dropdown to show or hide shipped releases.
Phase and milestone dependencies
Even in the most agile teams, there are times when one activity can't start until the preceding one ends. For example, I probably should not send out my press release announcing a new product until the new product's website is live. Aha! supports end-to-start dependencies between phases and milestones (in the same product). If you have dependent phases or milestones and move the parent, any child records will move as well.
You can establish dependencies by hovering over a phase, clicking the ball icon that appears, and dragging it to the phase that requires the completion of the initial phase.
Add existing features to the Gantt chart
Features need to have Start dates and Due dates to appear on a Gantt chart — otherwise, the date-based Gantt chart would not have a way to display them. To ensure that your features display as part of your plan, you have several options.
If you have just a few features to update, you can do so one at a time:
- Open a feature individually and add a Start date and a Due date.
- Open a feature, click the More options button, and select Add to release phase. The Link feature to release phase modal will appear and show you available phases for that feature's release. Select a phase and the feature will be added to the release phase based on their current estimate. E.g. if the default estimate is five days, the feature's Start date will be five days before the end of the release phase, and its Due date will be the last day of the release phase.
If you have several features to update, you can do so quickly:
- On the Gantt chart, scroll to the bottom of the list of features and phases on the lefthand side and click Existing features. The Add features to the Roadmap chart modal will appear, along with a list of any features in the release that do not have Start dates or Due dates. Select the feature(s) and add them to the appropriate release phase. Once you click the Add features button, the features will be added to the release phase based on their current estimate. E.g. if the default estimate is five days, the feature's Start date will be five days before the end of the release phase, and its Due date will be the last day of the release phase.
- Bulk edit a list of features in a list report to add them to a release phase based on their current estimate. E.g. if the default estimate is five days, the feature's Start date will be five days before the end of the release phase, and its Due date will be the last day of the release phase.
Show master features on the Gantt chart
Master features are used for managing groups of features that share a common theme. To show master features on the Releases > Gantt chart, click the Customize view button and select from one of these options:
- Hide master features: This setting will hide all master features on the Gantt chart.
- Highlight bars by master feature: This setting allows users to show the master feature that each feature relates to while maintaining the chronological order of the features in the timeline. This is perfect for showing the timing of each feature when the team is focused on multiple master features at different times during the release.
- Group bars by master feature: This setting allows users to organize features into master feature groupings, overriding the default chronological order. This is perfect for telling a story of how a particular master feature will be delivered.
Copy an existing release to a new release
When creating a new release, there are instances when it is desirable to copy all phases, milestones, features, dependencies, and to-dos from an existing release. Choosing to copy a release differs from selecting a release phase template for a new release in that a copy already includes the features and dependencies.
This option is most applicable for companies that reuse a set of features that needs to get done as part of every release. A common practice is to create a release to serve as a template that contains not only phases, milestones, and dependencies but also a company standard set of release/launch "work tasks" modeled as features.
Upon creating a new release, you can choose Create new release or Copy existing release. The existing release can come from any product and across product lines.