Changing the Planning from Agile and Lean Software Development: from Roadmapping to Continuous Planning

It is hard to survive and succeed in today’s business environment, and to be able to sense and respond to predictable and unpredictable events. Also, market uncertainties, increased competitiveness and the constant need to shorten development cycles call for more flexible, responsive and adaptive software development practices. Agile and lean software development practices have been presented as a solution to these challenges and to creating a change-tolerant organisation. Despite the wide adoption of agile and lean practices, it is realised that companies are going further in their practices towards continuous deployment. All of these practices, agile, lean, and continuous deployment, change scheduling and planning, among other things.

This thesis investigates how the planning has changed in agile and lean software development from roadmap-based planning towards continuous planning. Roadmapping is seen a process of creating and revising future plans. It is used to manage a high-level view and to link aspects of business to software development, as well as to bridge the gap between different levels of planning. In contrast, continuous planning is a process of implementing the planning practices continuously based on a need, instead of the predefined and regular planning occasions. This thesis provides empirical evidence of how large and global software development companies are conducting planning. The empirical data were collected in two ways: firstly, by conducting an initial inquiry consisting of both questionnaire study and semi-structured interviews, and secondly, by conducting a multiple-case study.

According to the results, in software development, roadmap-based planning focuses mainly on product roadmapping, as it improves visibility both upwards to business and strategic planning and downwards to team level planning. The results also show that the main levels of continuous planning are: strategic, financial, business, product, and release planning. The main cycles of planning are conducted weekly, quarterly or annually. Longer-term plans are created for the next three-year period. On the basis of the findings, it was realised that planning practices have changed both in regard to scope and schedule. Planning in agile and lean software development is not restricted to release planning only; instead it is viewed from a wider perspective that involves also strategic and financial planning. What is more, the time frame of the plans has shortened remarkably, from years to months, weeks and days. The reasons for these changes are both internal and external. Both the unstable and turbulent business environment and the rapid development of technology and new product development practices as well as shorter product development cycles are drivers for the change in planning.

Tanja Suomalainen, dissertation (University of Oulu, VTT): Changing the Planning from Agile and Lean Software Development: from Roadmapping to Continuous Planning