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- Markdown How-To
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Instructions for creating a release are here.
FlowForge is released every four weeks, on a Thursday. We track releases using GitHub Milestones. The current schedule of releases can be seen here.
Our planning process is continually evolving as we find the right way to accommodate both a growing team and a growing set of requirements on both how and what we deliver.
The following reflects both where we are at today and where we want to get to.
We use GitHub issues for planning the work in a release. A Milestone should exist for the current release (N) and the next one (N+1). We do not schedule work beyond that as priorities can change through a release.
# Week 3 - Planning Week
- Establish capacity
- The CTO forecasts the team's capacity for the upcoming iteration by providing the PM with a point estimate, based on historical velocity and any anticipated absences (e.g., holidays).
# During the Week
- Preparation of next Iteration and Release
# Week 4 - Release Week
- Product Meeting
- The PM presents the planning for the next Release.
- Joint discussion and agreement on the Highlights and Objectives.
- Release day, details see here.
- CTO and PM—“finishing touch meeting”
- Talk about leftovers from last Iteration
- Finalize the planning
Issues are the building blocks of planning activities, helping the team to manage and prioritize work.
Epic: a significant feature or piece of work that doesn't easily fit into a single release. It will typically have a number of Stories and/or Tasks associated with it that can be delivered iteratively.
Story: a user-oriented description of a feature. It should describe what a user should be able to do and identify the value that brings to the user. A story should be deliverable in a single release.
Task: a piece of work that isn't necessarily tied to a specific Epic or Story. For example, items related to technical debt or house-keeping chores.
Bugs: issues that arise from errors, flaws, or unintended behavior in the existing code or system. Bugs negatively impact the user experience or the functionality of the software. They should be addressed and resolved by the development team, prioritized based on their severity, and included in the appropriate release for fixes.
Feature Requests: suggestions or ideas submitted by users or stakeholders for new functionalities, enhancements, or improvements to the existing software or system. Feature requests should be evaluated, prioritized, and potentially incorporated into the product roadmap, often being transformed into Epics or Stories for implementation in future releases.
Whenever an issue is raised, it will be reviewed by the Product Manager/CTO and added to the Product Board for prioritization and planning. The exception to this are tasks/bugs related to work already in progress and that need to be addressed in the current milestone. They should be added to the Development Board and current milestone directly.
We label some items as
headline. These are items we want to highlight in the release announcement material and should clearly describe the value they bring to our users.
# Effort Estimation
To more accurately understand which tasks can be scheduled without overloading our team, everyone conducts an initial, high-level analysis when creating an issue to assign weight estimates. We recognize that these estimates might not be precise. If the person who creates an issue cannot provide an estimate, any FlowForge team member is welcome to contribute one.
If a developer, who is an expert in a field, wants to change an estimation, they are encouraged to do so immediately. There is no blame for "wrong" estimation; we all have to work together to achieve good planning. It is better to have a rough estimation than no estimation at all. The final decision on estimations in general lies with the CTO.
If a larger number of not estimated tasks need to be estimated, e.g. for a complex epic, the CTO and PM can initiate a Planning Poker session.
There are two crucial elements to consider when determining an issue's weight: the scope of the work and its complexity. The amount of work pertains to the anticipated extent of modifications to the codebase. A minor adjustment might only require a single alteration in a single file, whereas a more extensive modification could necessitate multiple alterations across numerous files and sections of our codebase. Complexity can be divided into two components in practice: the degree to which the problem is understood and the expected level of problem-solving challenges.
See labels section for sizing options.
Epics do not necessarily need an estimation, as long as all subissues have estimations, Epics are the sum of all subtasks, as a result, it is possible to handle epics larger than XXL.
# Project Boards
We use three project boards to plan and track our work.
# Roadmap Board
This is a high-level view of our product roadmap over the coming releases. It identifies the themes and priorities for the releases.
# Product Backlog Board
This board is maintained by the Product Manager (PM) and CTO. It is the main entry point for all epics and stories.
Items on this board are put into one of the following states to indicate their priority in the backlog, they can move up or down the priority depending on business needs.
- 'No Status' This is where all new items initially land so that they can be appropriately triaged and assigned by the PM and CTO
- 'Long' This is the long term horizon, items that we know we will want to do one day but at the moment are long term goals, typically this could be 12 months away or more.
- 'Medium' These are items that are in the 6-12 month time frame.
- 'Short' These are items in the 3-6 month time frame, Often these items will get pulled into a milestone from this point depending on capacity.
- 'Next' These are items which we should be targeting for the next milestone to be planned, We plan milestones 2-3 iterations ahead so this time frame will typically be 2-3 months.
- 'Ready' This is for items which could be developed today but for various reasons have not been added to a milestone, often this will be items which have been descoped from a previous milestone but could be picked up if there is spare development capacity.
As items move up the list and get closer to Next we should have a greater understanding of what the detail and demand is for that feature. This is an iterative approach and as we gain understanding on an item we will use that information to aid in reviewing its position on the board. Once an Item is assigned to a milestone it will be removed from the Product Board and added to the Development board, with appropriate iterations allocated for design and development. Largely the position within the individual column is irrelevant, it may be used to aid in reviews or groupings but does not indicate any priority.
A weekly review is held to keep the backlog in order - triaging new items that have been raised and not yet added to the backlog, reflecting on changing priorities and requirements.
# Development Board
The Development Board is used to plan and track the work within the current milestone release.
Within the board we use:
- Milestones to indicate what release an item is planned to be released in
- Iterations to indicate when an item is being worked on
By separating these two out, we can have a single view of everything the team is working on at a particular time (iteration) without it being part of the current release (milestone).
For example, Design work needed for a future milestone can be assigned to an Iteration for when that work needs to happen.
The board has the following states:
ToDo- items assigned to the milestone or iteration but not yet started
In Design- items being designed
In Progress- items being developed
Review- items that are ready to be reviewed (PR open)
Verify- items that have been merged and can be verified once deployed to the Staging environment
Done- items that are Done
# 'In Design' Deliverables
Both UX/UI work and engineering work can be "In Design". For both instances there should still be defined deliverables.
It is important to use Design as a tool for conversation, verification, or to ensure engineers and the wider team are on the same page, but it should rarely be a blocker given our Bias for Action value.
- UI/UX Work: This is generally work in Figma for product, website or the components library. Deliverables should be well-defined as an MVP prototype, or at least enough for engineering to get started, on which we can iterate.
- Engineering: Questions that need answers should be formulated up front, and answered as the deliverable. Questions around what technology to use, how to scope down the feature set, and how to deliver the results are thus required before the design sprint start.
The day after each FlowForge release, always a Friday, a meeting is scheduled by the CTO. This meeting includes 2 parts:
- A retrospective on the last release. This should capture feedback on what went well and what could be improved and generate action items to act on the feedback.
- Kicking off the next release. The involves:
- The Product Manager describing the themes, goals and priorities of the new release
- Reviewing the Development Board for the new milestone. High-priority items are assigned owners so that everyone has something to get started on.
- Identifying the release manager - the person who will co-ordinate things on release day.
- Once identified, they take the action to create the next release issue using the Release Template
- Once identified, they take the action to create the next release issue using the Release Template in the
# What to work on
Work comes the ToDo column of the Development Board.
We use a set of labels to identify the high/medium/low priority of an item. We tend to flag the more important stuff and treat an unlabelled item is implicitly low priority.
Naturally there will be items that crop up unexpectedly and have to be dealt with pragmatically. For example, we may realise an item is needed for the current release that needs to be expedited through the process. We should remain flexible in how we work.
When picking up an unassigned item assign it to yourself and move it to the In Progress state.
# Milestones are overscheduled
As stories and tasks are assigned to milestones, it's unlikely there's not enough work to be done. On the flip side, this means that not all scheduled epics or stories will be completed.
The Product Manager/CTO have overall responsibility to ensure any 'must-have' items are making progress in a release.
# Defining Done
An item should only be marked as 'Done' on the Development board when the following criteria are met:
- All related code changes have been merged
- Suitable unit/system level tests have been added
- Documentation has been updated
- Acceptance criteria identified in the Story have been met
# Feature Demos
Part of finishing an item is being able to demonstrate it in action. This allows others to see it in action, generate material for the release announcement and help identify any gaps or places for improvement.
headline item or significant piece of functionality should be demoed.
Demos must be done in good time within the release cycle to allow for any follow-up action. It is better to demo something 90% complete and get feedback on it, than it is to rush a demo without time to do anything with it.
Demos should consist of:
- A short (< 5 minute where possible) screen capture walk through of the feature with commentary.
- It should cover the feature from a users perspective - what value do they get from it.
- The video should be uploaded to, or linked to, in the relevant issue.
- A link should be posted to the
#feature-demoschannel in slack. This will allow the whole team to be notified of the demo without having to subscribe to every issue comment.
For some features, it may be necessary to create multiple demos of different aspects.