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The product planning approach

Woman and her two daughters outside their social housing home

The core intention of our product planning - the first purpose of all our digital activity, really - is to connect it to Shelter’s strategy. How do we achieve this, and do it consistently? Through goal-oriented planning at each level.

A clear, anchored focus on strategic goals leads to tangible benefits:

  • It lets us see a future product’s value to the user and the business, and keep those at the forefront of product teams

  • It makes it easier to know the right amount of resource, effort and investment for a product or service

  • It helps us find the right solution

With our goal focus in mind, we use data to pinpoint how to best deliver and operate a product or service, through 3 top-down levels of planning.

1. Roadmapping for long-term goals

An effective product roadmap and product strategy begins with inputs, some of them already existing and some that need cultivating.

Existing inputs include:

  • relevant parts of the organisation’s strategy - high level objectives, vision statements, big metric targets and principles

  • existing research, data and insights on users and target audiences

  • other existing artifacts like user journey maps for the audience

  • brand strategy

  • organisational content strategy, if one exists

Inputs that need to be cultivated, through discovery, can include:

  • product vision

  • problem statements - a clear definition of the problem to be solved

  • learnings about users' needs, activities, environments, and use of technology

  • user stories

  • user personas

  • understanding of resource needs and timing

The first version of a product roadmap will include a discovery phase, but it’s not until discovery generates these inputs that the roadmap takes on real clarity. Even then, it will be a fluid process. As further discoveries, designs and test-and-learn phases move ahead, new knowledge is applied to the roadmap, which then takes on greater precision.

Read more about how we approach roadmapping.

Release planning

Release (launch) plans are an integral part of Agile working. Together, using the product backlog, a delivery manager, product team and stakeholders will decide which versions and features of a product get launched, and when.

A key aim of the release plan is to make sure the team can effectively gather user feedback with which to improve the product, make adjustments or add more features.

A good release plan also identifies organisational dependencies, which could be anything from a big fundraising event to technology roll-outs.

Read more about our release planning.

Sprint planning

A sprint is a fixed period of time (usually two weeks) in which an agreed amount of work on a product or service is delivered.

Sprint planning is the important ‘ceremony’ (in Agile language) when the team decides which items in the product backlog they’ll work on in the next sprint. To guide the decisions, the product manager typically gives the sprint a theme - which could be about specific features or a larger aim like implementing design patterns.

The team will propose and refine a goal for the new sprint. This is a very short statement declaring a significant milestone they hope to achieve. The goal should be easy to understand and talk about, for example, “Launch the housing justice campaign pages” or “Launch new benefits checker”.

Also, each work item in the backlog is assigned a number of story points. This number roughly reflects the effort the work will take to be completed. Story points are then added up when planning a sprint. The story points help the team gauge the speed at which they’re able to perform tasks both large and small.

The experience of assigning these points also gives the team the means to estimate effort needed to complete future work by comparing new items to previous work of a similar scale.

Learn about our two-pronged approach to roadmapping our work

Read about what goes into our release planning

Our digital glossary

Atlassian’s guide to Agile sprints

Contact us about the digital framework

Have a question or comment? Found a bug? Or maybe you’d like to contribute to the framework? Use our contact form to get in touch.

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