ReleasePlanner®
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  1. Why do we Need Intelligent Decision Support?
  2. What Does Decision Support Mean to Me?
  3. How Does ReleasePlanner® Relate to Decision Support?
  4. Is ReleasePlanner® the right Technology for my Strategic Planning Project?
  5. Do I have to Change my Processes to Apply ReleasePlanner®?
  6. How Can I Get Started?
  7. Are my Data Handled Confidentially and Securely?
  8. Is ReleasePlanner® Intended just for Planning of Software Releases?
  9. Which are Possible Application Scenarios?
  10. What is a Release?
  11. What is an "Item to be Prioritized"?
  12. What is a Strategic Planning Solution?
  13. What is a Strategic Planning Alternative?
  14. Why it is Important to Have Strategic Planning Alternatives?
  15. What is a Resource Type?
  16. What is a Resource Constraint?
  17. What is a Budget Constraint?
  18. How Do I Address Risk Issues in the Strategic Planning?
  19. What is a Risk Constraint?
  20. What is a Requirement Dependency?
  21. What is a Coupling Dependency?
  22. What is a Precedence Dependency?
  23. What is a Stakeholder?
  24. What is a Stakeholder Weight?
  25. What is a Stakeholder Voting Scheme?
  26. What is Cumulative Voting?
  27. What is Free Voting?
  28. How is Stakeholder Voting Performed?
  29. What is a Well-balanced Stakeholder Vote?
  30. What is the Release Planning Objective Function?
  31. What Does "Relative Importance of Releases" Mean?
  32. What Does "Relative Importance of a Criterion" Mean?
  33. How Do I Perform "What-if" Analysis?
  34. What is a Project Version?
  35. How is Project Data Imported and Exported?
  36. How Do I Understand and Interpret the Results from ReleasePlanner®?
  37. How to Compare ReleasePlanner® Results with a Given Baseline Solution?

1. Q: Why do we Need Intelligent Decision Support?

A: In case of complex decision problems based on incomplete and uncertain information, human judgment and expertise should be complemented by computer-based intelligence. The advantage of the human intelligence based approach is that it is able to better handle soft and implicit objectives and constraints. High computational and cognitive complexity makes it impossible for the human decision maker to have a reasonable perception of the set of possible solutions and to evaluate and prioritize different solution alternatives.

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2. Q: What Does Decision Support Mean to Me?

A: Human decision-making is supported by intelligent methods and techniques ranging from knowledge-based systems, simulation, optimization, analysis and reasoning. It is not intended to replace the human expert, but to

  • facilitate understanding and structuring of the problem under investigation,
  • provide access to information that would otherwise be un-available or difficult to obtain,
  • bring relevant stakeholders together and allow them to con-tribute to decision-making,
  • to generate and evaluate solution alternatives,
  • to prioritize alternatives by using explicit models that provide structure for particular decisions, and
  • to explain solution alternatives.

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3. Q: How Does ReleasePlanner® Relate to Decision Support?

A: ReleasePlanner® is an intelligent decision support tool. It can be used by clients and their stakeholders online to determine best possible road-mapping and prioritization strategies. To facilitate human involvement and to address inherent uncertainties in the problem, a set of structurally different alternatives are generated.

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4. Q: Is ReleasePlanner® the Right Technology for my Strategic Planning Project?

A: The ReleasePlanner® technology is widely applicable. The commonality of all ReleasePlanner® application scenarios is the generation of optimized strategic plans based on a set of criteria. Another key ingredient of the planning scenario is the comprehensive stakeholder involvement in the planning process. The objective of the planning is to find strategies that are best in terms of stakeholder priority satisfaction. Finally, the whole planning process is bounded by resources consumed by the items under consideration and the resource capacities in the considered time intervals.

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5. Q: Do I have to Change my Processes to Apply ReleasePlanner®?

A: No! Support as offered by ReleasePlanner® adds intelligence and computational power on top of your existing processes. It provides the intelligent backbone for pro-actively analyzing the impact of future decisions. It is able much better than a human can be to balance conflicting stakeholder priorities and resource bottlenecks.

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6. Q: How Can I Get Started?

A: All what you have to do is to provide your data (list of features to be planned, estimates of effort their implementation consumes) based on MS Excel. These data can be imported to ReleasePlanner® to create a project that you can use to determine best alternative plans and to perform what-if scenarios for varying problem parameters such as capacities available or importance of stakeholder.

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7. Q: Are my Data Handled Confidentially and Securely?

A: The ReleasePlanner® site, once a user is logged in, provides 128-bit symmetric encryption for both data and login credentials. This is the same level of security provided by online banking sites to ensure the privacy of clients' financial information. To ensure confidentiality of your data, the whole planning and prioritization job can be done with just using ID's for the items to be planned. This assumes, that all stakeholders know the code of the ID's.

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8. Q: Is ReleasePlanner® Intended just for Planning of Software Releases?

A: No! The technology is widely applicable in all domains whenever strategic planning based on comprehensive stakeholder involvement and resource consumption is addressed.

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9. Q: Which are Possible Application Scenarios?

A: Possible application scenarios include strategic product and release planning, comprehensive prioritization, roadmapping under scare resources, project portfolio management, enterprise assets manage-ment, and customer relationship management.

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10. Q: What is a Release?

A: Incremental product development overcomes the shortages of monolithic development and allows learning from both the devel-opment and use of the system. It offers sequential product versions with additive functionalities. These product versions are called releases. For ReleasePlanner®, a release can also be considered as a milestone or annual or quarterly time intervals as given in the context of product or service development.

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11. Q: What is an "Item to be Prioritized"?

A: Prioritization is performed for the items defined in the project creation wizard. These items can be product requirements or features, projects, services or any other company specific assets to be prioritized. The prioritization is done according to (different) specific defined criteria (such as urgency, value, or specific criteria defined by the organization).

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12. Q: What is a Strategic Planning Solution?

A: A strategic planning solution specifies which feature out of a set of candidate features will be at which release. Missing possible features or delivering not the expected features in a release results in a lack of competitiveness of the delivered product.

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13. Q: What is a Strategic Planning Alternative?

A: ReleasePlanner® generates different alternative solutions. All of them are feasible with respect to all defined technological, resource, budget and risk constraints. As well there is additional effort to provide sufficient diversification between the proposed release plan alternatives.

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14. Q: Why it is Important to Have Strategic Planning Alternatives?

A: Release planning data are uncertain and incomplete. To address these concerns, a set of diversified solutions offers a much better chance to achieve meaningful results for the actual problem.

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15. Q: What is a Resource Type?

A: Implementation of features consumes resources. Resources can be classified in types in correspondence to their role in the development process. Example resource types are analysis, design, development, quality assurance, or documentation. ReleasePlanner® allows definition of specific individual resources as a separate resource type.

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16. Q: What is a Resource Constraint?

A: Resource constraints are defined for each resource type and each release. To formulate resource constraints, estimates of resource consumption are necessary for each feature with respect to this resource type. In each constraint, the available capacity for each release is specified. The resource constraint makes sure that this capacity is not exceeded. What-if analysis can be used to investigate the impact of changed resource capacities on the resulting release plans.

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17. Q: What is a Budget Constraint?

A: A budget constraint refers to monetary consumption of features and the available budget capacities within each release. ReleasePlanner® allows inclusion of budget constraints by defining ‘Finances’ as a special resource type. To include this in the overall planning process, finance consumption estimates have to be provided.

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18. Q: How Do I Address Risk Issues in the Strategic Planning?

A: Different types of risk can be considered as part of the planning process. These risk categories can be accommodated by the ReleasePlanner planning process both at the level of planning criteria (e.g., to ask stakeholders for their risk evaluation for the different items) and on the constraint level (allowing only a maximum level of risk within a time period).

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19. Q: What is a Risk Constraint?

A: A risk constraint refers to potential implementation risks of fea-tures and the maximum risk level acceptable within each release. ReleasePlanner® allows inclusion of risk constraints by defining ‘Risk’ as a special resource type. To include this in the overall planning process, risk estimates have to be provided. The scale to define the risk is flexible.

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20. Q: What is a Requirements Dependency?

A: Planning of features (or any other items) can not be done without consideration of certain dependencies between them. ReleasePlanner® considers two types called 'Coupling' and 'Precedence' dependency.

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21. Q: What is a Coupling Dependency?

A: Two features are said to be coupled if they have to be offered in the same release.

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22. Q: What is a Precedence Dependency

A: If feature A should precede feature B then this means that B is not allowed to be released earlier than A.

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23. Q: What is a Stakeholder?

A: A stakeholder for some project is a person being involved in the planning, development and purchase of a product. Stakeholders are extremely important to perform realistic and customer oriented release planning. Example stakeholders for release planning are the different types of customers, developer, manager, sales representatives and the actual user of the product.

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24. Q: What is a Stakeholder Weight?

A: Stakeholder can be assigned a degree of (relative) importance. This value is called the stakeholder weight. In ReleasePlanner®, the weight is from {0,1,2,…,9}. The underlying meaning is

Weight = 0 means the stakeholder is not relevant at all
Weight = 1 means extremely low importance
Weight = 3 means low importance
Weight = 5 means average importance
Weight = 7 means high importance
Weight = 9 means extremely high importance

All the value in between are refinements of the values above and below.

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25. Q: What is a Stakeholder Voting Scheme?

A: A voting scheme allows all categories of stakeholders to prioritize features by voting on them. The structure of the voting scheme depends on the number of releases to be planned for. A voting scheme is a planning or prioritization criterion that allows to ask stakeholders to prioritize planning objects (such as features).
The number and content of the criteria (e.g., urgency, business value, risk) can be defined by the user (e.g., project manager or product manager).

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26. Q: What is Cumulative Voting?

A: CUMULATIVE VOTING is the process of voting with a limited number of votes available. In ReleasePlanner®, prioritizing a number n of objects, the stakeholder receives a total number of 5*n votes to be distributed among the objects. This number of votes can not be exceeded and typically enforces stronger differentiation between objects.

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27. Q: What is Free Voting?

A: FREE VOTING refers to the process to assign votes without further constraints.

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28. Q: How is Stakeholder Voting Performed?

A: See “Quick Start Stakeholder Prioritization Tutorial”

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29. Q: What is a Well-balanced Stakeholder Vote?

A: Meaningful voting input of stakeholders is of key importance for planning results. If all features are more or less treated as the same in terms of their importance, the results of the planning process will be weak. A well-balanced stakeholder vote (prioritization) would sufficiently diversify between objects for all given criteria.

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30. Q: What is the Release Planning Objective Function?

A: To generate alternative solutions, ReleasePlanner® perform optimization related to an objective function that is constituted out of the following parameters:

  • Stakeholder votes for the selected prioritization criteria
  • Vector of stakeholder weights
  • Vector of relative importance of release options.

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31. Q: What Does "Relative Importance of Releases" Mean?

A: Releases can be assigned a degree of (relative) importance. This value is called the “Relative Importance of Releases”.

The relative importance ratio between two consecutive time (release) periods describes how much more important it is to have an object (e.g., feature) in the former period than in the latter. For example, weights 9, 3, and 1 (for three periods) indicate that it is always three times more important to have a project in a former release than a latter (Release 1 versus Release 2, same for Release 2 versus Release 3).

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32. Q: What Does "Relative Importance of a Criterion" Mean?

A: The prioritization of items can be performed according to different criteria (such as urgency, value, or specific criteria defined by the organization).
You can determine optimized planning strategies for a weighted linear combination of these criteria. The plans then determined are best for a mixture of the criteria where each criterion has a specific weight. This weight is called the relative importance. If the relative importance of urgency is twice the relative importance of value, this is reflected accordingly in the optimization.
Running “what-if” analysis allows you to see the differences of changing the relative importance of criteria. In ReleasePlanner®, the relative importance is taken from {0,1,.,9}.

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33. Q: How Do I Perform "What-if" Analysis?

A: What-if analysis considers the question: "What happens to the results if we make a change to a parameter or a set of parameters?" It allows one to pro-actively explore different scenarios defined by a sequence of parameters of the project under consideration. This is intended to discover the consequences of possible future situations and to define proactive actions.

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34. Q: What is a Project Version?

A: Different versions of a project refer to changes in some of the parameter values (such as stakeholder weights, capacities etc.). This is used in the what-if analysis to pro-actively perform scenarios and to evaluate the results.

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35. Q: How is Project Data Imported and Exported?

A: The import and export of data allows compatibility with other existing systems. For import, a template is provided for the values of specific project parameters. Import of project data allows easy editing of project data in MS Excel. In the same way, export of project data and results facilitates interaction with other information systems and allows one to create company specific reports.

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36. Q: How Do I Understand and Interpret the Results from ReleasePlanner®?

A: Different ways of reporting of results are offered. The optimized solutions are the result of a complex optimization process. These results typically differ from manually generated ad hoc solutions. A full understanding of all the details requires a more comprehensive analytical explanation. The option to generate a customized report including all the key project data and results supports this process.

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37. Q: How to Compare ReleasePlanner® Results with a Given Baseline Solution?

A: There is the option to import a baseline solution called manual solution. If this is done, the analysis wizard allows comparison of this baseline with all alternative solutions generated from ReleasePlanner®). As these solutions are optimized, the analysis of commonalities and differences between manual and optimized solutions could provide additional insights.

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