To better ensure we are ready to start work on issues in each iteration, the planning process works as part of a monthly cadence. Since GitLab releases ship on the 22nd of each month, this schedule for the current+1 release begins on the first week of the month when the current release is being executed.
There's a diagram that (hopefully) helps understand the process.
If release X.0 ships on April 22, then planning for release X.1 starts by the week of Feb 24-28
Top priority issues from upcoming release milestones will go through Planning Breakdown with Product Managers (PMs), Engineering Managers (EMs) & Engineers from the respective groups at least ONE week prior to Week 1. Weekly group-level syncronous meetings will facilitate this discussion. The list of issues to be discussed will be provided by the PM at least 1 day prior to the meeting. The expectation is that all attendees have reviewed the issues prior to the start of the meeting.
Questions to be answered:
If the answer is “No” to any of the above questions enumerate questions and assign back to PM.
If the answer is "Yes" to all of the above questions then team estimates whether or not the issue can be delivered in a single iteration (ignoring any other work that may be in that same iteration). If it's determined that the issue under discussion cannot be delivered within a single iteration the team works with PM to break it down into multiple MVC Issues that can each be delivered in an iteration, are independent "slices" of value that can be used by a customer (so no mocked UIs or backend-only work that is inaccessible), and when all delivered will completely fulfill the original issue's requirements.
needs-refinementlabel and assign the issue to an engineer for refinement.
If release X.0 ships on April 22, then Week 1 for planning release X.1 begins on or before the week of March 2-6
Engineers refine issues assigned in the current+1 release. They are encouraged to ask questions and authorized to push back on PM if issues lack the information and/or designs required for successful refinement and execution.
workflow::schedulingstate once they have ensured a combined weight has been assigned.
Issues are assigned to engineers to ensure we have focus on the highest-priority items, as determined by Product Management. This is not an assignment to work on the issue, though there will be an effort made to make sure the engineer(s) who groom an issue will be the one(s) working upon it.
If release X.0 ships on April 22, then Week 2 for planning release X.1 is March 9-13
EMs and PMs complete a first pass of current+1 release. Rough scope of the release is defined based on the PMs priorities and EMs capacity estimations.
workflow::ready for devstate.
workflow::ready for devstate have been confirmed to be in the correct priority order.
If release X.0 ships on April 22, then week 3 for planning release X.1 is March 16-20. Execution of release X.1 begins on March 18!
Scope of the next release is finalized by EMs and PMs.
Stretchlabels applied to issues for which we have capacity to achieve.
Backlog refinement is the most important step to ensure an issue is ready to move into development and that the issue will match everyone's expectations when the work is delivered.
The goal of the refinement process is to
backendlabel. Otherwise, remove any backend label, assign any relevant labels and you are done.
frontendlabel. Otherwise, remove any frontend label, assign any relevant labels and you are done.
When you are done refining, anyone should be able to read the issue description and should know what the issue is solving, how it is solving the problem, and the technical plan for implementing the issue.
In order for someone to understand the issue and its implementation, they should not have to read through all the comments. The important bits should be captured in the description as the single source of truth.
An issue should fail refinement if it can not be worked on without additional information or decisions to be made. To fail an issue:
Weights are used as a rough order of magnitude to help signal to the rest of the team how much work is involved. Weights should be considered an artifact of the refinement process, not the purpose of the refinement process.
It is perfectly acceptable if items take longer than the initial weight. We do not want to inflate weights, as velocity is more important than predictability and weight inflation over-emphasizes predictability.
We are using the Fibonacci sequence for issue weights.
Defend issues follow the labels defined in the Contribution
~backend Specialization labels.
Whenever an issue has both Specialization labels above, the weight can be broken down into
In these cases, the value of the issue's numeric
weight field must be the sum of these weights
rounded-up to the nearest Fibonacci number.
The weighting system roughly aligns with other teams within GitLab. We deviate from the scales used by other teams to provide enough granularity in our planning process.
A list of the steps and the parts of the code that will need to get updated to implement this feature. The implementation plan should also call out any responsibilities for other team members or teams. Example.
The goal of the implementation plan is to spur critical analysis of the issue and have the groomer think through what parts of the application will get touched. The implementation plan will also permit other engineers to review the issue and call out any areas of the application that might have dependencies or been overlooked.
Q: Should discovery issues be groomed?
A: Yes. Discovery issues should be groomed but some of the steps above may not be relevant. Use good judgement to apply the process above. The purpose of refining a discovery issue is to make sure the scope of the discovery is clear, what the output will be and that the prerequisites for the discovery are known and completed. Discovery issues can have a habit of dragging out or not creating actionable steps, the refinement process should lock down what needs to be answered in the discovery process.
Q: If an issue has both frontend and backend work how should I weight it?
A: Issues that require both frontend and backend work can be broken into sub-issues as
outlined in this document. If the size
and complexity of the issue does not warrant breaking it down into multiple sub-issues then apply
frontend and backend weights separately using their respective
labels. The EMs will use those individuals labels to populate the combined weight field.