While OnTime has always been a great tool for tracking projects from inception to release, there has never been a built-in concept for managing specific products, releases and the milestones that go into those releases. Some teams have used the project hierarchy to manage releases, while others have used custom fields to track releases and milestones.
With V9, we are making release management exceptionally easy, and we’re differentiating it from the project hierarchy by introducing a new paradigm for OnTime:
- Releases – The Release Management in OnTime allows for the creation of 3 types of [easily rename-able] release types:
- Products – A product is the name of the product that has a release cycle. In OnTime, this special type also allows you to associate the product to one or more underlying projects so that OnTime can quickly show users a list of items that are associated with the product. For Scrum teams, this list of items would be the product backlog.
- Releases – A release would be “V8”, “V8.1”, “2008” or “Beta 1”.
- Milestones – A milestone is an incremental checkpoint that teams use to keep themselves on track for a given release. Teams generally have 3 or 4 milestones (and often many more) before each release. For Scrum teams, Milestones are easily renamed to “Sprint” so that each release contains several Sprints.
To get an idea of what a set of releases might look like, take a look at the following screenshot:
Notice that the release hierarchy is a special type of hierarchy in the following ways:
- Milestones are the atomic level release type and while technically we have allowed milestones to contain other milestones, we don’t recommend it.
- Releases can contain other releases or milestones. In the screenshot above, you can see that “2008” and “2009” are defined as releases, but each of them contains other releases. Containing other releases is a great way to organize a group of related releases.
- Product is the highest level release-type and can contain other products, releases or milestones. Generally speaking, we don’t expect products to contain other products unless they are part of a suite. To illustrate this, a product defined as “Microsoft Office” could logically contain other products named “Word”, “Excel” and so on. As a best practice, we expect products to always contain at least one or more releases.
By organizing items through this Product -> Release -> Milestone system, team members and project managers can quickly look at the items that pertain to a particular release or milestone for a given product. Visibility into a release is also vastly improved and since each release or milestone has a target completion date, the new Project Dashboard can be used to keep on top of how well work is progressing for a given release.
There are some important concepts to understand with OnTime’s release management:
- When you define a new product in the releases tab, the product can be associated with one or more projects from your projects hierarchy. This association is only for convenience, so that you can easily select a product and quickly find all the items that are associated with that product, allowing you to quickly assign those items to a given release or milestone.
- Items can only be assigned to 1 product, release or milestone. However, as a best practice, we expect that items (such as defects, features and tasks) will only be assigned to a single Release or Milestone and not to a product.
- To see all the items that are assigned to a given release or milestone, a user would simply click on that release or milestone.
- To assign items to a given release or milestone, users will need to select the underlying product (or “All Releases” and from the list of items in the grid, select the items they want to associate to a release, then use the multi-edit menu to change the release. OnTime Windows users can also drag-and-drop items onto a release to change its release assignment.
Once you have created your Product -> Release -> Milestone hierarchy and assigned items to milestones, you will find that you have significantly improved the visibility into your project schedule.
As a result of the new release management system in OnTime, the commonly dreaded development activity of coming up with a list of “release notes” for a given release is nearly automated. Any user can simply select a release or even the underlying milestone to look at the items associated with that release or milestone. Running an automatically filtered report will also provide a PDF-Ready document that can be shipped as the release notes for a given release or milestone.
Release Management for Scrum Teams
If your team manages projects using Scrum, the first thing you’ll want to do is rename “Milestone” to “Sprint” using the Manage Release Types window (accessed from the Releases Toolbar):
You will then want to create a product the represents your product’s backlog list of items. Inside your product, you’ll have one or more releases, each of which will contain one or more sprints. When you create your sprints, pay special attention to the duration of a sprint as the duration will be used in Burndown charts:
To assign items to a sprint, you simply select the product which contains your entire backlog and assign items to the appropriate sprint using either drag-and-drop (Windows) or Multi-Edit menu (Web or Windows).
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