Release button on Jira board

The release button on a Jira Kanban board can be immensely useful even when you don’t do releases!

When you’re using a continuous flow process you don’t always have the concept of releases. But, even when you don’t have releases or iterations, it doesn’t mean that you don’t care about what you’re able to forecast or accomplish in a particular time span.  Cadences are extremely important because they help us create habits, for better or worse, and they make sure that we pay attention to things at certain intervals. The alternative is that we think we’ll get around to things and we never do… time flies by and we don’t give things the attention they deserve. Scrum builds in the concept of iterations for which you measure velocity in order to plan for future iterations. In a continuous flow process like Kanban, you still have to look at throughput over time so you can do light forecasting and to reflect on what’s been accomplished. You still need cadences, you just don’t stop the flow for releasing or planning. No matter what method you’re using, it’s always helpful to be able to easily see and discuss what has been accomplished over the past week, month or quarter.

It seems that most of my clients use Jira so I started to as well.  As I was setting up my consulting Kanban board, I wanted to make sure that cards don’t pile up in the done column forever.  As I pondered this my eyes wandered to the Release button. Mentally, I quickly discarded it as “not for me” because I don’t do releases. My work is more suited to continuous flow as it is for varied, asynchronous clients and various other random types of work. Soon though, my devil’s advocate tendency tempted me to give the Release feature a try. I still think Releases isn’t the right word for my type of work, but the value the feature provides is certainly useful.

Jira Release Setup

To setup the release, click the button at the top right (seen in the image at the top of this post) and fill out the dialog box above. Yes, the labels will continue to be contextually irrelevant to some of us. In your mind, replace the word version with cadence. Provide a name. Then, set the date of the release and provide a description. It might be a good idea to highlight any big events in your description text so they’ll be top of mind when you look at the report. It is like annotating your reports. Now that you’ve set up a release, all of the items in your done column will be moved off your board, into that release. Now you have an empty done column!

The Release report

Once created, each release has a report showing everything that was finished, or forecasted to be finished, during that time span! Now you can go to that meeting and say this month we finished this exact list of things without missing a beat. In the release from my board, we finished 17 items. As you create more releases, you can compare the number of items finished (throughput). This allows you to make loose forecast assumptions about how many Jira issues you might finish in your next cadence and plan accordingly.

When you look at the report above, you’ll notice that I don’t have anything showing up as in progress or to-do. That’s because I’m not using releases for planning yet. If I were, I’d populate the “fixVersion” field on the issue with the target release. Then, they would show up here as items I either didn’t start or finish. To make this happen you’ll need to setup your releases in advance instead of from the done column of your board.

Release Notes

If you want a printer-friendly version of this report to take to meetings, the release notes link near the top of the report will provide what you’re looking for. It also has an embeddable HTML version if you need to put it in a confluence page or other website.

 

The release artifacts in Jira will definitely be part of my planning and retrospective cadences going forward. Whether or not you use Jira, consider how to add cadences to your continuous flow process and level up your retrospective and planning skills! Let me know how you use cadences in your continuous flow process via the comments below.