The Planning component of Rational Team Concert provides tools to assist with the planning and execution of both agile and traditional projects. For agile projects it provides tools to create product, release and sprint backlogs for teams, to create individual plans for developers, and to track the progress during an iteration and to balance the work load of developers. For traditional projects Rational Team Concert supports schedule dependencies and constraints and a Gantt chart editor to create project plans. Regardless of the process used, plans are accessible to everyone on the team, and can change dynamically over the course of the project to reflect the team's position and direction.
For agile projects the planning component provides tools to assist with the planning and execution of the overall product backlog, releases, iterations as well as the daily developer work therefore providing full support for the three innermost levels of Mike Cohn's planning onion(1).
Managing a Product Backlog
A product backlog is managed using a plan editor in Rational Team Concert. The plan editor assists you with stack ranking your backlog items by using drag and drop or specific keyboard actions.
Managing a Release Backlog
In large projects it is useful to manage a release backlog in addition to a sprint backlog. As a product backlog a release backlog is managed using a plan editor. In addition to a product backlog the plan editor provides an iteration view onto the release to see at a glance which stories are planned for which iteration. Again drag and drop can be used to easily assign the stories from a backlog to specific iterations and the integrated progress bar helps to not overload an iteration considering the team's velocity and to track overall progress.
Planning a Sprint
You can use plan editors to manage sprint backlogs as well. As with a product backlog, the editor assists you with stack ranking your sprint backlog. In addition the plan editor provides a view to see the work breakdown structure of stories into the implementing tasks, grouped by the owner of the work items. Drag and drop or specific keyboard actions are used to manipulate the work breakdown structure or reassigning the task to do load balancing. Key work item attributes, like the estimate of a task, can be changed in place and the changes are immediately reflected in the corresponding progress and load bars.
Use the Taskboard view to run your daily Scrum meetings. The view will render all work items as cards on a board, arranging them in columns representing three states: Todo, In Progress, and Done. This allows for a quick overview of your work, and it's straightforward to mark something as done: simply drag it from one column to another.
Project our plan onto a timeline
Use the Roadmap view to project our sprint or release backlog onto a timeline. For sprint backlogs the view illustrates the schedule of the execution items (e.g. defects and tasks) and the rolled-up schedule of the stories and epics, for release backlogs it illustrates the schedule of the stories and epics.
Assess the risk of a sprint
Work item owners can specify minimal and maximal estimates in addition to the already existing estimates. This information is used to simulate the probability of work items being completed on time using a Monte Carlo method(2).
Assuming that each developer completes his assigned work items in the same order as specified in the Current Work section of the My Work view, the "probability of completion" for a work item is indicated using a color gradient from white to red - from very probable to improbable.
Planning the Daily Work
Planning the developer's daily work is essential to track the overall progress of a sprint and to do proper load balancing between team members. To make this as smooth as possible for developers to let them focus on writing code, Rational Team Concert equips developers with the My Work view. The My Work view is your personal view onto all work items that are assigned to you and allows for in-place scheduling and estimation.
For traditional projects the planning component provides tools to assist with the planning and execution of an overall release or for one of the phases "Requirements, Design, Implementation, and Testing". Use the Formal Project Management Process template to create a traditional project. The plan editor then supports schedule dependencies and constraints and a Gantt chart editor to create a project or phase plan.
On the Resources tab, you can view work items, allocate resources, add date ranges for resources, and modify resource allocations. You can search for available resources and add them to project. When you add resources, you allocate them for a specific period.
A plan snapshot captures the current state of the plan, including the work items and their schedules, the owning team area and the iteration the plan is created for. Snapshots come in different flavours:
- Regular: a normal snapshot. Typically created before major changes to a plan are done.
- Planned: a snapshot that that captures a version a plan that is committed to the outside. The schedule captured by a planned snapshot can be shown in the plan and work item editor.
- Proposed: a special snapshot type only available for traditional projects. A proposed snapshot is typically created before resources are allocated to the project.
Besides creating snapshots, you can compare snapshots as well. Either compare two individual snapshots or compare a snapshot to the current version of a plan.
Track the overall progress
Use the project dashboard to track the progress of the release and its sprints, to see your burndown rate or to check the team's velocity. The project dashboard is highly configurable and offers a variety of preconfigured reports and useful work item queries.
Create and organize new work items
The Planned Items page is the perfect place to create new work items since the work items inherit the team area and iteration from the iteration plan and, hence, will be part of the plan. To create new work items, select a suitable work item type from the Add Work Item context menu (or press Ctrl+Enter).
Work items can be arranged hierarchically to decompose larger work items into smaller work units.
Reading and modifying work items
Most properties of a work item can be modified inline within the Planned Items page. Some properties, such as the description, can be modified using the in-place work item editor.
To capture unstructured information such as an important demo date or initial feature ideas the plan editor provides a predefined page named Overview. The page's content is edited using a wiki style syntax which supports linking other artifacts. You can add additional pages to a plan by pressing the Add Page button in the local tool bar.
You can use color to highlight work items in plans. Simply specify a search criteria and a color to have all matching work items highlighted. This lets you draw attention to important items, or ones deserving special attention.
The My Work view provides the colorize feature to let users highlight important work items on their personal plans as well.
Import and Export Microsoft® Project Plans
You can import and export a plan from/to Microsoft Project. To import a plan, save the Microsoft Project file as an .xml file and import the .xml file. You can map the task types from Microsoft Project to the work item types in your project, specify the date range for the plan, and map resources from the imported plan to the current plan.
Team load section
Being part of the Team Central view, the Team Load section shows load bars for a selected team and iteration. A load bar is a graphic representation of work load - the ratio of remaining work and available work time.
A load bar is green if there is still time to complete all the work, and red when there isn't. Because the computation depends on work item estimates, the percentages of estimated work items is shown as a fill level. As usual, you want the bar to be green: get the right amount or work assigned and the bar grows horizontally; estimate well and the bar grows vertically.
Use the Team Load section when distributing work among team members. You can not only see the work load of each team member, but you can also reassign work items by dragging them onto the corresponding bar. Use the different Show context menu actions to query the work items assigned to a particular person or to list current or recent work, etc.
The Plan editor will keep you updated about the progress of your team for a single sprint or for the project for a whole release. Understand progress as the ratio of finished and remaining work, e.g. "160 of 317 hours of work are done" for Sprint Backlogs and "13 of 42 story points are done" for Product Backlogs.
The progress information will also provide a constant velocity projection based on the past and the amount of work time remaining. So if the past work time is 9 hours and you completed work you had estimated at 3 hours, the projection assumes that you'll need three times as much work time as estimated for the work that remains. Comparing the projected value to the remaining work time lets you know whether you are ahead or behind your target. The same projection is done for product backlogs using story points as the sizing attribute.
Again, you want the bar to be green: Working at a velocity so that all your work is done when the iteration ends, fills the bar horizontally; estimating all your work fills it vertically.
Configure your work environment
Use the Work Environment tab in the User editor to change your work days, work location, and work assignment. By default, a standard work week is five 8-hour days ending at the same time each day, split evenly among the teams of which you're a member.
Use the Scheduled Absences tab in the user editor to note planned absences like business trips, vacation, etc. This information helps with the automatic planning of your work over the iteration.
(1) Mike Cohn, Agile Estimating and Planning
(2) Monte Carlo Method, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Carlo_method