How Rolling Wave Planning Is a Key Component in Product Development

Just-in-time planning is also called rolling wave planning. This is a process in where you delay your product decisions until you’re in a good position to make those decisions. This doesn’t mean that you’re not planning in advance, it just means you’re making better informed decisions that allow you to take action as your product evolves when you have more knowledge available to you. Here are some reasons why rolling wave planning has importance to you.

You’ll Make Better Decisions About Your Product
By using rolling wave planning, you’ll have a good understanding of the direction your product is heading in. You will be in a position where you can understand, analyze, and then act upon knowledge that you didn’t have when you first started your project.

As you develop the product, you’ll have a tangible version which you can demonstrate and not a high-level requirements document. You can make better product decisions this way because you’ll have a clear picture of how th product will work and act.

When you plan you’ll take what you have learned, the progress you have made as well as any knowledge that wasn’t there during the initial concept phase and put this all into consideration. This helps you drive the next phase of the product development.

Less Risk
When you have detailed upfront planning which is time-sensitive, you’re often faced with a product that changes as it’s developed. When you first create the product, you’ll make assumptions which are often disproved as you get more information. You’ll have objectives which will shift, features that may not be right for the product, you’ll have new goals, and you may have to change a lot of things.

When this happens, you will have risks to your budget. You’ll spend resources and time try to come up with your detailed plan and may need to rework this which makes it harder for your team to adapt to changes that must be done. When you use rolling wave planning, you can adjust the deliverables as the product evolves and this doesn’t require costly changes. You have a team that’s flexible as you develop the product.

There’s Less Downtime
When you have downtime, you’re essentially wasting product development. By using rolling wave planning, your teams will minimize waste such as overproduction, excess processing, waiting, and non-utilized talent.

While you’re delaying product decisions, you’re going to be making them when you’re in a good position to actually make them. You’re not going to build functionality or features that aren’t necessary, you’ll reduce waiting and talent that’s not being used since you have a better understanding of what you need to achieve the desired outcome.

The Ability to Pivot
When using rolling wave planning, you have the ability to pivot when required. If you have to adjust your criteria for minimal marketable features or a minimum viable product, this can be done as your project progresses without wasting resources and time on new re-planning. You can view and then asses each increment to determine if you need to change your product direction or not. If a pivot is deemed necessary, you can plan the steps for this to occur for the next sprint. This avoids costly changes as well as resources and time that would be required if you had to plan again from the start.

Rolling wave planning is a critical part of product development because it provides you with less risk, flexibility and more efficiency. In the end, you simply create better products. You should add it into your development process and if your team uses agile principles. They need to practice it.

Published by


My name is Philip Philipov, a digital consultant specialised in web and mobile app development based in Sofia, Bulgaria. My mission and passion in life is to create award-winning software solutions for businesses together with my team of talented programmers and designers at Whiz. Do not hesitate, leave a comment below or contact me right now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *