Dimensional Planning

Organizer: Koen Van Exem and Walter Hesius


The objective of ‘Dimensional Planning’ is to add a new dimension to planning.
If applied well it will increase project throughput and shorten the feed-back loop.


User stories are the units for planning. These stories are indivisible or atomic.

But are these stories so atomic as they seem?
Is their weight or size actually right
Isn't it possible that the XXL version of the story is nearly impossible to implement, but the XS version is a piece of cake?
Is the feed-back loop during a very exploratory phase fast and detailed enough?

The 3 well known dimensions are (1) Time, (2) Resources and (3) Scope, we introduce another dimension: (4) Depth.

For the different depths we use the following levels:

  • dirt road: This level is the manual work around
  • cobblestone road: This level is the bare minimal implementation
  • asphalted road: This level is the sober implementation
  • highway: This level is the full implementation

All depths deliver a working whole.

As an example, we could apply this to a user story called: "Print invoice"

  • dirt road: Use a SQL query and copy/paste the information in a word document.
  • cobblestone road: The legal minimum for an invoice, e.g. date, Customer, VAT, Total
  • asphalted road: Include the part numbers and additional information
  • highway: Personlized invoice

You can apply this to iterations (sprints) as well as to releases

  • applied within an iteration
    Here you could implement your stories first as cobblestone roads, 
    then you select what stories to lift to a higher level and repeat this until your time is up!
    Your iteration is split in a cobblestone iteration, an asphalted iteration, ... 
  • applied to a releases
    Here it becomes a part of your planning effort, because different levels are spread over iterations.
    So here the levels become visible during planning (e.g. in the Backlog).

Advantagese when applied to iteration

  • No overflow of user stories to the following release
  • Faster and more detailed feedback during the iteration

Advantages when applied to a release

  • Agile projects with Fixed Time, Fixed Resources and Fixed Scope become feasible!
    You will always deliver on Time. Only the depth is unknown, but an asphalted road with possibly some cobblestone parts will probably be possible!
  • Dimensional plannig could be the Stepping Stone to an Agile Method for companies currently using non Agile Methods. 
    Instead of one Big Bang, you can have 2 to 4 Smal Bangs.

Through the Theory of Constraints we will identify the bottlenecks of classical planning
and show how 'dimensional planning' will remove those bottelenecks and increase the throughput.

We will also present a real case where dimensional planning was used. 
We will show the improvements that were made but also the difficulties we encountered and the problems you should watch out for.

Process & Timetable:

The session will consist of 2 parts.

  • The first part will be a presentation of ‘What is dimensional planning?’, including how it relates to current Agile Methods (XP, Scrum, FDD, …).
  • The second part will be a hands-on lab where planning teams will try out dimensional planning.

Session Format:
The first part will contain an interactive presentation/demo and case studies. The second part will be a simulation/workshop

Intended Audience:
Everyone involved in planning (which basically is everyone ;-) There is no required experience level.

Benefits of participating:
Extending your ‘planning toolbox’. 

  • Achieving a higher level of Agility during planning.
  • Agile Fixed Price projects become an option!

Benefits of organizing:
Feed-back of how dimensional planning could (possibly) benefit the participants (current) planning activities