Table of contents

The GDS Way and its content is intended for internal use by the GDS community.

How GDS uses quarterly planning

GDS teams plan roadmaps for the year ahead and deliver in 3 month cycles. A team’s work for a quarter is called a ‘mission’ and described by Objectives and key results (OKRs).

For each quarter the planning process defines:

  • mission priorities
  • which missions happen
  • forecast benefits
  • dependencies
  • team sizes and who works where

GDS teams work in an agile way, releasing frequently on an daily basis. Missions finish at the end of each quarter and there’s no assumption a piece of work will necessarily continue into the next quarter.

Product roadmaps

GDS creates product visions and roadmaps for each service for the year ahead, prioritising high value work.

GDS product roadmap cycle:

product roadmap cycle diagram

Roadmaps can include:

  • new features
  • business as usual (BAU) work to support a service
  • work to fix defects
  • explorative work, like discoveries
  • enhancements to efficiency, like adopting DevOps tooling
  • discovery or alpha work
  • resolving technical debt

The Service Manual has more information about roadmaps.


The quarterly planning process defines what teams work on during a quarter, including the size and makeup of the teams doing the work.

Example service prioritisation:

service prioritisation diagram

Inputs into prioritisation include:

  • BAU ‘lights on’ work
  • people and skills availability
  • departmental and programme commitments

Quarterly planning takes into account:

  • new approved work
  • risk management
  • dependencies
  • GDS strategy
  • GDS external commitments

People express preferences to move product areas using a survey along with conversations in GDS communities of practice. These results help decide who moves each quarter due to changes in product priorities and which work and team sizes continue into the next quarter.

The GDS Strategy and Investment board signs off each quarter’s scope, expressed as a list of missions prioritised using the MoSCoW method.

Potential missions can come from many sources, for example service teams, programme directors or deputy directors.

Further reading

Read more about the concepts behind quarterly planning:


For more information contact the Quarterly Planning team by:

This page was last reviewed on 28 May 2019. It needs to be reviewed again on 28 November 2019 by the page owner #gds-way .
This page was set to be reviewed before 28 November 2019 by the page owner #gds-way. This might mean the content is out of date.