Release planning is a very useful exercise to help forecast when features will be ready in the future (as much as possible with the ability to rearrange the entire Product Backlog after every Sprint). This often puts management more at ease since they have convinced themselves that when they used to see project plans with Gant charts they were more predictive (which is usually not the case). Here are some things to look for in a management tool around this:
- Drag and Drop: Some of the better tools out there allow you to view your Product Backlog and drag items from it into Releases and Sprints. This side by side view provides a great way to plan and try "what if" scenarios.
- Velocity Indicators: Along with the drag and drop mentioned above, the ability to enter velocity for the Sprints and have the interface visibly show you how many Story Points are used/free in each Sprint (and a roll up into the Release) really helps with planning also. The better ones show this both by the numbers (like 4/10 for used/total) and with a bar showing green when you have plenty of free Story Points left and goes yellow to red as you fill up the Sprint.
- Capacity Planning: Being able to calculate the capacity for each Sprint by taking in consideration team members availability is key for less cross functional teams. You should be able to set each members individual capacity per Sprint and include days off and holidays.
- Velocity Averaging: Mike Cohn prescribes taking the average of the 3 top most velocities for the last 6 months and the average of the lowest 3 velocities for the same period to use as a range for Release Planning. It would be great if your management tool could do that also!
Sorry I left this off from my original post.
Also, there have been plenty of people telling me tools I missed. I apologize as the intent of my post was not to list all the options but rather concentrate on the desired features. My list at the end of the post was just some of the top vendors according to some of the various surveys I have seen. Below is a chart form the VersionOne 2008 survey. Please feel free to keep posting comments on other tools, but do not be offended if I did not mention your weapon of choice.