Program Increment (PI) planning is a key element of enterprise Agile. While it was initially popularized by the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), which continues to advance best practices related to the concept, PI planning has universal awareness as a planning activity embraced even by organizations who have not fully committed to the SAFe framework.
Echoing principles of team-level Agile activities, PI planning initially emphasized in-person collaboration and the use of physical devices like boards and sticky notes. COVID-19 hastened a shift to remote PI planning for a fully remote workforce to continue the development and delivery of digital products. The effectiveness of these planning events typically suffered with the collaborative aspects of the experience often taking the biggest hit.
Most organizations will continue to have a mix of remote, hybrid, and on-site workforce. While portfolio managers and product teams have some hastily approved tools in place to facilitate the basic activities of PI planning, a permanent move back to in-person is unlikely. That makes a coordinated effort to review and select the ideal platform to digitize PI planning an important task for the organization’s leaders. Even in situations where in-person PI planning is an option for product teams, the right platform will enhance the activity and help various teams execute with more agility and integrate the program plans into the broader enterprise strategy.
Improve the effectiveness of PI planning
Agile programs must share a lot of information across multiple teams. That means effective PI planning requires shareable and accessible data — not easy when different tools access different data stores. Information is often locked in departmental silos or tools, making it difficult to present cross-functional information to Agile program teams.
An ideal platform for remote PI planning acts as a single source of truth for all teams. It must capture and display information for specific teams and incorporate information into views appropriate for the program. This allows various teams, both remote and in-person, to work from and share information in the planning event while watching as the program itself takes shape.
The development of the program board, one of the primary outcomes of the PI planning event, serves as a great example. These boards rely on information from team capacity and availability, feature lists, idea boards, strategic priorities, and roadmaps as input to visually plan the program. They display commitments to feature delivery, dependencies, and milestones.2022 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Agile Planning (EAP) tools From there, breakout sessions leverage team-specific views of the same information to plan and manage their user stories, features, and dependencies for various boards and lists. This also allows teams to move, sort, and edit items quickly and efficiently.
One example is the ability to visualize information made possible with a digital platform. A digital PI planning platform can expedite the pre-program planning efforts by allowing teams to proactively input their capacity for the upcoming increments, adjust the increment time boxes, and more.
Facilitate and improve collaboration with remote PI planning
PI planning is a collaborative activity; it always has been and always will be. But, in-person planning events, with their information siloes, were not as collaborative as they could have been.
While a single source of truth provides a foundation for collaboration, there are still opportunities to improve collaboration with a digital experience. For example, a platform for remote PI planning should foster team communication through comments on information elements such as user stories, tasks, and backlogs. Support for @mention commenting effectively alerts teams through common messenger, email, and other collaborative tools. Confidence voting, surveys, and retrospectives are also all core elements of PI planning and execution that can be enhanced through the right digital experience.
Transition to execution faster
By leveraging a digital platform for remote PI planning, all the information from the planning activity is in the system for teams to begin executing immediately following the planning event. Team-specific views of a single source of information create team dashboards, calculate flow metrics, and equip teams with better DevOps practices to manage program execution. A single source of truth also provides agility to the execution of the program by allowing teams to adjust quickly to changes.
This contrasts with capturing planning decisions on physical assets and manually entering data into siloed toolsets post-planning event. Those same siloed tools also hinder the agility of teams from reacting to changes while executing program activities, all of which are challenges that can be addressed by adopting the right platform for PI planning.
Don’t forget the financials
Historically, the planning of Agile programs focused on the available capacity of teams and the features and user stories incorporated into the upcoming program increment. Financial considerations were limited to labor costs.
As today’s businesses continue scaling Agile practices, they see the impact of Agile delivery on product TCO, overall business spend, and revenue. A new feature can impact everything from revenue and subscriptions, consumption of cloud services, support and contract fees, unit costs, and required capital asset expenditures, to long-term operational costs.
Adding visibility of holistic financials to the remote PI planning activity is not typically a priority concern for product teams during PI planning. As a result, it’s not a commonly supported capability on most vendor platforms, but doing so can significantly impact the resulting plans and delivered value. Going forward, any opportunity to incorporate financial data into Agile planning should represent a top priority for organizations.
Digitize remote PI planning to improve the experience & deliver improved outcomes
Digitizing PI planning activities is required to facilitate today’s workforce for most organizations. When done with the right platform, the experience of both local and remote PI planning can be facilitated and improved while still reinforcing the collaborative elements of the planning activity. A digital platform for PI planning can break down information silos, eliminate knowledge gaps, and keep all teams on the same page while executing a complex program. Learn about PI planning best practices at CPrime in this Amplify Agile episode.
Apptio Targetprocess is highly favored and respected in the industry by portfolio and product managers and Agile engineering teams for facilitating collaborative and effective PI planning, either in person or remotely. Beyond its popularity for PI planning, Targetprocess is recognized by Gartner as a leader in the 2022 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Agile Planning (EAP) tools. It is also the only EAP solution that integrates directly with the industry leading ApptioOne platform for technology financial management, allowing organizations to connect CFOs and financial teams to Agile program planning and fully optimize their investments.
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