PI PLANNING? WHAT IS IT AND WHAT IS IT FOR?
Planning is the process of reflection on the activities needed to achieve the desired objectives. It is the first and most important activity not to fail. It implies the creation and maintenance of a plan. Here’s how to get a PI PLANNING in the most effective way possible.
The time of meetings and of changes
This is by far the most complicated and challenging time of the year. The work teams are called to organize and more often reorganize the activities just ended and at the same time plan those to be put on their radar. The period between the beginning of December and the first weeks of the new year is characterized by meetings. Business Planning, Forecasting, Budgeting and Implementation Forecasting, Program Increment Planning and so on and so forth.
Only one thing is certain: this is the time to test how agile the framework you have chosen to guide your processes is. Those who are familiar with the Lean principles or have already experienced some agile management tests know perfectly well that any change in the development flows of a product or service is never easy. You can quickly create a positive experience or you need to wait a while for the people involved to feel the value, notice the elimination of waste or downtime and start to notice some benefit.
Lean for all types of companies
It is true that lean, lean transformation processes are based on a set of methods, techniques and tools, but it is important to note that the effectiveness of all this depends on the system of organizational relationships in the company and the quality of the people who work there. There is good news: everything can always be improved!
WWG has been offering custom software services for companies in various sectors for years and “pushes” so that all its customers choose an agile framework.Now it is at the test bed. Just like its customers looking for new ways to attack the market from 2021. It’s time to move from theory to practice and understand how the methodology we often talk about in meetings with customers and partners is also needed for us to plan, implement and bring something new to our teams.
Program Increment Planning
In terms of resistance to change and ability to build a path of progressive improvement, a particularly important role is played by PI Planning. This is a key step of the Scaled Agile Framework (Safe), a framework now adopted not only by small groups or software houses. A program increment (PI) is a defined planning interval during which an Agile Release Train (ART) generates incremental value in the form of functional and proven systems and software.The Ips (Program Increment) are generally 8-12 weeks. The most common pattern for an IP is four development iterations, followed by an Innovation and Planning (IP) iteration.
Release a software
Normally a software implementation method is a systematic structured approach to effectively integrate a new service or component built on the workflow analysis of the organizational structure or a single end-user that will make it use.
With any successful software implementation there are some steps that need to be considered.
- Process design
- Solution design
- Writing reports
- Data conversion
Implement an idea
Similarly a process of planning, this time of a new activity, of new outcomes, exploitation of new opportunities, of a new way of working or the determination of an alternative is the set of steps that a company draws to develop those budgets necessary to guide its future activities.
The documents that the PI Meeting should include are:
- Strategic plans (long-range and high-level business objectives)
- Tactical plans (specific short-term plans to work towards objectives in the strategic plan)
- Operational plans (detailed plans to be implemented for a specific department)
- Project plans (plans to implement projects such as the launch of new products or the construction of a new plant)
Remote teams (at the time of Covid-19!)
Here is one of the basic principles of the Agile Manifesto: “The most effective and efficient method of conveying information in a development group is the “FACE-to-face” conversation. In fact, Safe adopts this approach to realize the PI Planning – a two-day event to set the next iterations together with all teams.
It is a meeting, moderated by a RTE (Release Train Engineer), attended by all members of the ART (Agile Release Train).Remote connections cannot be missed.WWG has an international team and has regular contacts with all departments. This year, however, for the PI Planning organized everything in video conference.The face-to-face meeting allows you to align all teams on the company’s Mission and Vision. The first tangible results of PI Planning are:
- A “Committed PI objectives” – a set of SMART objectives created for each team linked to the business values assigned by the Business Owners
- A “Program board” – the milestone release program and its dependencies between the various teams
How does the PI Meeting work?
The phases of the planning process are:
- Setting of objectives
- Developing tasks to achieve these objectives
- Determine the resources needed to implement activities
- Create a timeline
- Determine the monitoring and evaluation method
- Finalize a plan
- Distribute it to everyone involved in the process
The first step of a PI Planning is to determine what you want to achieve.
First, teams estimate their capabilities for each Iteration and identify the backlog elements needed to accomplish what is needed. Each team creates the outline of their own plan, visible to all, iteration by iteration. During this process, teams should be able to assess the risks, the dependencies, whether to accomplish a task they need other people or not and define the initial draft of these increments to plan.
During planning, in the middle of PI Planning, teams identify risks and impediments that could hinder the achievement of goals. These are evaluated and resolved in a broader managerial context. One by one, the risks are discussed and addressed with honesty and transparency, and then assigned in one of the following categories:
- Fixed – teams agree that risk is no longer a problem
- Owned – Someone takes the risk, since it cannot be resolved during planning
- Accepted – Some risks are simply facts or potential problems that need to be understood and accepted
- Mitigated – Teams identify a plan to reduce the scale of risk
- Determine the monitoring and evaluation method
- Finalize a plan
- Distribute it to everyone involved in the process
Fist of Five (Confidence vote)
Once the risk programme has been examined, a vote is taken on whether or not the objectives set out in the IP (Programme Increment) can be achieved.The moment is crucial. The confrontation is individual – finally you can provide a point of view with decision! – but also collective. Something that actually happens with a group dynamic.
Each team VOTE with the ‘Fist of five’:
- If the average is 3 or more fingers, the management commits
- If the average is less than 3 fingers, you have to review the plan
Those who have voted less than 3 fingers have the opportunity to express their doubt. Doubts can become risks or require only planning improvements.
When all the teams have voted, the process is repeated for the entire ART, so as to vote together the master plan.
Repeating the process from scratch this time allows to enter more in depth the activities required to achieve the defined objectives. To increase monthly sales and achieve a sales goal, for example, we rewrite the core activities, we identify those that can be automated, you choose an instrument and eventually you understand if you need training to facilitate its use.
The WWG marketing team, for example, at this stage of the PI Planning determined the resources to implement the objectives.Resources that include both the people needed to implement the plan, and supplies or anything that may be necessary to support those people.
A PI planning continues to verify
1. Specific and measurable objectives (targets)
The first thing you want to know is your chances of achieving the desired end result
We must monitor very carefully what resources are required, what resources are available and what needs to be integrated
3. Specific action steps
It’s time to understand what are the steps needed to create a positive result to not miss deadlines and take advantage of all the necessary resources
Here are the tools to realize a PI Planning
Jira is the number one tool for project management and team collaboration, widely used to introduce agile principles at scale in project execution. Agile teams use it daily to manage epic, story, task and sprint, to maintain a backlog of the program and keep track of all activities. It is visual, intuitive and easy to use.In Jira, you can see the whole scope of the work that needs to be done, know what your teammates are working on and see immediately all the addictions and blocks. If used correctly, Jira allows you to organize your workload and always be exactly in line with your activities.
Big Agile came into play as it is a tool that can be integrated with multiple Jira projects. It provides the complete picture at all levels, accumulating Jira projects from all teams involved in PI planning and summarizing them in a schedule board. In real time, teams can determine PI goals, plan upcoming sprints, and manage dependencies between all teams. In previous PI planning, Big Agile has already been considered as a tool to track the results of planning. However, with the need to transfer the entire PI planning event to the online mode in its entirety, the teams ended up using the full functionality of the tool, which has proven very effective and saves time.
MS Teams is a platform for team communication in chat and video meetings, with a multitude of other useful features and integrations, which can be the starting point of your every working day. The use of MS Teams is important to help keep teams in touch and aware of ongoing processes within the team and across the company. You can use it for video calls and meetings during PI planning, you can create individual channels for each team or general to conduct group sessions.
Voting Poker is a web application, introduced to replace the vote of confidence that usually occurs at the end of PI planning and is aimed at determining the team’s confidence in the next increment program – a real agile estimate! – and if the results are satisfactory, what concerns can be raised regarding the proper implementation of the project plans.
Agile and online planning
After successfully completing a remote PI planning, we can reflect on the experience and understand how customers, partners and even companies far from this methodology as they may be with whom we can work in the future can accept the opportunities offered by a well-structured PI Planning. This is the feedback of the meeting organized by WWG:
Pros of PI PLANNING:
- With proper preliminary planning, remote PI planning is as efficient as offline events.
- Fewer distractions. Easier to focus on work.
- Everyone is involved in the planning.
- Direct communication between all team members (advantage of LEAN architectures).
- It is convenient to summarize all PI objectives in a presentation.
- Alignment Development team objectives with PI Planning objectives.
- The teams have access to a master doc throughout the time of PI Planning. They can see the whole scope of work, all the features and dependencies.
- Easy to follow the agenda and make sure you keep everything in mind.
- The use of online tools has made the planning process simpler and more efficient: all changes can be added online, there is no need to approach a bulletin board and shake with sticky notes.
- Pre-planning together with the use of online tools made for faster and easier planning for the upcoming PI.
- Elimination of excesses of WIP (work in Progress).
- No charges for transport, accommodation, catering. Everyone works remotely from their workstation.
Cons of PI PLANNING:
- The more teams involved in PI planning, the more complicated it becomes. In our case the teams involved were: Dev, Marketing, Sales, Post-sales.
- It may be difficult to coordinate teams with many dependencies.
- The risks of the program cannot be clearly perceived. They often need explanatory text.
- It is not easy to involve all teams for two days effectively blocking the operation.
- There is no way to step aside to have a word with someone, every call must be agreed or scheduled.
- More difficult to conduct a vote of confidence with remote teams.
- Distance does not help the comparison between people. You end up passively following what is shared on the screen.