Recent distancing guidelines due to COVID-19 have forced many organizations to operate in a remote-only work environment for the first time. This abrupt change demands agility and adaptability to ensure business continuity, sustain Agile transformations, and keep up team engagement. However, very few organizations feel prepared to handle large-scale remote work especially when it comes to Agile development teams who heavily rely on face-to-face interactions for vital ceremonies such as Program Increment (PI) Planning. CollabNet VersionOne, now Digital.ai, has recently helped various customers from different industries adapt their tools, processes, and practices for remote PI Planning success. In this blog series, we will distill our learnings and share best practices on how to effectively perform each PI Planning activity remotely using VersionOne and other tools where appropriate. This blog focuses on one of the most critical aspects of Remote PI Planning: Pre-PI Planning.
Leading fully remote teams through PI Planning will at first require even more coordination, preparation, and communication than an in-person event. If this is your first time orchestrating a remote PI Planning session, you will undoubtedly face hiccups but use this opportunity to experiment and try different digital techniques to determine what suits your organization’s unique needs so that you can continuously improve the way your teams collaborate during the work-from-home era. If you start off on the right foot and continue, it will get easier and the team will adapt.
Depending on how complex your organization is, start planning several weeks in advance and dedicate a half-day to align stakeholders before the event. To ensure a smooth virtual event, you will need to ensure virtual environment, organizational, and information collection readiness.
Virtual Environment Readiness
Video conferencing: select a video conferencing tool such as Zoom or WebEx that supports more than 100 attendees. Additional functionality such as screen sharing, whiteboarding, and polling are a big plus.
- Set up virtual meeting rooms for individual teams to collaborate during team breakouts, cross-team collaboration during scrum-of-scrums, and key stakeholders to reach decisions in the management review session. Many video conferencing tools offer the ability to re-route teams back to the main channel for combined sessions such as the draft plan review.
- You can also try to approximate a physical office in a digital world with tools like Sococo. This layout allows teams to see where everyone is and contact specific team members in other rooms when you need their input.
- Appoint a dedicated person, “traffic controller”, who can manage and mediate technology during the PI Planning event.
- Document clear working agreements such as using the virtual hand raiser to ask questions and muting your microphone during the business context and portfolio vision session.
- Provide clear instructions on how to use the tools employed
- Share the expanded three-day agenda for remote PI Planning
- Distribute this cheat sheet to teams several weeks in advance so they can start to learn how to use tools, get familiar with working agreements, and know what to expect on each day of PI Planning.
- Organize a Pre-PI Planning event with key stakeholders to prepare the following content:
- Business context, portfolio vision, and strategic themes: current state of the business
- Product/solutions vision: roadmap and timeline for three upcoming PIs
- Architecture vision and development practices: technology strategy for upcoming PI
- Top ten features for upcoming PI: prioritized by Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF)
- Some companies choose to brief Agile teams before PI Planning so they can start to decompose features into user stories and use the time during PI Planning to map dependencies.
- Clarify facilitator roles and responsibilities (Business Owners, Release Train Engineer, Product Manager, System Architects etc.) so they are prepared to lead teams through the PI Planning event.
- Complete team and Agile Release Train (ART) rosters to show locations and contact information for all team members and stakeholders.
- Make sure all content is stored in a central location that can be accessed by everyone involved in PI Planning.
Information Collection Readiness
When teams are co-located, they tend to use physical boards to break down features into user stories and map dependencies. With virtual PI Planning, an Agile lifecycle management tool is incredibly valuable for centralizing information across multiple teams, as well as ensuring the information is not lost or forgotten after the event. These tools provide greater visibility and transparency through the process by allowing business owners to share relevant content and teams to collaborate concurrently on various PI Planning activities, making the whole process much more streamlined and efficient. Using VersionOne, you can connect Epics to Features to Stories and track progress at all levels of the organization.
Takeaways and Complimentary Tools
Review this checklist to ensure you do not miss any important Pre-PI Planning details
Watch this video to understand how you can use VersionOne for Pre-PI Planning
Read the full guide to learn how to optimize the entire Remote PI Planning process