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How to Run PI Planning in Jira - Helping make SAFe®, Easy

If you’re reading this, then you’re officially on the train; the Agile Release Train (ART) that is — and you’re attempting to navigate the world of the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®).

One of the keys to the train running and delivering on time, is the execution of effective Program Increment Planning (PI Planning).


How Teams are Currently Executing PI Planning

Traditionally, we’ve seen this take place in a very physical sense: the 2 day planning session can see anywhere between 100 to 200+ members of an ART travel from all over the world to a single location where they plan out their next Increment of work.

During this time, Product Managers set the Program vision in the shape of top upcoming Features, and teams identify and plan work to support the achievement of those Features. Once work is planned, Product Owners and their development teams identify cross-team dependencies, which are communicated to the ART using string on a physical Program Board (Spaghetti Board).

Program Board - PI Planning.png


Challenges with Physical PI Planning

At the end of each day, it becomes someone’s job to enter this information into Jira, and, even after they do that, there is no native way to visually depict dependency relationships like the Spaghetti Board in Jira. Due to this lack of visibility into dependencies, Release Train Engineers will often roll up the physical Program Board and put it up on the wall outside their office. Not ideal — particularly for distributed team members.

We know from speaking with customers that planning Program Increments face-to-face is invaluable. There are however, common pain points organisations face when conducting physical PI Planning sessions. These include:

  • Cost associated with geo-distributed organisations flying in employees for the 2 day event (can be up to 5 times per year)
  • Difficulty in conveying information to non-participating team members after the event (dependency visualisation in Jira lacks context of the physical Program Board)
  • Ability to track the progression of the Program with distributed team members after the planning is finished

 

Run Distributed PI Planning Sessions in Jira 

We’ve created a solution using Jira + Easy Agile Programs to digitalise physical PI Planning and ensure your Program Board lives on well after the strings fall off the wall.

Let’s walk through a typical PI Planning agenda and how we can support each agenda item using Jira + Easy Agile Programs, for face-to-face and distributed PI Planning.

Running PI Planning in Jira + Easy Agile Programs.001.jpeg

Setting Business Context

Physical PI Planning Session:

Business Owners kick off the event by giving a presentation on “the current state of the business and present perspective on how well existing solutions are addressing current Customer needs” (SAFe — PI Planning).

Jira + Easy Agile Programs:

Business Owners can share a recorded video presentation with all members of the ART by linking to a Confluence page for example, in the Program details section.

This presentation is not restricted to team members being physically present during planning, and can be referred to throughout the entirety of the planning session.

Screen Shot 2019-01-23 at 10.49.28 am.png

 

Setting Product/Solution Vision

Physical PI Planning Session: 

Next, Product Management will present the current program vision, typically in the form of a list of the next top 10 upcoming Features.

Jira + Easy Agile Programs:

Rather than presenting the top 10 Features in a list-like presentation, Program Managers are able to schedule their Jira Features (Epics) onto a visual timeline for the duration of an Increment.

Sharing Product_Solution Vision.gif

The Increment Roadmap ensures all teams are aligned on the committed Features for a Program Increment, providing visibility into the direction of the Program for all stakeholders.

 

Team Breakouts

Physical PI Planning Session:

In the breakout, teams work individually to estimate the capacity for each Sprint in the Program Increment. Teams identify new issues or existing issues from their backlog that will help achieve the set Features and write them up on sticky notes. Each team’s draft plan will be stuck on a wall for all of the ART to see.

During this process, teams identify dependencies, depicting them using pieces of string, stuck between post it notes on a shared Program Board.

Program Board - PI Planning.png


Jira + Easy Agile Programs:

Each team has their own ‘Team Planning Board’. Here, Product Owners and their teams set the capacity for each Sprint within their Program Increment.

Setting Sprint Capacity in PI Planning.gif


With the context of the Feature Roadmap at the top of their planning session, teams are able to pull in existing issues from their backlog or create new issues within the planning board to support Feature completion.

PI Planning - Team Planning Board.gif


Simple drag and drop is used to create and visualise cross-team dependencies.


PI Planning - Creating Dependencies.gif


Each team’s draft plan is visible to the entire ART in the Increment Overview.

 

Increment Overview - EAP 1.4.0.png


The ability for teams to facilitate cross-team planning and dependency management allows distributed teams to participate in digital PI Planning sessions.

The Increment Overview is a digital representation of the physical Program Board created during the 2 day PI Planning session. Digitising this limits double handling of information, and also means we can track progress towards Feature completion in real time.

 

Plan Review & Rework

Physical PI Planning Session:

During the tightly time-boxed session, teams present their plan to the ART and discuss scope, cross-team dependencies, and resources.

Any adjustments to estimation, resources or stories are made on the post-it notes and strings are moved to address issues with dependencies.

Jira + Easy Agile Programs:

The ability to inline edit issue estimates and summaries in real-time makes reworking the plan fast and simple. All changes made to issues in Easy Agile Programs are automatically reflected in Jira.

PI Planning - Plan Review & Rework.gif

 

Easy Agile Programs for Jira

Interested in learning more about Easy Agile Programs for Jira? Read the launch blog post here.

Want to check out Easy Agile Programs for Jira? Try it for free now from the Atlassian Marketplace

Need help getting started with Easy Agile Programs? Check out our documentation here, or get in touch with one of our Atlassian Solution Partners

16 comments

This looks looks great ! Do you have any plans to get this on cloud anytime soon ?

Hi @Loshy Chandran

Thanks for reaching out and expressing interest in Easy Agile Programs for Cloud. Currently Easy Agile Programs is only available on Server and Data Center although we do have plans to also make it compatible for Jira Cloud soon. 

I've made a note on the story on our backlog to reach back out here once it is Cloud compatible. 

Thanks for your patience while we work on this!

Teagan Harbridge 
Product Manager - Easy Agile

We would also be interested in this for the cloud!!!

Like Teagan likes this

Hi @Samantha Sieverling

Thanks for reaching out and for your interest in Easy Agile Programs for Cloud! 

I've also added your vote to the story on our backlog and will keep in touch on when you can expect a Cloud compatible version of the app available on the Atlassian Marketplace. 

Thank you too for your patience on this! 

Teagan Harbridge
Product Manager - Easy Agile 

Hi,

This looks like an amazing way to manage a program. Please put me down for interest in the Cloud version once it comes out. Will it work with Jira Next-Gen?

Diane Roberts

Like Teagan likes this

Hi @Diane Roberts

It's great to hear that you are interested in a Cloud solution for Easy Agile Programs. 

I've added your vote and comments to the story on our backlog. There are some current limitations with Next-Gen projects, namely the inability to access the Epic-Link via JQL. We are currently waiting on Atlassian to provide the appropriate API end-points (which are currently being worked on: https://ecosystem.atlassian.net/browse/ACJIRA-1634).

Once those API's are made available to us, we will have a better idea around how Easy Agile Programs will be able to work alongside Next-Gen projects. I have made a note to keep you posted on the progress of this story here!

Thanks again @Diane RobertsI'm looking forward to reaching back out with good news
Teagan Harbridge 
Product Manager - Easy Agile 

Also interested in the cloud version.

Hi @Rabbit

Thanks for expressing your interest for Easy Agile Programs on Cloud!

I've added your vote to the story on our backlog and I will also reach back out to you here with a better idea of when you can expect to see the Cloud solution. 

Thanks @Rabbit
Teagan Harbridge 
Product Manager - Easy Agile


Hi @Rabbit @Diane Roberts @Samantha Sieverling @Loshy Chandran 

Reaching back out to let you know that Easy Agile Programs is now available for Cloud

Thank you for your interest and patience while our team worked to bring you this Cloud compatible version. We encourage and appreciate your feedback, and as always feel free to reach out to support@easyagile.com if you have any questions. 

Have a great day!
Teagan 

Hi @Teagan  


We are quite interested in your solution, it looks great!!.

I'd like to know if it is possible to have a feature/initiative level,something over the Epic, or if Epic is the higher level you can plan with your tool.

Thanks!!

Hi @alberto.gomezfuster 

Thanks for reaching out and we're excited to hear that you are interested in Easy Agile Programs! 

There is nothing technically stopping you from scheduling any issue type onto the Program Roadmap such as your custom initiative/feature issue type. In order to do this, when creating a new Program, select the 3rd option under the Program Roadmap heading (as shown below):
EAP 1.4.0 Product Walkthrough.001.jpeg

You will then be prompted to select your dedicated Roadmap board, as well as your Jira issue link type (that is, how you would like the stories scheduled in the Sprints by your teams to be linked up to your initiative/feature on the Roadmap). 

I hope that helps answer your question. If there is anything else I can help answer, please feel free to send a message directly to support@easyagile.com and I'd be more than happy to help. 

Thanks Alberto, 
Teagan 

Hi, we're looking at EasyAgile Programs as an option for a PI Planning tool.  Overall, it's great. However, the things that seem to be missing are:

  • The ability to highlight risks (risks that are not dependencies)
  • The ability to represent stretch objectives
  • The ability to input and keep track of PI Objectives and add business value to them

Are there any workarounds for these? How have other people been handling these items?

 

Your input is appreciated.

Thanks,
Jon

Like sadaann saeed likes this

Hi @Jon Fishman

Thanks for reaching out. You've raised some great questions! 

Risks: 

We are still in the investigation stage around how to best support displaying and creating risks in Easy Agile Programs. It would be great to get some of your perspective around the following: 

  • How do you currently identify risks in Jira? (custom issue type, component etc.)
  • How/where would you expect risks to be visualised in Easy Agile Programs


PI and Stretch Objectives:

We provide a text editor where RTE's can add Program PI Objectives to each Increment and can be referred to throughout the entirety of the PI by navigating to the Program Roadmap. In saying that, we do have stories on our backlog to make display these objectives on the Increment Overview so that they are more visible to the teams within a PI and front and center when planning. We also have a story to support each team being able to create their own Team PI Objectives on their Team Planning Boards. 

Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 10.54.34 am.png

  • How do you currently identify and keep track of PI and Stretch Objectives in Jira?
  • How do you currently assign business value to Objectives? 

 

I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback and insight and sharing it with our team. 

Thanks Jon, 
Teagan Harbridge 
Product Manager - Easy Agile 

Thanks so much for the thoughtful response, Teagan. To answer your questions....

 

  • How do you currently identify risks in Jira? (custom issue type, component etc.)

We typically don't for sprints. However, it's very important to make them visible in PI Planning sessions.

  • How/where would you expect risks to be visualised in Easy Agile Programs

One idea is to be able to change the color of the issue on the board. Either to change the color of the whole strip, or to at least have it outlined in red or something. Another idea is to add an icon on the strip that indicates risk...like an exclamation point.

 

  • How do you currently identify and keep track of PI and Stretch Objectives in Jira?

We currently don't. My request is specific to PI Planning. Some other tools have mechanisms built-in for this. For stretch objectives, it could be the same idea as a risk...change color, add an icon or something.

  • How do you currently assign business value to Objectives? 

Thus far our programs have been doing this in an excel spreadsheet. However, we want to do away with spreadsheets and use a tool that has these capabilities. This is why we are evaluating EasyAgile.

While it's helpful to add the PI Objectives with that dialog box, it doesn't really solve the problem. We want to make the PI Objectives easily visible and accessible to the Business Owners throughout the PI Planning session.. So, to have them click the three dots and then click "Edit Increment", isn't the most straightforward approach for them.

Two more quick questions..

1. Do you plan on having a feature to have a dashboard or something where velocity and predictability can be measured and displayed for the course of the increment?

2. Are there any available APIs that your customers can make use of?

 

Thanks so much.

Hi @Jon Fishman

Really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. Certainly helps us flesh out these stories on our backlog, so thank you. 


Risks

I've made sure to add your comments to the stories we have on our backlog around Risks. The colour approach is a great visualisation method, and I can see how we would go about implementing that approach.

The only question I have then becomes, would you expect/want to be able to pull reports in Jira which looks specifically at PI risks? If we were to use the colour approach, we would not be conforming to a standard Jira primitive (i.e. issue type, component, custom field), and so the question then becomes how we feed this information back into Jira for users who need to report on such risks. I'd be really interested to hear whether this would be a use case for you. 


Business Value

Thanks for that insight. We definitely would like to make the Program Increment Objectives more visible on the Increment Overview. I've added your comments to the story on our backlog and I'll make sure to keep you posted here.

A few more questions from me: How do you calculate business value? How do you keep track of whether that business value is delivered (story points delivered, cost of project etc.)? Would you expect Easy Agile Programs to take care of that calculation/progress? 


Now to answer your questions! 

I would love to share some mockups of potential dashboards for you. Please feel free to email me at support@easyagile.com and I'd be more than happy to share them with you. Your feedback would be super valuable. 

We also do have an available API that you can start taking advantage of. Here is a link to our API documentation: https://docs.easyagile.com/easy-agile-programs/advanced-programs-usage/easy-agile-programs-api/

 

Thanks again Jon, really appreciate your time providing this insight
Teagan 

Hi Teagan, sorry for the delay. I will get back to you on. your questions as soon as I have the chance.  One of the things that would be really helpful is to have easy-access to the info that we type in the "Edit Increment" window.  It's not useful to "edit" from the roadmap page and not be able to view that info from the "Overview", to refer to it.  If there could simply be a "View Increment Objectives" button that opens that window in view-mode (as opposed to edit mode), that would be tremendously helpful.

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