Ever heard the term “Big Room Planning” or “PI Planning”? In scaled agile, these are one in the same—an interactive two-day event where teams of teams gather face-to-face in one big room to plan their next program increment (PI). Teams rally around three core items: 1. A formal presentation laying out strategic priorities, 2. A program board to map out the work (features, stories, risks, dependencies) and 3. In classic agile fashion, a retrospective on the last day.
For those familiar with the platform, you may already envision Jira Align projected at the front of the room, managing these components throughout the event. Jira Align has functionality at the Enterprise and Portfolio level to document and prioritize strategic initiatives. It also has a digitized program board to enable planning and rendering for all work items across a PI. And to put a bow on it, users can hold retrospective ceremonies digitally across teams.
As with anything scaled agile, it’s not quite that simple. Leveraging a digital platform to replace analog methods treads a fine line. In this particular scenario, what appears to be analog is not just a collection of antiquated processes or tools. Analog is the spirit of agile planning.
Three weeks ago, the Jira Align team attended AT&T’s PI Planning. A quick glance around the room revealed mountains of sticky notes on every table, the make-shift program board in the back corner with the infamous red string laying next to it, and of course, the many flipcharts. What wasn’t immediately obvious was that almost every individual in that room was a long-time, avid Jira Align user. When asked about holding fast to these old-school methods, the Portfolio Manager gave a compelling response: “Why would we have each of our team members sit around a table only to work on their laptop? It’s distracting and it defeats the purpose of why we’re here.” AT&T invested heavily to fly every team in town, host them, and rent a venue all for the purpose of facilitating face-to-face interaction.
Each one of us can appreciate the power of sitting with a team member. Conversing on strategy, weighing resources while writing and mapping out the work together. It draws upon how we as humans build synergy through interaction. Replacing these traditional methods with fancier, digital ones is not the answer. Rather, digital tools have the potential to empower human collaboration, overcoming challenges that often come with it.
We’ve already begun work in this area, making Jira Align a tool that enables this ceremony. AT&T for example used Jira Align’s card function to print pre-defined features and stories. Users could easily post and visualize these cards on the physical program board. And, post-event AT&T gathered all the planned work and uploaded it into the platform. In doing so, Jira Align’s digital program board transformed what is traditionally static data into dynamic data with real-time views.
These actions are powerful. They equip users—developers, product owners, portfolio managers—to execute against scaled agile initiatives with greater effectiveness. As we continue this journey, we will look for new ways Jira Align can preserve the value of agile ceremonies while propelling our users to reach for new heights. Stay tuned to see where and how the Jira Align team invests more in this effort.
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