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AT&T’s PI Planning: Utilizing a Digital Tool in a “Analog” Ceremony

 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.


Al Reid
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
September 4, 2019

Good stuff Caz!

Mindaugas Kuodis September 16, 2019

Hi Caz,

currently we have > 8k users in our Jira server instance. Until this fall we were fine with Portfolio add-on, but now we started piloting SAFE in a few Business Areas and want to experiment with extra tools to support PI Planing and follow up.  There are other tools outside Jira ecosystem, but with so many employees already using Jira we want to continue. How ever we work with 3 different consultant companies and they proposed 5 candidates to start, and for some reasons Jira Align is not in the list. 

Could you help me understand more about Jira Align and it's core functionalities (for example PI Planing board both on Solution level and for ARTs); current integration status with Portfolio; maybe you could also provide presentation, whitepapers, use-cases or anything else that could make Jira Align on our list of tools to start experimenting.

Thank you in advance!


Like # people like this
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
September 16, 2019

@Mindaugas Kuodis 

Hi Mindaugas, thanks for reaching out. I will certainly pass your information on to my team who can provide you with further info on Jira Align. Cheers! 

Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
September 16, 2019

@Mindaugas Kuodis, thanks for your questions! It's great to hear you're interested in exploring Jira Align for a SAFe use case.

Here are a couple of additional resources I'd recommend:

If you have any more specific questions, I'm happy to address them here in the community!

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sadaann saeed October 8, 2019

@Mindaugas Kuodis Check out this it might help you to solve your problem it worked great for our Program Increments.


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