Closing Out the Quarter: Part 1 - Buffet of options in Jira Align

As the 1st calendar of 2023 closes, we've had many clients struggle understanding how to use Jira Align on the Program Execution side to best manage finishing up.  Like a Sprint for an Agile Team represents the "pencils down!" moment for Story completion, the Program Increment for a Program (aka Team of Team, Release Train, Tribe) is that similar moment where folks need to stop and put their heads up to assess progress and reset for the upcoming quarter.  In practice, that typically is the last week or two of the timebox (assume quarter for this discussion) to review results, reflect on successes / areas for growth, and plan for the next period.

Here is my (low marketing budget) spectrum of options that Jira Align supports for closeout.  This is just from my experience and you certainly may find other options in Jira Align that I'd love to hear about.  I've laid them out across the Crawl - Walk - Run - Fly spectrum to offer a hopefully easier approach to referencing this content, but certainly the divisions in the columns are not rigid.

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For this week, let's cover the Crawl and Walk columns to get us started.  We'll add Part 2 for the Run and Fly columns in an upcoming week. 

1. Feature Split - I've evolved a bit on this for Crawl level, where I used to cave into the raw approach of just moving a Feature (Jira Epic) to the next quarter for stage 1 knowledge.  The issue is that although Jira Align will allow this, misalignment flags will be generated at various points which cloud the value of the valid ones.  So even starting out, be sure to review EVERY Feature planned for the quarter that did not get Accepted and determine if it needs to carry forward via the Split function.  


2. Epic / Capabilities Extension - In scaling across multiple groups, focus at the broader level by Portfolio teams is often a lost art.  Local Programs that are reviewing an incomplete Feature have a great opportunity to stretch up and validate that the parent object to the Feature is scheduled into the next quarter.  This can be a great conversation starter with your business / portfolio leadership to confirm expectations allow for an extension and how far out that now appears to project.  


3. Run PI Cleanup Report - For users new to scaling, this report has a surprising benefit from its relative simplicity.  A potential "punch list" of open items needing to be reviewed is provided along with the assigned Owner of it.  This should never be used as a "wall of shame", but the content can be easily selected / copied / pasted into a spreadsheet or email and communicated to the assignees for help resolving.  

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4. Update Program Board - As we move into the Walk stage, the Program Board offers a nice fairly comprehensive visual in a timeline for Teams to address open items that typically will be marked yellow or red.  A black checkmark on the Feature rectangles confirms success via Acceptance.  Although learning the report details can sometimes feel daunting, there is a lot of great insight available on where misalignments exist and what remedies need to be taken.

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5. Revie Scope Change Report - This report helps the group reflect back on Features that were moved in after quarter planning typically will have taken place.  It also flags Features that were removed along the way.  The scope line across the quarter helps show the level of up front planning that may have been done vs. more continuous identification of the work to be done.  Of course, some organizations seem to prefer a more fluid approach to scoping effort down at the Story Point level, but the reality is that continuing to add Features as you go through the quarter can cause delays and even chaos from context switching, even if an equivalent amount of Features are removed to help try maintaining balance.  A lot of great insight possible from this report for learning.

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6. Review Program Burndown - As we close out the Walk stage, we should get away from the help that Burndown and Burnup charts provide around expected scope vs. completed work.  The PI Progress Report in Jira Align is fantastic at supporting summary views across a Program or even a Portfolio, while still offering drill downs by Team or Initiative.  (As a side note, don't forget about the "Initiative (SAFe Epic) Planning" report available from the right side links on a specific Initiative that offer a similar burndown on Story Points alongside the Features spanned across planned quarters!)

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There you have it!  6 views across the Crawl and Walk spectrum to consider for helping your end of quarter closeout activities.  We'll hit Run / Fly next time in Part 2 of our Close Out specturm.  What alternative views in Jira Align do you find helpful for closeout activities?




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