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Using Jira Align’s “Backlog Kanban – Sprint View” to Visualize SAFe’s Day 1 PI Planning event

One of the more popular frameworks used by Jira Align clients today is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).  Although there certainly are mixed and diverse viewpoints about SAFe, for this article let’s just consider it as an “encyclopedia” type reference of common patterns for enterprise Agile practices.  Under this view, SAFe promotes various approaches which Agile leaders may want to understand and potentially consider helping plan work. 

 

In the “Big Room” quarterly (PI) planning model, Agile teams are asked to decompose prioritized Features (Jira Epics) down to Stories, distributed across the upcoming 4 – 6 Sprint periods.  This is a key intermediate deliverable from the planning event, which will ultimately set up generation of the Program Board final deliverable committed by the group on day 2.  Unfortunately, I’ve observed many clients that end up short-cutting this process, resulting in a Program Board “guesstimate” that usually leads to over-commitments and under-delivery.

 

Product Management prepares a prioritized list of Features for the Teams coming into the planning event.  The Team decomposition physical practice typically requires laying out large post-it pads of paper to represent each Sprint for a Team where Stories are allocated as yellow sticky notes and Load vs. Capacity is balanced. 

(To help mitigate the stress of rapidly generating the Team’s Stories at the planning event, a common practice to pre-create some initial Stories may occur prior to event.) 

The resulting view across the Sprints then provides the Team with an excellent way to visualize their contributions for the PI.  It also sets up “bottoms-up” aggregation for generating Team Objectives that validate the plan supporting Features requested. 

 

Teams using Jira Align will typically create Stories supporting their parent Features (Jira Epics) in Jira.  The Jira Align connector will then automatically pull the data over into this view.  Alternatively, during PI Planning even Team level users may use the Feature Backlog – List view to create “quick add” Stories inline under the prioritized Features as shown below.

Feature.png

 

In order to generate an equivalent online view for the Team breakout Sprint decompositions, it may not be obvious how to do so from Jira Align.  There are currently a few important clicks required: 

  1. Select Backlog from the top of either Team or Program menu.
  2. Set the config filters for Program and Program Increment at the top.
  3. Select Story for the Viewing: work item.
  4. Select the Kanban – Sprint View option on the right rather than the default List view.
  5. Select the Team(s) desired.
  6. Select the Sprints from the PI to show as columns.

Combined selection.png

 

In the resulting view below, we can see the Story allocation of the Baltimore Team across 3 selected Sprint columns.  Users can then examine the loaded Story points against Velocity for each Sprint.  The Velocity is calculated in Jira Align based on the Team’s previous 5 completed Sprints, with the opportunity to Override this value based on known adjustments needed.

Money shot.png

 

By clicking the Unassigned Backlog button, users can pull unscheduled Story cards into an upcoming Sprint from right to left via drag-n-drop.

Unassigned Backlog button2.png

 

Users can adjust Card Size to "Small View" to gain a more holistic view as needed:

Small View.png

 

Ultimately, as the Team is attempting to ACCURATELY project the Target Sprints for Feature completion on Program Board, the Backlog Kanban – Sprint View shown above can serve as an important underlying artifact to help assure that a reasonable Sprint Story allocation plan drives it.

 

You can also use this view beyond planning to look back on progress made.  By setting the Card Size to "Heat Map View" as shown below, you can add several Teams in the Program as rows to generate a view across time showing Story State progress by color.  This can be especially helpful for tracking trends and identifying gaps. 

Heat Map View.png

 

Related Articles:

Check out the article from Caz “Jira Align for Release Train Engineers” for additional information about using Jira Align with the common SAFe activities related to Program Board, Dependency Management, and Objectives.

https://community.atlassian.com/t5/Jira-Align-articles/Jira-Align-for-Release-Train-Engineers/ba-p/1179859

And also this one from Tom about Managing Risks:

https://community.atlassian.com/t5/Jira-Align-articles/Creating-Team-Risks-in-Jira-Align/ba-p/1267271

6 comments

Nice article @Rob Phillips ! Perfect example for Big Room planning!

Rich Sparks Atlassian Team Feb 06, 2020

This is such a great article. I've seen teams put their Post-it notes up on the wall and lay all the things out, then they leave the room and all the planning they did stays right there on the wall.

This shows how teams can use Jira Align to help them with their planning, and they can carry all that great planning into the execution phase!

Like Shawn Kessler likes this
Emily Koch Atlassian Team Feb 07, 2020

This is an amazing article, @Rob Phillips ! Thanks for showing off the value of Jira Align in planning!

Like Shawn Kessler likes this

Great Article!

Reminded me of a few thoughts I had about making it better for PI Planning Event:

  • On the “Small View” – if you add story points – it will make that view that much more helpful for balancing sprints but seeing the  big picture
  • Next to the Sprint Name (show Sprint Dates) (All Views)
  • Add an option to display Risks, Dependencies, and Objectives – Everything Team Needs to properly plan the PI
Like # people like this

The Backlog Kanban – Sprint View works really well for remote/distributed PI Planning. I used it with my team in January 2020. It's a great way to see your % load and use for presenting your Draft Plan review.

What privileges do you need to be able to perform this? I am unable to access the Backlog page's Story filter with my Analyst authority. I switched to Scrum Master and refreshed, but still couldn't access by Story. The lowest I could go was Feature and that didn't seem to work intuitively either.

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