Agile workflow

7 min read

Collaboration redefined: 8 Strategies to Propel PI Planning

Mon Aug 14 2023
Caitlin Mackie
Written by Caitlin Mackie, Content Marketing Coordinator
Matt de Feudis
Artwork by Matt de Feudis, Senior Designer

PI planning is a powerful event that helps teams align around goals, business objectives, and customer needs. Traditionally, this quarterly gathering brought together large teams of more than 100 people, including software developers and stakeholders, to complete essential planning.

However, in our new world of work, virtual PI planning has become necessary. This shift presents its own set of challenges, such as implementing virtual tools, overcoming time zone differences, and coordinating employees who are accustomed to working on their own schedules. Not to mention the occasional tech glitches that may arise.

In this blog, we will explore the information technology industry as an example and delve into how they can benefit from PI planning. Discover the critical benefits of PI planning and provide strategies for successfully conducting hyrbid PI planning. Whether you're a newcomer or an experienced master in agile practices, there's always room for improvement in optimizing your systems.

What is PI planning?

PI planning, or Big Room Planning planning, is typically a two-day event that brings together all of the teams on an agile release train, including product owners, facilitators, developers, and outside stakeholders. It’s traditionally a face-to-face planning session that, for some teams, puts more than 100 people in the same room to align on goals, business objectives, and an overall direction moving forward.

It’s part of a scaled agile framework that implements agile practices for enterprises. Agile teams use repeated workflows for informed planning, efficient execution, and continual delivery of stakeholder value.

Although PI planning events often take place in person, the increased number of remote teams has forced businesses to find hybrid solutions for this large-scale event.

Equip your remote, distributed or co-located teams for success with a digital tool for PI Planning.

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The benefits PI planning

Whether PI planning occurs in-person, online, or hybrid, this two-day gathering provides a number of critical benefits. It’s an integral part of SAFe that keeps businesses aligned on common goals and objectives, and it sets various teams on a strong path for upcoming sprints.

The PI planning event can bring numerous benefits. Here's 5 potential advantages for the information technology (IT) industry:

  • Collaborative Environment: The PI Planing event provides a space where IT professionals from various teams and departments can come together to collaborate, brainstorm, and share ideas in a face-to-face setting.
  • Cross-Functional Communication: IT often involves multiple departments (development, operations, support, etc.). The PI Planning event facilitates better communication and alignment between these departments, leading to more cohesive strategies.
  • Focused Decision-Making: A dedicated event allows for focused discussions and decisions, reducing distractions that might arise in regular office settings.
  • Rapid Problem Resolution: Complex IT challenges can be addressed more efficiently when all relevant stakeholders are physically present to discuss issues and propose solutions.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Experts from different IT domains can share their expertise, leading to increased learning and skill development across the organization.

8 PI planning strategies

In order to ensure a successful PI Planning event you need to have some strategies in place to help teams effectively collaborate and align their efforts, whether they are co-located or working remotely. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Set the date and agenda early

It is imperative to schedule the session well in advance, allowing team members to allocate the necessary time and prioritize their participation amidst their busy schedules. It is of utmost importance to encourage widespread participation in this planning session.

Providing a comprehensive agenda for the event is crucial for ensuring effective collaboration and alignment within teams. The agenda serves as a roadmap, guiding participants through the planning session and helping them prioritize their contributions.

By setting a clear agenda, teams can establish a shared understanding of the objectives, topics, and activities to be covered during the PI Planning session.

2. Set Clear Objectives

Before the PI Planning event, establish clear objectives and goals that you want to achieve. Communicate these objectives to all participants so that everyone is aligned and understands what needs to be accomplished during the event. This will help keep the focus on the desired outcomes and ensure a successful planning session.

3. Choose stellar tools that aid collaboration

Utilise visual tools to encourage active participation and facilitate visual representation of ideas and plans. Choosing the right tools can make a significant difference in enhancing productivity and promoting effective teamwork. The chosen tools should aid in organizing and structuring information, making it easier for team members to comprehend the work and dependencies, allowing the teams to collaborate in real time. It is essential to choose visual collaboration tools that are user-friendly, intuitive, and accessible to all team members.

Virtual whiteboards, such as Miro, are also a huge asset, as well as tools designed for PI Planning. If your team uses Jira, we recommend Easy Agile Programs. It’s a complete solution designed for distributed, remote, or face-to-face PI Planning.

4. Go in with a refined backlog

Do as much advance planning as you can so you can make the most of this planning event. Ensure the backlog is thoroughly refined and ready to go so no time is wasted during PI planning.

It’s a big commitment for so many people available at once, and it uses up a lot of working hours. Plus, your stakeholders are setting aside time for this meeting. A refined backlog that’s organized with appropriate details will keep everything running as smoothly as possible.

5. Don’t have people waiting around

Do all you can to ensure there’s a clear schedule that doesn’t leave anyone hanging around. That last thing you want is to waste people’s time. Ensure people know “where” they need to be and when. Triple-check that the appropriate people are assigned to virtual meetings, breakouts, and tasks. Advance planning and transparency will help ensure no one is left waiting or underutilized.

6. Utilize team breakouts

It’s unrealistic to have 100+ people working together in the same room or virtual space for two days straight. Can you imagine? 🤯

Breakout meetings composed of smaller groups are essential to a productive and effective planning event. Once again, it all comes down to advance planning. Your game plan doesn’t need to be completely rigid, but you do need a clear schedule, and leaders need to effectively organize breakout groups in whatever way makes the most sense for your team and desired planning outcomes.

TIP: Your tools can come in handy here, set up dedicated team planning boards to help facilitate conversations and capture the work. Below is an example of a Team Planning Board in Easy Agile Programs. What you are seeing is an example of how a team can create issues on their board and create any dependencies they might have in their team and between teams.

Easy Agile Programs

7. Expect the unexpected and roll with the punches (aka tech issues)

As with any large-scale meeting, nothing is going to run perfectly. You are bound to run into hiccups and tech issues. Rolling with the punches is the best you can do.

Test technology in advance — schedule time when your main speakers can do a test call with you. Go over requirements, and have them silence notifications and devices in advance.

Make sure everyone has the information they need to operate their tools and tech effectively, and as the leader of the event or a breakout session, have tech contingencies in place. What happens if your conferencing tool stops working? Do you have a backup? What if their Wi-Fi slows or goes down? Can they switch to a hotspot or can someone else take over?

8. Hold a retrospective so you can improve the next time around

Retrospectives ensure your processes continually improve. They provide an opportunity for feedback that will help make the next big planning meeting better.

Make sure you collect feedback and hear people out after the session. Ask people what they thought went well, what didn’t go so well, and what could be improved for next time. Use this information to improve the process for your next big room planning meeting.

Easy Agile TeamRhythm

By following these strategies, you can facilitate effective collaboration and alignment within your teams during the PI Planning event.

PI planning with Easy Agile

No matter the size of your team, effective planning begins with using the right tools. Easy Agile builds products specifically designed for Jira users to help agile teams plan efficiently and effectively.

Easy Agile Programs for Jira is ideal for helping remote or distributed teams effectively manage programs with streamlined visibility to deliver alignment at scale. Set PI objectives, visualize dependencies, and align the entire team with a simple-to-use and virtually accessible tool.

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