Agile best practice

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How AF group closed hybrid PI planning gaps

Tue Mar 14 2023
Caitlin Mackie
Written by Caitlin Mackie, Content Marketing Coordinator

AF Group is on a mission to provide innovative insurance solutions and deliver exceptional customer experiences via its network of affiliate brands. As part of this mission, the group embarked on an enterprise-wide SAFe transformation to better align products to strategy and continuously deliver value. It was during this project where issues around collaboration and virtual PI planning came to a head.

“We’ve always worked in our silos, so identifying and then creating dependencies has been a big obstacle for us,” said Amanda Latusek, Manager, Enterprise Portfolio & PMO at AF Group. “We needed to find a way to work together as a cohesive team to deliver our PI objectives”.

The problem to be solved: collaboration during virtual PI Planning

Collaboration across virtual teams was essential to delivering the transformation, but making this happen in practice during virtual PI planning events was a struggle. The team tried two different solutions prior to Easy Agile Programs to help address this, only to have Scrum Masters needing to duplicate their work to try and bridge the gaps. They also found dependencies weren’t always planned for or communicated, which resulted in unplanned work coming into the PI execution phase and missed commitments.

“We didn’t have a program board that would provide us the visualization we needed to collaborate effectively,” said Amanda. “So, when I came across Easy Agile Programs, I decided to bring in the tool to see if it could help facilitate our virtual PI planning”.

From demo to implementation in two weeks

“The biggest thing that stood out to me about Easy Agile Programs was the ease of use.”
Amanda, Manager - Enterprise Portfolio & PMO, AF Group

Amanda spent two hours testing the tool within the sandbox environment. After getting a better understanding of the tool’s capabilities and functionalities, she created bespoke training videos to share with team members in different timezones so they could learn async how the application worked in their organizational context.

“I was able to stand it up and train our product managers, scrum masters, and RTEs on the tool in two weeks before we used it in our real-life virtual planning PI event,” said Amanda. “We had minimal challenges when transitioning to Easy Agile Programs, with Jira already configured in a way that fit nicely into the tool”.

Clear results within the first PI planning session

“We noticed results within the first PI Planning session as we could see how our teams were collaborating together and identifying dependencies.”
Amanda, Manager - Enterprise Portfolio & PMO, AF Group

Amanda admits that though she was initially nervous about introducing another change management piece to the transformation project, the results have been worth it. “The positive feedback about using this tool has been incredible,” said Amanda. The wins for AF Group include:

Improved collaboration during and beyond PI Planning

“The improvement in collaboration has been a night and day difference,” said Amanda. “The tool is forcing us to have conversations about dependencies during the PI event and encourages more collaboration during the PI execution. As a result, our teams are aware of the risks related to dependencies and they can mitigate those as soon as possible”.

Identifying and managing dependencies to deliver value

Amanda explains that the tool has helped the team overcome challenges around identifying dependencies. “Easy Agile Programs helped us quickly overcome this hurdle so we could start collaborating more efficiently as a team,” said Amanda. “We're seeing more and more dependencies being identified and tracked, which ultimately leads to better quality and delivery of value.”

No duplication of work for better efficiency

Fully integrated capabilities within Jira have played a key part in helping AF Groups’ Agile teams be more effective during PI Planning and more efficient during the execution phase. “With Easy Agile Programs, we don’t need to duplicate our work in Jira,” said Amanda. “Instead, we can create our program within the tool, and it seamlessly integrates into our Jira application, automatically linking any issues or dependencies we’ve identified”.

Better managing risks

“The visualization Easy Agile Programs provides has helped us manage risks,” said Amanda. “The tool will call out healthy, at risk, and blocked (dependencies)risks. This drives better communication across the Agile release trains so they can tackle the right type of risks accordingly”.

Value beyond PI Planning

One of the unexpected benefits of introducing the tool was the application of the program board beyond PI Planning. “Our team members are now using it for our Scrum of Scrums so they can take that collaboration across other Agile teams to ensure timely delivery,” said Amanda.

Driving better collaboration to deliver more value

AF Group now has around 300 people relying on Easy Agile Programs for PI Planning events across four Agile release trains and seven shared services teams. “Easy Agile Programs allowed our business to come together and collaborate in a more efficient way,” said Amanda. ”It’s helped create more trust and ultimately, helped us deliver more value across our organization.”

“My advice to other companies considering Easy Agile Programs is not to wait. The tool has brought us a lot of success for our Agile practices enterprise-wide in a short period of time”.
Amanda, Manager - Enterprise Portfolio & PMO, AF Group

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