7 Tips for Easier Remota PI Planning [During COVID-19]

Published 21 Jul 2020
by Sean Blake, Head of Marketing


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What a time we are living in at the moment. Today, things look very different than they did six months ago. COVID-19 has posed a lot of challenges for our team and I'm sure your teams as well.

It's now more important than ever that we find common ground across our teams and spend time in PI Planning to make sure everyone is aligned on the most important work to be done.

To help you through this we've prepared 7 tips for easier remote PI Planning.

These tips aren't things that we've just brainstormed in our heads. These are things that we've actually learned from speaking to our customers and by trawling the forums and speaking to experts in the field.

The first tip for easier remote PR planning is: get the basics right.

What are the basics?

Well, let's start off talking about communication. Communication is so important.

Communication helps our teams know where they need to go to access all the information they need.

We need to sit down and plan out each communication channel. We need chat channels so that people can access support during PI Planning.


We need channels where product managers can talk and collaborate with each other and where facilitators can talk to each other, both leading up to PI planning and during the event.

And we also need a way for the teams to collaborate with each other on the day. This is extremely important.


We also need to be careful of the quiet voices.

People who are extroverted during PI Planning in person may no longer be comfortable speaking up during remote PI Planning when you're on TV or videoconferencing. So we need to be careful with that. Preparation is important.

Scaled Agile actually did some research and they found their release train engineers spent on average six days preparing for each PI Planning session. That was before. What about after COVID? Now that everyone's working remotely,iIt could take even longer.

So we recommend setting aside perhaps two weeks to adequately prepare and get your teams trained and ready for remote PI planning.


Lastly, execution: The execution should flow if we are communicating well and are prepared. But we need to be prepared that some things will still go wrong. Technology will fail us. People will still have problems accessing the tools that we've set up for them. Execution won't be seamless.

OK, tip number two: focus on the goal.

Why are we doing this? We still need to focus on the why.


The main thing for PI Planning is to achieve alignment for our teams. If we can achieve alignment, PI Planning is still a success. Let's not get too bogged down in what tools we're using or how the agenda has changed.

What's really important? It's still encouraging our teams to find alignment for the upcoming increment.

Tip number three: Set the agenda early, as early as possible.

Why is that? Well, think about your people working at home. They're working with their pets or their children or their partner or their family around and if they know that they are planning is coming up, they need to know what is expected of them.

Then they can give the people in their house more notice that they are going to have to concentrate during these periods. That's going to be really important to get the most out of your people during these times.

Let's not cram the agenda packed full of all the events that we need to hold. Let's make sure we have enough time for breaks throughout the day breakout sessions. Maybe it's better to have four 1/2 days rather than two full days.

The next tip is choose your tools wisely.

Decide on what tools you're going to use and make sure everyone has logged in at least once and tested each tool before planning starts.

And what tools do we need? Here's a checklist:

Tip number 5: Practise!


We're not going to get this right the first time. We're going to have to rehearse. We're going to have to work out how do we do things like confidence votes. Are we going to use the poll function on Zoom or we're going to use Slack?

We're going to have to practise and rehearse this. We're going to have to be flexible with our agenda and understand that this is really new for people. It's very different doing it at home than it is doing it in person in a conference room or meeting room.

And it's much better to finish early than to run out of time. So let's build in some slack into the agenda.

Tip number 6: the importance of feedback and holding the retrospective.

We're not going to get this right straight away. So let's give our people a chance to communicate back to us, whether it's by a retrospective or by opening up a channel for feedback. We're not just getting feedback on how did the last planning session go, but also getting feedback on how are we finding working together more generally.

Lucky last tip number seven: make it accessible.

There are so many factors that are going to block people from getting value out of planning this time around.

  • We've got conflicting timezones.
  • We're going to have trouble with setting up people on new tools, getting them access to the resources they need. It's going to be great if we have tech support available all throughout PR planning. That's going to be easier for some people than it is for others. But it's important if things go wrong
  • We're going to need a backup in place. We can't have one hundred, two hundred people sitting around with nothing to do waiting for zoom to work or waiting for slack to work.
  • Your tools are going to need to be reliable and you're going to need tech support to help fix them quickly.
  • We will need more facilitators than we normally do to be able to answer all of these questions throughout throughout the week
  • Do your people have access to coaching? Can we get more coaching and more facilitators to help help out people through this process and training?
  • Some people may not be used to using the tools that we're suggesting that they use. So is there training available to help them get up to speed?


We decided to build Easy Agile Programs for Jira as a way to make PI Planning more accessible.

It turns out that hundreds of companies have found Easy Agile Programs useful for running remote and distributed PI Planning sessions during COVID-19.

Easy Agile Programs is available for a free trial on the Atlassian Marketplace.

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Read next:

The Ultimate Guide to PI Planning

Remote Agile Tips

How to prepare for distributed PI Planning

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