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Digital Boards for a distributed PI Planning

Silvio Wandfluh

April 27, 2018

5 min read

Executing PI Plannings with distributed teams is a challenge, especially in larger organizations. In that case there is no way around giving your teams possibilities to communicate, visualize and document across multiple locations simultaneously.
Enable efficient collaboration is not done by installing a dedicated video and audio conferencing solution at every location and open different communication channels as Chats, VoIP, etc. for your teams. Please don’t misunderstand me, those channels are also important to ensure collaboration. Orchestrated by people and teams there’s a lot of highly dynamic collaboration and planning going on during two days of PI Planning. The magic you may experience does not come from the plan you’ll have after two days, it comes from the planning itself. But how do you visualize and document the planning?

That’s where the piplanning app has it’s value proposition and brings benefits to every stakeholder, from team members to the top management.

Reflecting customer feedback, those three key benefits stand out:

  • Real-Time synchronized boards across all locations!
    No more synchronization of multiple analog Program Boards at different locations, which led to misunderstandings and costly time losses.
  • Single source of truth!
    Having a single source of truth for the different aspects of a PI Planning is essential. To keep physical boards in sync is almost impossible.
  • Keep analog behavior!
    ”anyone who can handle an analog sticky notes board can also handle the tool.”

Program Backlog Board

Next to the business context, roadmap and vision, inputs to a PI Planning also includes the Top 10 Features of the Program Backlog. That’s where the Program Backlog Board comes into play.

  • Contains Features and Enablers created in advance in the piplanning app or is loaded from your ALM Tool.
  • Is sorted by WSJF.
  • May be used as baseline for briefings like product/solution vision prepared by the Product Management.
  • During Team Breakouts teams pull Features and Enablers.
  • Assigned to a team, the Sticky changes the color and appears on the Program Board for further planning.

Program Board

The Program Board is one of two primary outcomes of a PI Planning. It highlights the feature delivery dates, dependencies among teams and relevant milestones.

  • The Program Board conforms with what is described in SAFe®.
  • Contains a swimlane for every participating Team and one for Milestones and Events.
  • Columns are given by the pre-defined iterations.
  • Features appear in the Program Backlog list as soon as a Feature get assigned to a Team on the Program Backlog Board.
  • For visualization you can use different types of sticky notes (Features, Enablers, Dependencies, Milestones) and cords.
  • Holding a sticky instantly visualizes all dependencies.

After the PI Planning the Program Board can be used during the Scrum of Scrums to track dependencies.

Risk Board

During planning, Teams identify risks and impediments that could impact their ability to meet the objectives. Team-level risks stay on the Team Board while program-level risks are resolved in a broader management context in front of the whole train. The Risk Board supports to share and talk about program-level risks.

  • Teams assign program-level risks to the Risk Board.
  • Risks get ROAMed by the whole train. Every location sees in real-time whats happening on the Risk Board.
  • Additional sticky types help you to assign risks, add additional information and document discussions.

The Risk Board can be used as a living board after the PI Planning by different stakeholders.

Team Board

During breakout sessions, teams estimate their capacity (velocity) for each iteration and identify backlog items like user stories and enablers they will need to realize the features. Adding backlog items to iterations every team creates a visible to all plan and describes PI Objectives.
Having a synchronized Team Board isn’t just helpful for the Team Breakout Sessions. Instead you can use the Boards for draft plan reviews, management reviews and assignment of business value by business owners across locations.

  • Every Team has it’s own Board.
  • Contains pre-defined iterations, PI Objectives and Risks.
  • Defined velocity and calculated load for every iteration.
  • Dependent on configuration, teams are able to use different Sticky Types (User Stories, Enablers, Dependencies, Bugs, Risks, …).
  • Flags may be used to visualize unresolved dependencies, but thats up to you.
  • Add, edit, change, delete sticky types.
  • Add Story Points.
  • Change Size of Stickies, Zoom In and Out.
  • PI Objective summary for presenting key planning outcomes.

Synchronize with your ALM Tool

Last but not least the piplanning app gives you the possibility to synchronize your Features, User Stories and Dependencies back to your ALM Tool (Atlassian Jira, CA Agile Central, VersionOne, …). That might be enormously time saving before, during and after your PI Planning.

Eager to start visualizing your planning with the piplanning app? Give it a try!

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