3 min read

Enabling Remote PI Planning for Distributed Teams with Jira

A big challenge facing many agile and remote teams following the principles of a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is incorporating in-person Program Increment (PI) planning sessions throughout the year. Initially constructed to get everyone in the same space, these sessions are set up to discuss upcoming projects and figure out dependencies, priorities, and allocations. However, this isn’t the most efficient method for distributed teams. Our partner ALM Works outlines the ways in which physical PI planning can create headaches, and suggests a better alternative.

The Downsides to Physical PI Planning

Of course, being in the same space during planning does have its positive moments. But let's face it, the old-school way of physical PI planning does have numerous flaws. Let's take a look:

A Logistical (and Financial) Nightmare: Accommodating the travel needs for distributed teams takes a lot of planning and can be extremely costly.

Oh No, Sticky Notes!
In-person planning usually relies on deeply non-sophisticated methods, like using Butcher paper, sticky notes and string. That leads to all sorts of awkward problems: The sticky notes get lost, the boards themselves can be hard to parse, and most importantly, transcribing all those notes into a digital format increases the chances of human error.

Communication Breakdown
Even when physical visual references for dependencies and prioritized issues work great during an in-person planning session, communication tends to break down once the meeting is over. Where does this information go? Who has access to it?

Double the Work
Once the meeting is over, it's the job of one or maybe a team to migrate this information over to a planning platform. By using a planning platform such as Jira from the very beginning, this extra person-power can be spent elsewhere.

Jira: The Art of Efficient Planning

When using Jira for PI planning, issues created in the tool can directly create dependencies and link to other tickets, which is perfect when breaking features down into stories. Sure, while sticky notes do provide a level of visualization not easily replicated digitally, Jira can be just as helpful in visualizing projects and driving your transition to a distributed, paperless PI planning session. Once all issues are in Jira, visualizing the entire program board becomes so much easier and more efficient.

Using various Atlassian Marketplace Add-ons provide some significant advantages for teams planning their features and stories. When it comes time for a cross-team session, each team can present the data inside their planning tool, and every other team can view that same data and see how it impacts them.

For example, imagine this scenario outlined by ALM Works:

Team A is preparing work related to three different features, but they are blocked by several issues relating to Team B's work. They also have some enabler work that will impact Team C's work. If Team C is used to tracking their work through the standard Jira boards, their insight into their dependencies is limited — but that's okay because this is where your cross-team planning and add-ons come in.

Whether it's a traditional (albeit digital) PI planning session, a video conference with teams across the world, or simply one team walking over to another team's table, when Team A and Team C get together to discuss their priorities, both could build a dependency map of all the stories scheduled for that PI in ALM Works' Structure for Jira add-on.

The data behind each of these is always the same data your teams are used to entering in Jira; these programs help them visualize how their work impacts and is impacted by other teams.

The result is a massive efficiency gain — and during a critical meeting to map out an entire quarter, time is vitally important. Having ALM Works' Structure for Jira wipes out wasted hours and allows you to be proactive rather than reactive.

Taking Your PI Planning to the Next Step

After the PI planning session, teams will go back to their respective tables, offices, or homes and start to work on the agreed-upon features and stories. All of them will have the same data, easily accessible in Jira, right where they're used to working. The best part: You can get to work right away!

If you'd like to take your PI planning sessions to the next step by using Jira and ALM Works' Structure for Jira add-on, contact us to learn more about the tool and how it enables planning for distributed teams.

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