Program Increment Planning, or PI is a major planning event orchestrated by SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework®) practitioners for large-scale projects. Typically, they involve coordinating all teams on the Agile Release Train (ART) across the organization (sometimes up to 150 people or more), who – under the framework of a shared mission and vision – meet face-to-face to formulate iteration plans and objectives for the next three to four-month period. These events work to align the corporate mission with product development and business goals, while identifying project dependencies, and fostering cross-team collaboration and faster decision making.
Unfortunately, as we know in times of disruption, and especially when travel is restricted, traditional face-to-face planning events can become seriously compromised. Even in normal situations, the cost and fatigue created by traveling, not to mention the ecological impact, are additional good reasons to go digital. Given these and more, there is a vital need today for an effective, robust and efficient digital solution that supports remote collaboration as well as the various presentations, plans, and break-out sessions involved in PI planning.
In the spirit of the Agile Manifesto, SAFe® methodology stresses the necessity of face-to-face collaboration ideally in a shared physical space, to promote efficient, effective communication and PI planning. During the planning process, individuals are strongly encouraged to work in small teams, as well as “teams of teams” which at face value, can appear impossible to achieve when staff are not working in the same physical location.
This reminds me of concerns we heard from Lean Management thought leaders in 2012, when we first launched iObeya. At the time, experts in the field were strongly opposed to using digital solutions, as they believed that software and computers would disrupt the human factor and group practices of Lean Methodology. They couldn’t envision how whiteboards, stickers, markers and paper – much less stand-up meetings – could possibly translate successfully into a digital work environment. Similarly, SAFe® PI planning experts also doubted it possible to hold productive, remote, large-scale planning events while maintaining the important benefits of in-person interaction, and fully supporting SAFe® practices.
Today however, our Digital Visual Management (DVM) platform has been endorsed by a variety of Agile, Lean and SAFe® practitioners who initially were dubious about the potential of DVM, but have come to embrace it. They’ve seen that combined with the appropriate Audio/Video conferencing tools, iObeya’s platform allows remote teams to experience productive face-to-face meetings using digital whiteboard solutions that foster real-time collaboration. As such, we’ve seen wider acceptance across the industry with leaders who state that DVM not only works (especially for those companies who embrace remote work, and/or who employ a more widely distributed workforce), but that also it works to improve their Visual Management practices by unleashing collaborative potential minus the constraints of paper, across all layers of the organization.