What is it they say about “best-laid plans”? Like everyone else in our space (and every other space), Imagine has spent the last couple of months adapting a blueprint of well-considered strategies into a stopgap of contingency plans.
Adjusting workday routines to accommodate WFH orders was a surmountable challenge. But the pandemic and ensuing global lockdown also hit at a time when we happened to be 18 months into a global SAFe transformation.
If you’re not familiar, SAFe is a series of patterns and practices for implementing agile at an enterprise scale (SAFe = Scaled Agile Framework). Fundamental to the workflow are regularly scheduled Program Increment (PI) Planning sessions where multiple teams meet ― in person ― to discuss features, plan the roadmap, and identify cross-team dependencies. For Imagine, the payoff comes in our ability to release more features in less time and deliver better-quality software to our customers.
You might be thinking “sounds like a nice-to-have for simpler times.” But the cumulative, potential benefit to our customers is tangible. Our first PI, we achieved a predictability percentage of 76%; fast-forward to PI-4, and we are at 83%. We had major momentum going, and so long as Zoom was up and running, we weren’t going to pump the brakes.
Our current Agile Release Train (ART) involves 6 products, 17 teams, multiple locations, and 2 geo-dispersed planning sessions ― one in the U.K. and one in the U.S. We were ready to start the first week of our 5th PI Planning session, with flights and hotels already booked, when travel to the U.K. was shut down. The writing was on the wall that our second week planned in the U.S. was also about to be compromised. We’ve trained our dev teams to pivot without mercy, and now it was our turn.
What happened next is a long story that might be best told in person over a few cocktails. But while our socially distant lives won’t allow that (raincheck please?), I thought I’d spin up a virtual version of how we successfully executed our first fully remote PI Planning session, including tips and tricks (and drinking games) we learned along the way.
I hope that sharing our hard-won experience can help you flatten your learning curve, reduce your anxiety, and give you a head start on making your own SAFe journey a success.
Let's dive into the Tips & Tricks of SAFe PI Planning During a Pandemic.