Enhancing Collaboration and Customer Satisfaction through Successful PI Planning

By Saya Sone, Agile Coach-SPCT Candidate

It was a week of productive collaboration, vision building, and problem-solving for federal customers and Octo teams who met at Octo’s oLabs™ facility for the first time to bring programs into their next phase. The in-person event revolved around Program Increment (PI) Planning, a key component of SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework). During the session, it became clear that meeting in a technologically advanced setting for important collaborative events like PI Planning significantly contributes to greater customer satisfaction and improves outcomes.

PI Planning: Collaborating for Success 

PI Planning facilitates alignment and coordination among multiple Agile teams. It typically occurs every eight to 12 weeks, aiming to prioritize and chart upcoming work. During PI Planning, cross-functional teams collaboratively define objectives, dependencies, and user stories for the next increment. They create a detailed plan that includes backlog refinement, and they establish clear milestones. Solid PI Planning promotes transparency, fosters communication, and ensures all teams are on the same page, resulting in more efficient delivery and adaptability in the face of changing priorities.

Key elements for successful PI planning include:

  1. Diverse Teams: Collaborate with cross-functional teams
  2. Goals and Priorities: Define objectives and prioritize backlog of features and user stories
  3. Capacity Planning: Estimate workloads and dependencies
  4. Risk Management: Identify and address risks
  5. Inspect and Adapt: Continuously improve
  6. Synchronization and Incremental Delivery: Align with regular planning cycles and provide value in small increments
  7. Feedback Loops and Visuals: Collect feedback for improvement and use visuals for transparency
  8. Stakeholder Involvement: Engage relevant stakeholders

By incorporating these elements and others into PI Planning, organizations can enhance collaboration and foster agility, alignment, and the ability to deliver value to customers consistently.

Collaborative Efforts, Collaborative Results

The PI Planning event at oLabs marked a sea change for Octo and the customer.

With 25-30 people attending each day, the event demonstrated the power of meeting at key points to align diverse teams with a common mission. Face-to-face communication in the innovative environment featuring emerging technologies helped create a cohesive team across agency and Octo staff.

The event also created a robust social network for the teams’ Agile Release Train which facilitates the coordination and delivery of large-scale software development projects by coordinating multiple teams.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the in-person PI Planning helped Octo align development to customer goals through the lens of business context and vision, as well as with team and program PI objectives.

Aside from the undeniable aesthetic and technological appeal of oLabs, other factors played a significant role in the event’s success:

  1. Space for Focused Engagement: Attendees praised the conducive environment, noting that being physically present reduced multitasking and distractions, enabling deeper focus on the tasks at hand.
  2. Enhanced Stakeholder Connections: In-person interactions facilitated stronger connections with stakeholders, offering increased availability and accessibility for discussions, which were often less feasible in a completely remote setting.
  3. Efficient Information Exchange: The ability to have quick, in-person conversations between physical rooms proved invaluable, fostering more effective communication and collaborative brainstorming.
  4. Direct Engagement with Business Leaders: Attendees appreciated the opportunity to engage directly with business leaders during breakouts, fostering alignment and collaborative problem-solving.

The success of PI Planning at oLabs reflects a growing recognition of the value of collaboration and how it can improve by meeting at key points throughout the progression of federal government programs. By leveraging the combined power of interaction and Agile methodology, organizations can strengthen teamwork, resolve challenges, and strategically plan for the future.