Program Increment – Day 1

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Effective execution of Program Increment is very essential to reap true benefits. In my previous blog, we have seen what Program Increment is all about and what are the main factors to be considered while planning a Program Increment. Let us see how effectively we can use 2 days.  In this blog we will see how do we execute Program Increment Day 1 in detail i.e. Agenda for Day 1. Over the years, SAFe have evolved standard agenda that is useful in most of the cases as depicted in the image below:

Day 1: Create and Review Draft Plans

Day 1 event begins with RTE or the facilitator reviewing the Objectives, agenda, planning rules and logistics. The facilitator makes sure expectations are set for all the participants and stakeholders attending the session. It is also essential for the facilitator to publish the upcoming calendar of events, future PI planning dates, and other milestones that may impact team capacity.

Setting up the Business Context 

Officially Day 1 starts with Senior executive providing the business context of the planning session. This discussion sets the tone for the PI planning session and also contributes to driving the motivation for the PI. Leadership representative get a chance to share success story (On how well existing solutions are helping meet the customers needs), current market risks and also through some light on SWOT analysis. This is the time when presenters provide an overview of the strategic themes and business objectives. 

Sharing Product/Solution Vision

After the address from the leadership team, Product management team present the current vision and objectives of the upcoming PI. It details out the feature priorities. Each Product Manager (if multiple) will get a chance to showcase features for their area of solution.

Sharing Architecture Vision and Development Practices

Product Vision is followed by Architecture vision where System Architect presents the vision for the architecture. This is a platform for Technical Leader to provide guidance about changes to standard development practices which may include new tools and techniques for DevOps and the CI/CD pipeline and Quality practices

Team Planning Breakouts

Once the business and technical agenda is set, Team Planning session takes place. This is the heart of the PI planning session and is the longest and most critical part of the 2 days session. Here, teams get into separate meetings and chalk out their initial plan and achievable objectives of the PI (based on the business and the technical vision). Teams during this time will as well consult with Product Managers, System Architect, UX Teams or any other team to get clarification and understand dependencies on each other.

The goal for the team is to understand the scope and also prioritise the features and understand any dependencies.  They as well need to understand the reuse of common code. Teams during this exercise use flipchart paper and stickies. Flipchart is used per iteration (Sprint) and also identify the dependencies, enables, and risks associated for all to see (see below)

During the process, team identify risks and dependencies and as an output outline the PI objective for the team (Objective also include stretch Objective).

Draft plan review

Once the teams are done with their respective planning, the entire ART gets back in the main session to review each others draft plan. Some of the team may not be done entirely with their plan, still review should be done so that everyone else can see the planning process and get insight to each others deliverable and understand cross dependencies. Each team is given 5-10 minutes depending upon the size of the ART

It is very essential for business owners to be present throughout the review sessions so that they can give live feedback. High level team talks about following:

  • Velocity (Capacity) and load
  • Draft PI Objectives
  • Program risks and impediments
  • Q&A

Capacity-Based Planning – If it’s the first PI planning session for any team, they may not have visibility of their team’s velocity. How should the plan their Velocity? In such a case, it is recommended to use eight pointers per iteration (sprint) for one FTE. The best way is to identify one story that will take one day of effort and estimate the same as 1 story point. Other stories are then estimated relative to that one story point.

If team is aware of their past velocity, it can be figured out it the planned velocity is achievable.

Hourly Planning Checkpoints During PI Session

At the time of team breakout, RTE conducts Scrums of Scrums to ensure planning is on track. In the short  stand up meeting, RTE and Scrum Masters from each team meet to review the planning status using a checklist as given below:

Management Review and Problem-Solving Meeting

It is expected that the draft plans represent certain challenges in scope, dependencies and resource constraints. During the problem-solving meeting, management may negotiate scope changes and resolve other problems by agreeing to various planning adjustments. The RTE facilitates and keeps the primary stakeholders together for as long as necessary to make the decisions needed to reach achievable objectives. 

Next we will see Day 2 Agenda and how to conclude effective PI Planning

References: SAFe Distilled 4.5 and Scaled Agile Framework

Written by 

Neeraj is Masters In Information Technology from Symbiosis Pune and a seasoned PMI certified Project Management Professional (PMP)®, Certified Scrum Master (CSM)® and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)® with 16+ yrs of exp in Project Management/Agile/Business Analysis and Quality Assurance across diverse organizational domains.