Making Planning Events More Effective with Targetprocess’ Planning Board Builder

The program increment planning events is at the core of both SAFe and for company’s creating their own lightweight Lean-Agile process. What makes the event so great is also what makes it difficult to run well. It is difficult to coordinate the actions of a dozen or more teams while ensuring a viable plan is created.

Several challenges are quite clear:

  • Creating a physical program board slows down and detracts from the essence of the planning event.
  • Physical boards are hard to build and use when attendees are not collocated in the planning space.
  • Structural changes to physical boards can be prohibitively difficult during the planning event.
  • Physical program boards are hard to move and maintain after the planning event

Any tool designed to manage dependencies between different program board items (PBIs) can readily handle these, albeit many are cumbersome. But there is more to the planning event. There is collaboration and a Lean-flow analysis that can make the results much better.

The difficulty of manually creating a board has several adverse side-effects. The first is that it just adds to the franticness of the event. But there are two other side-effects that result in less than optimal events. The more obvious one is that teams that are mostly driven by the needs of other teams often commit to requests on a first come first served basis. But the second one causes more challenges and is more difficult to solve. This is that the focus on shortening the cycle time on completing features and releasable chunks of value is lost.

Targetprocess helps solves both of these problems by providing key information in a timely and easy manner.

Managing dependencies based on importance not merely order of request

Teams that have more requests than they will be able to fulfill (such as shared services) should make decisions on when to commit to items only after seeing a certain amount of the big picture. Making commitments in the order in which they are requested is not an effective method. The Targetprocess Program Board Builder differentiates between when a dependency has been identified with one that has been both identified and committed to. This enables marking just dependencies on the first day of the planning event.

On the morning of the second day, teams that want to use an importance based metric to make their commitments can now readily commit to the items others depend upon them to do. The board can be redrawn with little effort.

Managing Work-in-Process

It is well established that managing Work-in-Process (WIP) to keep it from going beyond a team’s capacity is critical for both effectiveness and efficiency. But WIP is not merely the number of stories that are open. It is also the number of features and releasable epics that are open. The number of these is very difficult to see on a program board. Targetprocess, however, can instantly calculate and show for each sprint the number of open stories, features, or other PBIs that are open. Rearranging the order in which work is done can be used to better manage WIP and make teams more efficient.