Big Room Planning in short

Although PI planning events often take place in person, the increase in the number of remote teams has forced companies to find virtual solutions. Distributed PI planning poses a number of challenges: virtual tools to implement, time zones to manage and employees to coordinate.

It is called “Big Room Planning” (in literature you will often find the acronym BRP) and is typically a two-day event that brings together all teams in relation to the Agile Release Train, involving product owners, facilitators, developers and external stakeholders.

It is traditionally a face-to-face planning session that, for some teams, puts more than a hundred people in the same room to align on the operational scope and business objectives considering customer needs:

  • Allows all team members to see the big picture (BigPicture);
  • Consolidates team cohesion;
  • Promotes collaboration between different business teams;
  • Reduces dependencies between teams;
  • Enables teams to define clear objectives and deadlines;
  • Ensures that the backlog represents business objectives and customer needs;
  • Prioritises product or project objectives;
  • Reiterates key business objectives;
  • Makes the sprint planning process simpler and more effective;
  • Re-aligns the team on the most important corporate values;
  • Helps teams identify problems and dependencies before they slow down the workflow;
  • Improves the effectiveness of decision-making.

So yes, you need tools but you also need method, especially ‘method in creating and sharing’ information. Collaborators need to be involved and it is better to talk face-to-face while looking at the board with the defined work rather than exchanging countless emails (especially useless ones with replies “on top” of the message that make it very difficult to read and understand the overall context).

In person then, or at a distance, a good method is certainly more effective if you have the right tool. Put aside the various Excel sheets, PowerPoint slides, SharePoint binders and, indeed, Outlook. Use Jira and BigPicture: these are the tools you really need.

Remote teams are used to working to their own schedules. They work from home, balancing work, family and private life. Make sure you schedule the IP well in advance so that everyone can mark it on their calendar. It is crucial that as many team members as possible participate in this planning session. So pay attention to time zones.

Use Confluence, perhaps to draw up an outline agenda (yes … they don’t teach this at university, but it is better to define in advance what you will talk about when you call a meeting).

So we were saying: Jira, Confluence and BigPicture. What are we still missing? A great tool for communicating in real time. Take your pick here: Zoom, Google Meet, Slack, Signal, Teams…

Make sure the whole team, including stakeholders, understands what tools will be used and how to use them. Check the team in advance to make sure everyone is prepared. In advance solve problems such as accessing resources, setting up accounts and so on.

This is especially important to involve external stakeholders who may not be familiar with the tools you use.

Another thing they obviously don’t teach at university: don’t keep people waiting. Be punctual. So make sure that people know where they have to be and when they have to be there.

Clearly, getting a hundred people to work together in one room is very complicated, which is why the methodology is to form smaller working groups over the two days of the activity.

The retrospective will help everyone to create and use the information. Once again Jira, Confluence and BigPicture are the right tools. Not Excel or PowerPoint slides exchanged via email. OK I won’t repeat this later.

Retrospectives ensure that your processes are continuously improving. They provide an opportunity for feedback that will help make the next planning meeting even better.

No matter what the size of your team, effective planning starts with using the right tools: Jira, Confluence, BigPicture.

If you want to start learning about Jira and BigPicture I recommend two books: the first one is in English edition and can be found here on Amazon https://amzn.to/3uRaEh8. The second is the Italian version that I translated with the permission of the author, Rynder Roy Klomp, and can be found here on Amazon https://amzn.to/37dsSRv

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