The ‘secret’ mission of the PI Planning App

The past few weeks we at Rentouch presented our brandnew PI Planning app to several SAFe® practitioners and enthusiasts. We received valuable feedback and insights into different perspectives of how PI Plannings are carried out. Our backlog now looks beautiful with awesome ideas which we will now prioritise. A few of these items are related to automation. In this post I want to enlighten which gaps the PI Planning app is going to close and what’s the challenging balancing act we need to fulfill so that the app is going to succeed.

An MVP shouldn’t be automated

We at Rentouch really like the Lean Innovation approach as we are still calling ourselves a startup. After interviewing some influencers of the targeted sector, Lean Innovation is the reason we want to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for every product. Our MPV for the PI Planning app, we created in August 2016, ran in our Whiteboard application. The only thing it took to develop it, was to enable users to create digital stickies. Not a big deal. About six hours straight programming. Everything else our Whiteboard app was already capable of: Real-time synchronisation between different touchscreens, adding custom backgrounds and so on. We made a video, posted it and got great feedback. The interesting thing about the MVP was that out of a usability perspective the Whiteboard-MVP already met the requirements in that it was super intuitive to use and nothing was automated. Even the visualisation of the dependencies were hand-drawn lines. To work with it felt as natural as acting on a physical board. That was exactly how we wanted it; and still want it to remain.

Tools kill communication

It’s not a myth that software tools encourage people to avoid talking to each other. But the PI Planning should never be done by machines and software. It should be taken as an opportunity to discuss, learn, interact, bring things into question and communicate open and directly with the involved colleagues. No tool should prevent us from doing these things but software often does. That’s why we only want to automate the things people lose time with. Like, for example, typing all the written physical stickies into their ALM tool (Application Lifecycle Management) the right way.

The real challenge

Out in the wild world there will always exist those tech-geeks who don’t understand why our PI Planning app doesn’t handle everything and takes over the whole mental work from the user. That’s exactly the balancing act we are facing. The PI Planning app should provide complete freedom for the team to plan in the way they want, just as they would do it physically. Our app only notifies the user if something appears illogical and letting the user clear it up on his own. The user only has access to the functions he needs during the planning. That means, as in real life, different colored stickies, pens and pre-structured boards. Everything else is irrelevant and that’s exactly the reason why ALM tools aren’t suitable for PI Plannings. People get disturbed by all the buttons and possible adjustments they could make. But remember: It’s all about the communication. Our PI Planning app targets to support the communication for collocated but also distributed settings.

A trial version of the app I’m talking about in this post is available for the iPad on the iOS app store:

For the PI Planning itself we highly recommend to use large touchscreens for accurate board feeling.

You get some more information about the app on our landing page:

We are still in a learning process and value your comments and thoughts about this topic highly.