Planview has been a best–of–breed, market–leading PPM partner for many large organizations for nearly thirty years. About 5 years ago, we launched an initiative to broaden our strategy and message to meet changing needs within the marketplace and enable our customers on their journey to a Lean-Agile enterprise. Just as we help many organizations transform, we embarked on our own Agile transformation as well.
Patrick Tickle, Chief Product Officer, Jon Terry, Chief Evangelist for Lean-Agile Delivery, and Cameron van Orman, Chief Marketing Officer, all at Planview, discussed our transformation journey in our recent webinar, Re-Wire: Planview’s Internal Agile Transformation Story, now available on-demand.
Question 1: How did your Agile transformation take place? Did you start small with pilots and then expand or was it a big bang approach?
Our transformation rolled out in phases over several years. While Patrick, Jon, and Cameron go into great depth on our transformation within the webinar, below is a synopsis of our journey.
Phase 0: Our software development teams had been Agile for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until about 5 years ago that we decided to expand our corporate strategy to embrace new ways of working and support a broader approach to connecting strategy to delivery. We saw the impact Agile delivery had on improving the quality of work, time to market, customer satisfaction, and employee morale. We wanted to expand the Agile goodness into the rest of the business.
Phase 1: We started by identifying trends in the market, saw opportunities to innovate and areas where we could expand our footprint. Our customers (traditional PPM organizations) were on a path to transform, so we knew Portfolio Management needed to encompass both Agile work and traditional project delivery. We chose to expand to meet this market need, acquiring LeanKit. But simply acquiring Lean-Agile software was not enough to make the internal impact we envisioned. While our product offerings shifted to enable Agile delivery, we realized our culture and workflows had to adapt as well to the changing world of work.
Phase 2: It was during this stage that the company as a whole felt more of the pivot. We invested in training, specifically in Leading SAFe, and certified about 40% of our staff over the course of a year. As product shifted to continuous delivery, our Marketing organization struggled to deliver the right work at the right time, setting the stage for an Agile transformation.
To help stand up the new way of working in Marketing, we made strategic Agile-first hires and sprinkled those folks throughout the department. We hired an excellent Agile coach, who understood the type of work Marketing delivers. We revamped the way we thought about Value Streams, formed and reformed teams around planning and our Go–to–Market strategies, which were developed in PI Planning. Most importantly, we listened and learned from our customers, both in the language they use and the best practices they adopted.
Phase 3: Our current state is one of continuous inspecting and adapting, as Agile transformations are never truly over. We are taking PI Planning into other departments, breaking down silos within the organization, continuing to train our employees on Agile ways of working, and improving our ability to pivot our plans.
Question 2: What was the largest challenge in getting marketing people to understand the concept of a value stream?
It wasn’t the concept of a value stream that marketing struggled with, but rather what this methodology looked like in practice. Our biggest challenge was measurement. When you plan, fund, and deliver by departments, you get optimized into those silos. The trick was really about reorienting and re–wiring people to think about the business objective we’re solving for, not the departmental outputs.
When we were looking to where we wanted to expand Agile within Planview, we had the option to expand Agile within Dev. Instead we looked further down the funnel, where we saw the highest need. As Product began delivering more continuously, it was hard for Marketing to keep up. We had difficulty prioritizing our work, which led to us sometimes delivering the wrong thing, and were overwhelmed with too much work. What we planned couldn’t pivot to changing needs, or what we planned was too big and by the time we delivered, it didn’t matter – it missed the mark. Morale was low. No one wants to be a value bottleneck.
Part two of the Re–wire was realizing that the Agile marketing team members enjoyed planning and delivering in this way, but our strong departmental leaders needed to be brought along too. We needed them to lead the change. When we first started to transform the department, the deeply engrained hierarchy and processes were slow to adjust. With an excellent Agile coach, some Agile-first additions, and the visible difference Agile ways of working had on our value delivery, the organization more fully embraced the change. With each Program Increment, we lean further into the transformation and realize more of the benefits.
Question 3: How have you handled alignment of PI cadences across the organization?
To a large extent, we’re not trying to run planning like a conveyor belt from Product to Marketing. The goal isn’t to say, “X is in Dev this PI, and will be in Marketing in the next PI.” We have the ability, with some of our products, to launch features darkly. This allows the different product teams to finish features or enhancements, and then Marketing can communicate when the timing is right. Sometimes, the timing is right just as the product is ready, but that’s why we do PI Planning – to gain that alignment.
Within PI Planning events, context setting and the presence of each of the teams, along with the participation of extended leaders, plays significantly into this conversation. Understanding where the business is going and what large effort items are coming down the pipeline (and who all is affected) helps give the teams a better understanding of their current and future capacity within the coming PIs.
Leaders are there to guide, steer or affirm the teams that their strategic adjustments are well aligned to the business needs and capacity requirements. The beauty of PI Planning is that it provides the opportunity to get everyone in a shared space (in person or virtually) to hash out all of these cross-team dependencies, with both the roadmap and business objectives in mind.
Question 4: How are you running virtual PI Planning sessions? For an organization that might be ready to start PI Planning for the first time, what risks do you see in the current work from home environment? Can virtual PI Planning be successful?
The short answer is YES: Remote PI Planning can be successful. We recently conducted our first fully virtual PI Planning meeting with great success for a few reasons:
- We have a superb Agile coach, who understands the kind of work we do as Go–to–Market teams and conducted the event with excellent balance. Don’t underestimate the need for coaching. If you can make it happen, you will see the return.
- We were able to keep all our work across each of the teams (requests, cross-team work items, committed features and stretch goals) in a single virtual Kanban board in LeanKit. In addition to LeanKit, we limited the platforms we used to a communications platform and a virtual meeting platform.
- With all of the distractions available at home, we kicked off the event going through our working agreements, including limiting the tools we were using and committing to ignore as many distractions as we could.
- Lastly, it wasn’t our first rodeo. We had several PI Planning sessions under our belt, which helped anchor the remote session in the familiar: the ceremonies, the working agreements, the principles, and the objectives and outcomes.
In all likelihood, just like us, your first PI Planning session is going to be tough. We didn’t have all of the right people in the room, but we chose to just go for it and learn for the next one. Holding PI Planning remotely brings its own challenges, but the more events you do, the easier it gets. The saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is right now.” We say jump in. We’re all working through it together.
To that end, we have put together our own Essential Checklist: How to do Virtual PI Planning to help you run your Virtual PI Planning event successfully, even if it’s your first. The checklist includes a sample agenda, along with things to remember to do pre-, during, and post-PI Planning.
Question 5: Have you identified areas where Scrum could work, and other areas where Scrum is likely not to work?
For business functions (marketing, sales, legal, HR, etc.), we’ve found that pure Scrum is just not quite right because Scrum doesn’t fit our varied types of work. For example, if we’re supporting a conference or customer event, the work cannot be contained and completed within a 2-week sprint for Marketing. We can do chunks of work within that timeframe, but not all the pieces and parts. Event dates are milestones that can’t be adapted neatly within Scrum practices. Instead, we use Scrumban – many Scrum ceremonies, with the continuous flow of Kanban, to manage our varied types of work.
Question 6: Has traditional financial planning and budgeting supported or served as a roadblock to implementation of Agile? How have you adapted it or worked around it?
Our traditional funding model is definitely an impediment that we had to (and continue to) work around. Finance assigns and tracks our Marketing budget by department. Our PO/invoicing system requires department codes, so Finance knows where to route for approval. Finance looks to department leads to provide rest-of-year forecasts and reconcile actuals vs forecast every month. When Cameron initially stated that he was going to break out budget by GTM team, finance tried to stop it.
Now we have a compromise where department heads still provide finance with their monthly reconciliations, forecasts, accruals and ongoing approvals, while teams plan and execute their budgets. That requires department heads to coordinate with the GTM teams. It was bumpy the first month, but it has improved. There are some inherent inefficiencies in that approach, which invites inspection and adaption over time, which we continue to discuss and determine incremental ways to address.
Question 7: You mentioned the way of selling had to change. How do you manage customer feedback/demands and how do you feed that into your product roadmap?
Our customer feedback loops didn’t change significantly. Instead, they matured. For many years, we’ve had a robust customer feedback in process through our Inner Circle Programs, which includes both large and small customers. The programs run biweekly, almost in a sprint level cadence and are operated by our Product Managers.
As these programs grew over time, we started using the crowdsourcing capabilities within Spigit, our Innovation Management solution which we acquired in 2018. Last Fall, we leveraged the ideation feature of Spigit to run a challenge with our Inner Circles, allowing them to vote on which feature enhancements were made on one of our products.
Our Re–wire webinar did not serve as the wrap of our transformation, but rather acted as a progress report to discuss why we chose to embark on this path, to show you where we came from, and that we plan to continue to inspect and adapt as we grow our transformation. We have a long road ahead of us, but we are grateful to be walking alongside our customers who continue to provide us with the best feedback for the products they use every day.
We are committed to our Agile transformation, not just because of the improvements and benefits created over the last couple of years, but because we are determined to be a strategic partner with boots-on-the-ground experience for our customers as they pursue their own journey to become a Lean-Agile Enterprise.