How WirelessCar works with PI planning – lessons learned, and how we wish to inspire others

August 17th, 2023

By working in an agile way, you are able to better understand your customers’ and business partners’ needs, and respond more quickly to new developments and changing conditions. But how do you keep this agile organization moving forward; learning and improving in order to create even better connected car services and digital products over time? Here is how we at WirelessCar work with PI planning, and what that means for our collaborations with OEMs.

What is PI planning, and how does it benefit your organization?

The main purposes of PI planning (Program Increment Planning) are to ensure the alignment of agile teams, create a shared vision, and to deepen the relationships between the teams and team members. In practice, that means that all the teams – across the organization – get together in a large room or auditorium, where they discuss (and visualize) their planning and how to deliver the most value to their customers.

So, what are the most comprehensive benefits of PI planning? How do they strengthen the teams and the company organization?

Build trust in and among your agile teams
Working towards common goals requires trust: among teams and coworkers, between the staff and the leadership. The greater the number of interdisciplinary teams, the greater the need to build and reinforce that trust. By meeting regularly face-to-face, different teams grow to understand one another and learn about their respective processes.

Your agile teams are able to plan their work better and with greater confidence
Another strength of PI planning is that the teams lay out their work plans themselves. Along with a product owner (which helps them prioritize), each team decides on the content of their plan and how best to execute it. That in turn creates a sense of commitment to care for what you have planned, and make it happen. At the end of the PI planning session, each team has a vote of confidence about their plan. As we have continued to work with PI planning, we have seen that this confidence keeps growing among the teams. When you know where you are going, and why, that helps build trust, dedication, and ambition.

Facilitate and improve decision-making
Connected cars and connected car services are only getting increasingly complex. PI planning allows both OEMs and connected car service providers to make more well-informed decisions more quickly, and to prioritize correctly.

Agile teams can execute faster
When their development processes can be streamlined, agile teams can plan better, execute faster, and find better solutions to existing and potential issues. As the teams improve and learn through frequent evaluation and planning, they start providing even more customer value and an even greater user experience.

A room filled with people engaged in planning, with Post-it notes on several walls

How does WirelessCar work with PI planning?

WirelessCar began working with the SAFe framework in 2017. PI planning is a key element of SAFe, and we found it to be an attractive, relevant model for us to work with. This especially as we wanted to work in a truly agile, scalable way.
PI planning events require a lot of preparation, at least initially, in order to yield useful results. We certainly went through an initial learning curve. Today, however, PI planning is an established, appreciated aspect of how we work.

These events are held at the WirelessCar headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, approximately every twelve weeks. We have gone from big room planning, face-to-face, to 100% remote and today a hybrid version. So while not everyone comes to our HQ, more and more teams see the value and importance of coming together for our PI planning sessions. We have adapted over time, and found a model that works very well for the entire organization. At the time of writing, we recently arranged our 25th PI planning event.

The main objective is to work out how to deliver greater value to our customers, and how to do so more efficiently. This goes beyond setting new goals; in addition to that, we need to work out internal dependencies and synchronize development cycles between our teams. Issues get worked out, potential risks are raised and debated, priorities determined, and procedures can be changed to better serve ours and our customers’ needs. Our management team always participates, and its members meet with the various agile teams between PI planning events to ensure a good dialog.

Inspiring customers and partners in their PI planning processes

As our PI planning events became an integral part of our work at WirelessCar, our customers and partners began to take notice. Some of them had their first PI planning events together with us, in Gothenburg, before implementing this way of working in their own organizations. They recognized the efficiency and transparent nature of PI planning, and many have successfully applied it to their own operations.

We have, in turn, been successful in better synchronizing our work with theirs, so that our organization is even more in tune with those of our customers and partners. We are able to deliver more products and solutions quicker than before, and respond better to the changing requirements of the automotive industry.

A man pointing at a map in a room surrounded by other men

What we have learned from our PI planning work, and what it means for us and the OEMs

Your success with SAFe and PI planning will largely depend on how you deal with the issues you will encounter as part of the process. We are happy to say that we have learned and improved from ours at WirelessCar. Initially, PI planning events had a lot more stress and pressure to them. Today, they are more relaxed, and widely appreciated among all of our teams. Our investments in autonomous teams have lowered the number of dependencies, and facilitated the dialogue between each team and the management team. Also, there are less surprises during the PI planning events themselves, as we work even better together, within and among the teams.

Some examples of areas where we have made progress:

• Dependency-related complications between teams were more difficult to solve before we began working with PI planning. Today, these issues (to the extent they still exist) are often worked out before each PI planning events.

•In the beginning, many teams brought up possible risks and escalations to the management team. Like the complications outlined just above, however, these issues increasingly get solved by the teams themselves nowadays: before or during our PI planning sessions.

• It is difficult to overestimate the value of teams continually meeting each other and different stakeholders. PI planning events should not just be valuable, but enjoyable – a reason to celebrate. When we were not able to meet physically, we lost some of that, but we have now returned to a format that is more appreciated, and more in line with who we are as a company.

These are some of the other key lessons we have learned from our work with PI planning:

• Faster, better development and delivery of connected car services and digital products.

• Closer cooperation with OEMs that have also chosen to work with PI planning.

• Closer cooperation between interdisciplinary teams, and an even stronger relationship between them and the leadership team.

• An active leadership that encourages ongoing conversation, and acts to make improvements where needed, will make your PI planning successful and rewarding.

• PI planning contributes to a culture of transparency that benefits OEMs as well as our internal organization.

• Greater focus on essential matters, rather than minor details.

• A clearer vision of where we are headed and why, and what that requires of our teams and of us as a company.

The trend we see now is that more and more teams work out complete and thorough plans after one day of PI planning. We also see the benefit of sometimes revisiting plans in a mid-PI review, in order to better adapt to the needs of our customers and our organization.

Do you have any questions about WirelessCar’s work with PI planning, or how it can benefit your organization? Feel free to contact me via the email address below. You can also find out more about our way of working, our customers and partners, and how we work with team development in order to create better connected car services.

Kristina Hultstein
Manager Delivery Hub