Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems’ (PEO EIS) Army Training Information System (ATIS) is well prepared for its fifth program increment (PI) from July to September 2023, thanks to a recent two-day PI planning event in Tysons Corner, Virginia. ATIS, part of PEO EIS’s Army Data and Analytics Platforms (ARDAP) portfolio, is one of several Army acquisition programs forging the way in PEO EIS’s Agile transformation.
According to Capt. James Oliver, assistant product manager for ATIS at PEO EIS, PI planning events — which bring together stakeholders to collaborate and plan for the next eight to 12 weeks of software development — are “crucial to success” for large programs like ATIS. PEO EIS’s ATIS product office will be delivering the premier training management, development, scheduling, resourcing and learning system for the Army.
During the PI planning events, which are part of the final “Innovation and Planning” sprint of an ongoing PI, cross-functional teams review the current state of a program, define the vision and objectives for the upcoming PI, and create a detailed plan for it. The planning events help ensure that all teams are working in alignment, understand what needs to be done and can spend time on story planning — identifying features to be completed in the next PI and breaking them down into manageable “stories” that can be completed in two-week sprints. The Army’s functional product owners, who best understand the requirements and capabilities needed in the final product, prioritize and provide acceptance criteria for the stories.
During the ATIS PI-5 planning event that took place July 18-19, leaders from the product office at PEO EIS and the Training and Doctrine Command Proponent Office briefed the ATIS Agile Release Train — a cross-functional group of over 100 people helping develop the ATIS system — on vision, context and objectives for the next PI. Afterwards, the group split up for breakout sessions, with five product teams and three matrix support teams meeting separately to collaboratively determine the best approach to their PI work and to do some early problem-solving.
“This was the fifth time conducting a PI planning event for most people on the Agile Release Train, so everything went very smoothly and efficiently,” said Oliver, calling it “a testament both to the iterative process and the efforts of Release Train Engineer Melissa Lee.”
By the end of the event, the group had captured all its work — including stories with acceptance criteria and roadmaps showing dependencies and risks.
“ATIS is now postured for successful delivery of working software in PI-5,” said Oliver. “The transparency and involvement of functional stakeholders in early planning has guaranteed that expectations and objectives are understood and will be met. The train is on track!”
While end users — the Soldiers and Civilians who eventually will use the ATIS system — are not part of the planning sessions, they are incorporated into ATIS’s user-centered and iterative design process through the use of unmoderated and moderated design sessions, according to Oliver. During those sessions, user experience research and design professionals use collaborative design tools to prove or disprove design assumptions.
“So essentially, through that process, the end users are designing ATIS — not us,” said Oliver.
For other Army organizations and programs adopting an Agile approach to software development, Oliver has a couple of tips for PI planning events:
· Deliberately plan to resource PI planning events as they are best done in-person. The venue should include both large rooms where the Agile Release Train can meet, and smaller rooms to support team breakout sessions. Each room should have audio/visual support.
· Consider where most members of your team are located when identifying a site for the planning events. While headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, the ATIS product office has held its PI planning events in Northern Virginia because most team members live there.
· PI planning events require maximum participation from the product management office, functional stakeholders and the contractor(s). Since teams are purposely structured to be cross-functional, planning events are built around collaboration and cross-talks where every person’s voice needs to be heard and valued. Program leaders should facilitate maximum collaboration and cross-talk.