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We Are Back in Europe and Hope You Join Us!

"Future product development tasks can’t be predetermined. Distribute planning and control to those who can understand and react to the end results." —Michael Kennedy, Product Development for the Lean Enterprise "There is no magic in...

We Are Back in Europe and Hope You Join Us

"Future product development tasks can’t be predetermined. Distribute planning and control to those who can understand and react to the end results."
—Michael Kennedy, Product Development for the Lean Enterprise

"There is no magic in SAFe . . . except maybe for PI Planning."

Welcome back to Europe! We're excited to announce that we are back and ready to embark on new adventures together. Join us as we dive into the world of Program Increment (PI) Planning, a vital event in the Agile Release Train (ART) that aligns teams to a shared mission and vision. Whether you're new to SAFe or looking to enhance your understanding, this article will provide essential insights and tips to make the most of PI planning.

The Heartbeat of Agile Release Train

PI Planning serves as the heartbeat of the Agile Release Train, ensuring that all teams on the ART are synchronized and working towards a common goal. It goes beyond the principles stated in the Agile Manifesto, emphasizing the importance of face-to-face conversations in conveying information within a development team. While physical collocation is ideal, recent times have necessitated virtual, real-time, concurrent planning. Many ARTs have successfully embraced hybrid situations where remote teams join through video conferencing, fostering collaboration and achieving tangible results.

Face-to-face PI Planning Figure 1. Face-to-face PI planning. Remote teams are planning at the same time using video conferencing.

Business Benefits of PI Planning

PI Planning offers various business benefits that can transform the way teams work together:

  • Establishing face-to-face communication: PI Planning brings all team members and stakeholders together, fostering effective communication.
  • Building the social network: It creates a strong social construct among Agile teams, enhancing collaboration and creating a supportive environment.
  • Aligning development to business goals: PI Planning ensures that development activities are aligned with the business context, vision, and team objectives.
  • Fostering cross-team collaboration: It identifies dependencies and encourages collaboration between teams and even across ARTs.
  • Providing guidance for architecture and Lean User Experience (UX): PI Planning offers an opportunity to incorporate architecture and UX considerations into the development process.
  • Optimizing capacity and eliminating excess work: PI Planning ensures that demand matches the team's capacity and eliminates unnecessary work in progress.
  • Enabling fast decision-making: The collaborative nature of PI Planning allows for quick decision-making, promoting efficient development processes.

Inputs and Outputs of PI Planning

To successfully navigate PI Planning, it's important to understand the inputs and outputs of this event. The inputs include:

  • Business context: A thorough understanding of the current business context, including the roadmap and vision.
  • Top 10 Features of the Program Backlog: These features serve as critical inputs for planning and prioritize development efforts.

The primary outputs of PI Planning are:

  • Committed PI objectives: Each team creates SMART objectives for the upcoming Program Increment, with business value assigned by the Business Owners.
  • Program board: A visual representation of feature delivery dates, dependencies among teams, and relevant milestones.

Preparation: Readiness Checklist

PI Planning requires careful preparation, coordination, and communication. The success of the event depends on three major areas:

  1. Organizational readiness: Ensuring strategic alignment, team setup, and understanding of the planning scope and context.
  2. Content readiness: Providing clear vision and context through briefings and presentations by key stakeholders.
  3. Logistics readiness: Securing locations and investing in technology and communication channels to support both collocated and remote planning.

Standard two-day PI planning agenda Figure 2. Standard two-day PI planning agenda

The Standard Agenda

PI Planning follows a standard agenda, which spans two days and includes key activities:

Day 1 Agenda

  1. Business context: A Business Owner or senior executive shares the current state of the business, presenting the portfolio vision and an assessment of how well existing solutions meet customer needs.
  2. Product/solution vision: Product Management presents the current vision, highlighting upcoming features and any changes from previous PI planning events.
  3. Architecture vision and development practices: System Architect/Engineering presents the architecture vision, including any changes to development practices.
  4. Planning context and lunch: The RTE presents the planning process and expected outcomes.
  5. Team breakouts #1: Teams estimate their capacity for each iteration, identify backlog items, and create draft plans.
  6. Draft plan review: Teams present key planning outputs, such as capacity, draft PI objectives, risks, and dependencies, for review and input from stakeholders.
  7. Management review and problem-solving: Challenges are addressed, scope changes are negotiated, and problems are resolved during this collaborative meeting.

Day 2 Agenda

  1. Planning adjustments: Management presents any changes to planning scope, people, and resources.
  2. Team breakouts #2: Teams continue planning, making necessary adjustments and finalizing their PI objectives.
  3. Final plan review and lunch: Teams present their plans, addressing concerns and making revisions as needed.
  4. Program risks: Identified risks are discussed, categorized, and addressed in a broader management context.
  5. Confidence vote: Teams vote on their confidence in meeting their objectives.
  6. Plan rework: Teams rework their plans if necessary until a high confidence level is reached.
  7. Planning retrospective and moving forward: A brief retrospective is conducted to capture feedback and improve future planning events.

Solution Train PI Planning

For large Value Streams with multiple ARTs and suppliers, the Solution Train plays a crucial role in coordination. Pre-PI Planning sets the context and provides inputs for individual ART PI planning events, while a Post-PI Planning event integrates the planning results across ARTs.

Pre and Post-PI Planning Figure 8. Pre and Post-PI Planning

Learn More

To delve deeper into the world of PI Planning and SAFe, we recommend the following resources:

  • [1] Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise.
  • [2] Kennedy, Michael. Product Development for the Lean Enterprise.

We hope this article has provided valuable insights and guidance for successful PI Planning. Join us as we continue our journey in Europe, embracing collaboration, and achieving remarkable results together!

Last update: 10 February 2021