A Program Increment (PI) is a period, typically between eight to twelve weeks, in which development teams set out to deliver incremental value in the form of working software. Program Increment (PI) Planning is typically a two-day event involving all teams, product owners and managers, Scrum Masters, Release Train Engineers, and other stakeholders working together to align to a shared vision, prioritize the top features to work on, identify dependencies, and create a plan for the following PI. PI Planning is a crucial element of SAFe®.

When is SAFe PI Planning Used, and Why Is It Important?

A SAFe PI Planning event occurs during the Innovation and Planning (IP) iteration, the last iteration of a PI, and is facilitated by the Release Train Engineer (RTE). It includes all members of the Agile Release Team (ART), or for large value streams that contain multiple ARTs, the Solution Train provides coordination. PI Planning aims to unite all the people doing the work and empower them to plan, estimate, innovate, and commit to work that aligns with the business’s high-level goals, vision, and strategy.

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SAFe PI (Program Increment) Planning is essential for several reasons:

  • Aligning Teams and Stakeholders: SAFe PI Planning brings together all the teams and stakeholders involved in a program increment to align their objectives, create a shared understanding of the upcoming work, and get everyone working towards the same goals without misunderstandings or miscommunications.
  • Creating a Roadmap: During the PI Planning event, teams create a roadmap that outlines the features, deliverables, and milestones for the upcoming program increment. This roadmap helps teams to visualize the work ahead and plan accordingly, which can help to improve efficiency and reduce waste.
  • Improving Collaboration: SAFe PI Planning encourages collaboration between teams and stakeholders, which can help to foster a culture of teamwork and better communication, leading to better outcomes for the program increment and a more positive working environment.
  • Managing Dependencies: Large-scale projects often involve multiple teams simultaneously working on different parts of a product or project. SAFe PI Planning helps identify dependencies between teams and plan for them accordingly to reduce delays and keep the program increment on track.
  • Ensuring Business Value: SAFe PI Planning provides that all work planned for the program increment aligns with the overall business objectives, delivers value to the organization, and contributes to its success.

The Following Are the Steps Involved in PI Planning

Preparing for the PI Planning Ceremony
  • Establish the PI Planning Objectives: Before the actual planning session, you’ll need to identify the objectives of the PI Planning. This step involves defining the goals of the program increment, identifying the key features that will be developed during the PI, and aligning the team’s objectives with the overall program vision.
  • Create the PI Planning Agenda: The next step is to create the agenda for the two-day PI Planning event. The agenda typically includes a welcome and introductions, a review of the program vision and objectives, an overview of the program backlog, identification, and prioritization of the features to be developed, breakout sessions to plan and estimate the features, and a final presentation of the PI plan.
  • Prepare the PI Planning Artifacts: The SAFe methodology requires several artifacts to be prepared before the PI Planning session. These artifacts include the program backlog, the PI Objectives, the team and stakeholder backlog, and the team’s capacity and velocity data.
During the PI Planning Ceremony
  • Conduct the PI Planning Event: The first day involves reviewing the program vision and objectives, identifying the key features to be developed, and breaking down these features into smaller user stories. The second day consists of planning and estimating the user stories, identifying team dependencies, and finalizing the PI plan.
  • Finalize the PI Plan: Once the PI Planning event is complete, the team will have a detailed plan for the upcoming program increment. The plan includes a list of the features to be developed, the teams responsible for each feature, the estimated effort for each feature, and the dependencies between the features.
  • Communicate the PI Plan: The final step is to communicate the PI plan to all stakeholders, including senior management, product owners, and team members. This step ensures that everyone is aligned with the objectives of the program increment and understands their role in delivering the features outlined in the plan.

By following these steps, your enterprise can successfully plan and execute large-scale software and systems development using the SAFe methodology.

What Problems Does SAFe PI Planning Help Resolve?

Large organizations that have yet to adopt an enterprise-scaled agile framework often are confronted with a myriad of challenges that arise in large-scale Agile development initiatives. While individual teams may be working in an agile way, they work in silos, leading to the misalignment of business objectives and goals. Dependencies are often overlooked or need clarification, particularly in large complex systems where teams may depend on other teams’ work to complete their tasks, leading to delays and missed deadlines.

Within a distributed team environment, communication can be a challenge. With large-scale initiatives, multiple, simultaneous projects are most likely competing for resources and attention. Still, there needs to be more ability to identify or prioritize the most critical tasks that align with the business. And at the end of the day, with these siloed, distributed teams working on different pieces of a product or project, it takes much work to maintain visibility into overall progress.

SAFe PI Planning helps organizations improve alignment, coordination, and communication across multiple teams and stakeholders, enabling them to deliver high-quality products and services more efficiently and effectively.

What Are the Business Benefits of PI Planning?

PI Planning helps align all teams and stakeholders toward a common goal for the upcoming program increment. In addition, it helps ensure that everyone understands what they need to work on and how their work contributes to the program’s overall objectives. But how does the business benefit overall, and what kind of outcomes can it expect by adopting SAFe PI Planning?

  • Improved Predictability: PI Planning provides a structured approach to planning that allows for a more accurate estimation of work items and dependencies. This leads to improved predictability and helps teams to deliver on time and within budget.
  • Faster time-to-market: By aligning teams and stakeholders, PI Planning enables speedier decision-making and reduces the time it takes to bring new products or features to market.
  • Risk Mitigation: PI Planning identifies risks and dependencies early in the planning process, enabling teams to mitigate them proactively before they become more significant issues.
  • Enhanced Communication: PI Planning provides a forum for open communication and collaboration among teams, stakeholders, and management. This leads to improved understanding and stronger relationships, which can help teams work more effectively together.
  • Improved Quality: PI Planning helps ensure that the proper work is being done and that it is being done correctly. This can improve quality and reduce rework, resulting in a better end product.

PI Planning provides a structured approach to planning that enables alignment, improved predictability, faster time-to-market, risk mitigation, enhanced communication, and improved quality. These benefits can help organizations achieve their business objectives more effectively and efficiently.

Why is SAFe PI Planning Important in 2023?

Several surveys, like the 16th State of Agile report, show an increasing demand for Agile methodologies, and adoption is rising yearly. SAFe, by far, is the leading framework being adopted, and PI Planning is a crucial element of this framework that helps organizations synchronize their Agile practices across multiple teams, departments, and locations. In addition, agile methodologies are also gaining traction outside the IT industry – nowadays, every company is a software company.

The main reason for adopting scaled Agile practices is to accelerate time to market while also delivering value to the customer and meeting business objectives. Value-based or outcome-based delivery is trending in 2023 and beyond, and those that need to catch up to adopt an enterprise-scaled agile framework are sure to fall behind their competition.

How Does Digital.ai Agility Help with SAFe PI Planning?

Digital.ai Agility enables you to scale your agile solutions, providing capabilities to prioritize features and investments across the entire portfolio and track project status at all levels in a single location. With advanced capabilities to generate roadmaps, collaborate on program backlog, and connect portfolio epics, features, and capabilities to budgets and strategic themes, Agility helps to simplify the PI Planning process.


View this short video to see how Agility helps with SAFe PI Planning.

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