Originally Published on May 19, 2023 — Updated on June 18, 2024

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®.

Purpose of SAFe PI Planning

SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) PI (Program Increment) Planning is a critical event that ensures alignment, synchronization, and collaboration among multiple Agile teams working on a common project or product. The primary purpose of SAFe PI Planning is to create a shared vision and roadmap for the upcoming Program Increment, typically lasting 8-12 weeks. This event brings together all stakeholders, including Agile teams, business owners, and other key contributors, to establish a clear understanding of the goals, dependencies, and risks associated with the upcoming work.

The Role of Agile Principle in SAFe PI Planning

Agile principles play a fundamental role in SAFe PI Planning. The event embodies the Agile values of collaboration, transparency, and customer focus. By adhering to these principles, SAFe PI Planning fosters a culture of continuous improvement, adaptive planning, and quick response to change. It emphasizes the importance of teamwork, open communication, and collective problem-solving to deliver high-quality products that meet customer needs and business objectives.

Understanding SAFe PI Planning

The Structure of PI Planning

PI Planning is a structured, two-day event that includes a series of activities designed to facilitate effective planning and coordination among teams. The structure typically involves the following phases:

  • Preparation: Teams review and refine their backlogs, understand priorities, and identify dependencies.
    • Backlog Refinement: Teams review and refine their backlogs, ensuring that all user stories and features are well-defined, prioritized, and ready for planning. This helps teams to have a clear understanding of the work that needs to be accomplished in the upcoming PI.
    • Stakeholder Alignment: Engaging business owners, product managers, and other stakeholders to understand the priorities and expectations. This ensures that everyone is aligned on the goals and objectives of the upcoming PI.
    • Logistics Planning: Arranging the necessary facilities, tools, and resources to support the PI Planning event. This includes booking rooms, setting up video conferencing equipment for remote participants, leverage digital whiteboarding capabilities, and ensuring that all necessary materials are available.
  • Day 1: Teams present their plans, identify risks, and collaborate on resolving dependencies.
    • Business Context and Vision: Leadership provides the strategic vision, business context, and key priorities for the upcoming PI. This helps teams understand the broader business objectives and how their work fits into the overall strategy.
    • Product/Solution Vision: Product managers present the vision for the product or solution, including the key features and enhancements planned for the PI. This provides teams with a clear understanding of what needs to be delivered.
    • Team Breakouts: Agile teams break out into separate sessions to create their plans for the upcoming PI. During these sessions, teams identify user stories, tasks, and dependencies. They also start to create their iteration plans, which outline the work to be completed in each iteration of the PI.
    • Draft Plan Review: Teams present their draft plans to the entire group, highlighting their objectives, key features, and any dependencies or risks. This allows for early feedback and identification of potential issues that need to be addressed.
  • Day 2: Teams finalize their plans, obtain commitment from all stakeholders, and establish a shared vision for the PI.
    • Plan Refinement: Teams continue to refine their plans based on feedback from the previous day. They work on resolving dependencies and addressing any risks or issues identified during the draft plan review.
    • Management Review and Problem Solving: Leadership and key stakeholders review the overall plans, identify any remaining issues or gaps, and work with teams to resolve them. This ensures that all plans are feasible and aligned with business objectives.
    • Final Plan Review: Teams present their final plans, including their iteration plans, objectives, and commitment to the work to be completed in the PI. This provides transparency and alignment across all teams.
    • Program Risks and Dependencies: Teams review and update the program risks and dependencies, ensuring that all identified risks are addressed and mitigation plans are in place.
    • Confidence Vote: All participants take a confidence vote to assess their confidence in achieving the PI objectives. This helps to identify any remaining concerns or issues that need to be addressed before the PI begins.
    • Planning Retrospective and Improvements: Teams and stakeholders conduct a retrospective to identify areas for improvement in the PI Planning process. This helps to continuously improve the effectiveness of future PI Planning events.

Basics of SAFe PI Approach

The SAFe PI approach is based on the concepts of timeboxing, synchronization, and incremental delivery. These principles help ensure that all teams are aligned and working towards the same goals, enabling more efficient and effective delivery of value. Let’s delve into each of these concepts:


Timeboxing is a time management technique that involves setting a fixed duration for an activity. In the context of SAFe PI Planning, timeboxing refers to the fixed duration of a Program Increment (PI), which typically lasts 8-12 weeks. This fixed period allows teams to focus on delivering a set of features and objectives within a defined timeframe. The benefits of timeboxing include:

  • Predictability: Teams can plan their work with a clear understanding of deadlines, which enhances predictability in delivery.
  • Focus: By committing to a specific timeframe, teams can concentrate on achieving their goals without the distraction of ongoing changes.
  • Continuous Improvement: Each timebox provides an opportunity for teams to review their performance, learn from their experiences, and improve in subsequent PIs.


Synchronization ensures that multiple Agile teams are aligned and working together harmoniously. In SAFe, synchronization means that all teams plan, commit, and deliver their work on the same cadence. This coordinated effort is essential for managing dependencies and ensuring that all parts of the system evolve together. Key aspects of synchronization include:

  • Common Cadence: All teams follow the same iteration schedule, which helps maintain alignment and coordination.
  • Joint Planning: Teams come together during PI Planning to create a shared plan, identify dependencies, and address risks collectively.
  • Integrated Delivery: Synchronization ensures that all teams deliver their increments together, facilitating integration and system-wide testing.

Incremental Delivery

Incremental delivery is the practice of delivering value to customers in small, manageable increments rather than in a single, large release. This approach is central to Agile and SAFe principles, allowing for continuous feedback and adaptation. The benefits of incremental delivery include:

  • Early Value Delivery: Customers receive valuable features earlier, which can provide immediate benefits and competitive advantage.
  • Risk Reduction: Delivering in small increments allows teams to identify and address issues early, reducing the risk of large-scale failures.
  • Flexibility: Incremental delivery enables teams to adapt to changing requirements and feedback, ensuring that the final product better meets customer needs.

Importance of SAFe PI Planning

The Role of SAFe PI Planning in Software Development

In software development, SAFe PI Planning plays a crucial role in aligning technical and business goals. It ensures that all teams are working towards a common objective, reducing the risk of misalignment and rework. By involving all stakeholders in the planning process, SAFe PI Planning promotes a shared understanding of the project’s vision, scope, and priorities.

Ensuring Consistency in Approach

Consistency in approach is a cornerstone of successful SAFe PI Planning and helps Agile teams in several critical ways:

Clear Expectations and Accountability

When teams adopt a consistent approach to planning and execution, it sets clear expectations for all team members. Everyone understands their roles and responsibilities, which reduces confusion and enhances accountability. This clarity helps ensure that each team member knows what is expected of them, leading to more efficient and effective collaboration.

Improved Communication and Collaboration

A consistent approach fosters better communication and collaboration among teams. By using standardized processes and tools, teams can more easily share information, coordinate efforts, and address dependencies. This alignment facilitates smoother interactions and reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings or miscommunications.

Enhanced Predictability and Planning

Consistency in approach leads to enhanced predictability in planning and delivery. When teams follow a standardized process, it becomes easier to estimate timelines, allocate resources, and plan workloads. This predictability helps business owners and stakeholders make informed decisions, manage expectations, and align strategic goals with team capabilities.

Streamlined Problem Solving

A consistent approach provides a common framework for identifying and solving problems. When teams encounter challenges or obstacles, they can rely on established processes to diagnose issues, implement solutions, and measure outcomes. This standardized problem-solving approach ensures that teams can quickly and effectively address issues, minimizing disruptions and maintaining progress.

Continuous Improvement

A consistent approach supports continuous improvement by providing a stable baseline for evaluating performance and implementing changes. Teams can regularly review their processes, identify areas for improvement, and experiment with new practices within a familiar framework. This iterative process of refinement and enhancement drives ongoing improvements in efficiency, quality, and delivery.

Increased Quality and Reliability

Consistency in approach helps maintain high standards of quality and reliability. By adhering to standardized practices, teams can ensure that their work meets defined criteria and quality benchmarks. This consistency reduces variability in outcomes, leading to more reliable and predictable results that align with business and customer expectations.

Aligned Goals and Objectives

A consistent approach helps ensure that all teams are working towards aligned goals and objectives. By following a standardized planning and execution process, teams can better understand how their individual contributions fit into the broader organizational strategy. This alignment ensures that all efforts are directed towards achieving common objectives, maximizing the overall impact of the work.

Facilitated Training and Onboarding

When an organization adopts a consistent approach, it simplifies the training and onboarding process for new team members. Standardized processes and practices provide a clear framework for learning, making it easier for new hires to get up to speed quickly. This consistency also ensures that all team members, regardless of their experience level, are operating within the same guidelines and expectations.

Effective Risk Management

Consistency in approach enhances the effectiveness of risk management. By following a standardized process, teams can more easily identify, assess, and mitigate risks. This proactive risk management approach helps prevent issues from escalating and ensures that teams can respond swiftly to any challenges that arise.

By maintaining consistency in their approach, Agile teams can achieve higher levels of efficiency, collaboration, and quality. This consistency not only supports the successful execution of individual PIs but also contributes to the long-term success and resilience of the organization.


The benefits of SAFe PI Planning include:

  • Improved alignment and collaboration: Ensures all teams are on the same page.
  • Enhanced transparency and visibility: Provides a clear view of progress and challenges.
  • Increased commitment and accountability: Teams are more likely to meet their commitments when they are involved in the planning process.

Steps in SAFe PI Planning

Preparing for PI Planning

Preparation is key to successful PI Planning. This step involves:

  • Backlog refinement: Ensuring the backlog is well-groomed and prioritized.
  • Stakeholder alignment: Engaging business owners and stakeholders to understand priorities and expectations.
  • Logistics planning: Arranging the necessary facilities, tools, and resources.

Conducting a PI Planning Event

The PI Planning event includes:

  • Vision and context setting: Leadership provides the strategic vision and context.
  • Team breakouts: Teams create their plans, identify dependencies, and address risks.
  • Draft plan review: Teams present their plans and receive feedback.

Reviewing and Adjusting PI Planning

Post-event activities include:

  • Plan review and adjustments: Refining plans based on feedback and new insights.
  • Risk assessment: Reviewing and updating the risk register.
  • Dependency management: Ensuring all dependencies are addressed and tracked.

Finalizing PI Planning

The finalization phase involves:

  • Commitment: Teams commit to their plans and agree on objectives.
  • Alignment: Ensuring all plans are aligned and feasible.
  • Communication: Sharing the final plans with all stakeholders.

The Teams Involved in SAFe PI Planning

Roles and Responsibilities of Agile Teams

Agile teams play a critical role in SAFe PI Planning. Their responsibilities include:

  • Backlog refinement: Preparing their backlogs and identifying priorities.
  • Plan creation: Developing detailed plans for the upcoming PI.
  • Risk identification: Identifying and addressing potential risks and dependencies.

The Contribution of Business Owners

Business owners are key stakeholders in SAFe PI Planning. Their contributions include:

  • Setting priorities: Providing input on business objectives and priorities.
  • Feedback and validation: Reviewing and validating team plans.
  • Decision-making: Making critical decisions to ensure alignment with business goals.

The Risks and Challenges of SAFe PI Planning

Identifying Potential Risks in SAFe PI Planning

Identifying risks early is essential for successful PI Planning. Common risks include:

  • Resource constraints: Limited availability of key resources.
  • Dependency issues: Dependencies between teams that may cause delays.
  • Scope creep: Uncontrolled changes in project scope.

Overcoming Challenges in SAFe PI Planning

SAFe PI Planning is a critical event for ensuring alignment and collaboration among multiple Agile teams. However, it comes with its own set of challenges. Digital.ai Agility provides robust solutions to overcome these challenges, enabling teams to plan, execute, and deliver more effectively. Below are challenges and how Digital.ai helps overcome them.

  1. Coordinating communication among geographically distributed teams and ensuring everyone is on the same page.

    • Digital.ai Agility fosters enhanced collaboration across distributed teams, ensuring all members are synchronized and can effectively contribute to SAFe PI Planning. This integration of communication tools helps maintain a high level of alignment among teams, crucial for successful Agile planning and execution.
  2. Identifying and managing dependencies and risks early to avoid project delays.
    • Digital.ai Agility offers tools for identifying, assessing, and tracking risks and dependencies throughout the PI Planning process. This proactive approach helps teams address potential issues before they escalate.
  3. Ensuring business owners and stakeholders are involved and their feedback is integrated into the planning process.
    • Digital.ai facilitates improved stakeholder engagement by providing real-time dashboards and feedback mechanisms. This ensures that all stakeholders have a clear view of project progress and can provide timely inputs, enhancing the decision-making process and ensuring that the project aligns with business objectives.
  4. Unable to scale across large enterprises.
    • Digital.ai solutions are designed to scale across large enterprises, managing multiple teams and complex project requirements efficiently. This scalability helps organizations ensure that their Agile practices can grow and adapt without sacrificing operational efficiency.
  5. Maintaining visibility into progress and status across multiple teams.
    • With AI integration, Digital.ai provides advanced analytics and predictive insights, which help organizations make informed decisions and improve their overall software development lifecycle. This AI-driven approach not only speeds up the development process but also enhances the quality of the output.

The Ultimate Goal of SAFe PI Planning

The ultimate goal of SAFe PI Planning is to deliver value to customers and achieve business objectives. By fostering collaboration, alignment, and commitment among Agile teams, SAFe PI Planning ensures that the organization can deliver high-quality products that meet customer needs and drive business success.

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.

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