The Complete PI Planning Guide for Remote Teams

Written by 
Shauna Ward
February 28, 2023
Online PI planning board in Mural

What is PI planning?

PI Planning definition: PI Planning stands for Program Increment Planning. Teams using the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) schedule these two-day events every eight to 12 weeks depending on the length of their increments. These planning sessions or ceremonies give big teams a chance to coordinate and integrate the actions of smaller team units.

Project managers figure out the planned features for the increment, development teams own user story planning, and UX designers and researchers validate the planning. The goal here is to align teams both to the mission of the organization and to each other.

If you’re new to using the SAFe framework, you’ll want to begin with the PI Planning ceremony.

If you are just getting started with the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), you may be wondering how PI Planning fits into the picture.

Basically, SAFe is a set of guidelines and workflow patterns for implementing Agile at scale. And PI Planning gives you a simple framework to bring your agile teams together. You can think of it as the framework within the framework.

PI Planning is a vital part of SAFe. It’s a ceremony that brings together stakeholders from every team and gives them a plan for working together to decide on top features, identify dependencies, and make a plan for the next program increment. Ideally, PI Planning allows for greater visibility across teams, smoother changes, and more coordination at every level of the organization.

In-person, hybrid, or remote

Before the innovation of digital tools, like Mural, allowing remote teams to collaborate around the globe, PI Planning was done with everyone attending in person. Obviously, getting teams from around the world together in the same physical location for two days cost companies a great deal. Now more than ever, SAFe teams are discovering the power of tools that make it easy to do PI Planning remotely.

Imagine a team of about 300 PI planners (engineers, scrum masters, release train engineers, Agile coaches, leadership, etc.) from a large Fortune 500 company team. Every quarter, hundreds of international colleagues are flown to one location in the United States and grouped into about 25 teams. Each team has a scrum master and their own PI planning board. The scrum master leads the team to discuss the priorities for the quarter (or given timeframe), the effort required to achieve objectives and any dependencies between working groups, using their planning board as a visual.

That’s quite a large investment in travel, plus a lot of pressure for scrum masters and their participating PI planners to make the most out of the few days they have together. Is this really the best way to maximize results?

PI planning timeline

The team in this story realized no, it wasn’t the best way. They sought out MURAL's digital workspace to help them create a digital source of truth for their PI planning boards, and then moved over to a fully remote PI Planning methodology.

They designed a pilot program and partnered with MURAL on custom PI Planning templates and facilitator training. The team then flew all colleagues to one location, one last time, for a stress test.

Scrum masters were asked to be each team's canvas scribe on a 55-inch monitor while the important session was underway, and the teams completed their PI planning directly in MURAL while speaking face to face. MURAL experts were on-hand for product and technical coaching, but it wasn’t needed. The transition was seamless and the hybrid session was a success, leading this customer to complete every subsequent quarterly PI planning remotely in MURAL, saving them upwards of $60,000 per quarter.

There are many other teams like this one paving their way to 21st century Agile work using MURAL. Read on for more of our tips and learnings.👇

How to perform PI planning in Mural

PI Planning Program Board

Create a visual summary of the goals, features, risks, dependencies, and timelines defined in the program increment plan.

Open PI Planning Program Board template page

PI Planning Team Board

Estimate the capacity of each team to accomplish the tasks in each iteration. You'll need one per team who participate in the planning.

Open PI Planning Team Board template page

Paste from (and to) spreadsheets

Gif showing someone pasting content from an Excel spreadsheet into a mural
Use the use the copy and paste feature in MURAL to easily import lists from your Excel spreadsheet for PI planning.

Turn planning into trackable Jira tickets

After mapping out your strategic plan in MURAL, your team's ready to add specific action items to your project management tool. Now you can send your ideas from MURAL directly to Jira as individual, trackable tickets. See more at MURAL + Jira integration.

How to get Jira content into MURAL

Use the PI Planning Templates above for this exercise, or create your own. To get Jira content into MURAL, each cell from a Jira export can be copied to a canvas as an individual sticky.

Getting started

Copy all cells that include feature or story descriptions. Return to your MURAL canvas, and use Cmd (or Ctrl)+V to paste them. They will render as 3x3 stickies. Note that if you are pasting 150+ characters of text, cells will render as text boxes instead of stickies.

Matching legend formatting

Multi select all of these new stickies. Using the 'Switch Type' option in your formatting toolbar (second to last icon), convert the stickies to 3x5. From the formatting toolbar you may also change the sticky note color.

Adding feature #, story #, and size

Using the Alt key+clicking and dragging, duplicate the appropriate sticky note header from the Legend. (You may also use Cmd+D, or simple Copy/Paste.) Group the text box to the existing sticky note using Cmd (or Ctrl)+G, and include as much existing information as you can. Decrease the font size as needed to keep the header one line.

To get MURAL stickies into Jira, each sticky or text box from a MURAL canvas can be copied to a spreadsheet as a cell.  Before you start, determine what upload spreadsheet format you will need to use with Jira.

Copying stickies

Multi-select a group of sticky notes. Right click on them, & select 'copy as text'.

Completing your final data sort

Return to your spreadsheet. Use cmd (or ctrl) + V to paste your stickies. Click and drag each respective cell (description and it's header), dragging it to its appropriate position in the upload spreadsheet.

Separating feature #, story #, and size into separate cells

Select the column of data that includes sticky note header content (ex. "Feat. #34891 , Story #, Size 5"). Click your spreadsheet program's data menu. Select "Split Text to Columns", and use comma as the delimiter. This will result in 3 cells, "Feat. #34891" "Story #" "Size 5".

About the author

About the authors

Shauna Ward

Shauna Ward

Sr. Content Marketing Manager
Shauna Ward is a senior content marketing manager at MURAL. As a former remote work skeptic, she enjoys creating resources that help hybrid and distributed teams make collaboration fun, easy, and effective.

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