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.
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.
If you’re new to using the SAFe framework, you’ll want to begin with the PI planning ceremony.
So let’s dig a bit deeper into the “why.”
Why use PI planning?
PI planning is essential for large scale organizations using Agile. Imagine an organization with 20,000 developers. These developers might be broken down into 400–600 teams. Before PI planning, it was not uncommon for teams like this never to talk to each other (unless something went drastically wrong).
In the past, any alignment on vision would have happened only from the top down. Managers of teams might have gotten together to talk about the big picture — vision, mission, values. And of course, we’re talking about multiple levels of management playing telephone, passing the information down to their teams. But the teams themselves would never coordinate.
So, PI planning is the first opportunity many teams at large organizations get to talk to one another. It’s exciting because as the Agile Manifesto states, “the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is a face-to-face conversation."
The business benefits of PI planning include:
- Establishing communication across all team members and stakeholders
- Building a social network that makes the Agile Release Train (ART) really work
- Aligning development to business goals
- Identifying dependencies and cultivating cross-team and cross-ART collaboration
- Syncing up demand and capacity
- Eliminating excessive Work in Process (WIP)
- Fast decision-making
What does PI planning have to do with Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®)?
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.