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Everything About Program Increment Planning (PI Planning)

Alright, let’s dive straight into Program Increment Planning (PI Planning). 

It’s not the snooze-fest of your typical Monday morning meeting; PI Planning is where serious Agile work happens. PI Planning isn’t just about getting through your week without a team member going rogue; it’s about charting a course that could make or break your product’s future.

In this article, we’re unpacking everything Agile PI Planning entails. 

From aligning multiple teams to setting realistic goals for your Agile Release Train (ART), we’re covering the essentials. 

Think of it as your guide to navigating the complexities of large-scale Agile projects. You’ll learn how to orchestrate efforts across various teams, ensuring everyone is moving in the right direction with a clear, unified vision. 

Whether you’re new to this or someone who eats Gantt charts for breakfast, there’s something here to refine your approach to PI Planning. 

So, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of turning your Agile strategies into successful outcomes.

What is PI planning in Agile?

Agile PI Planning, or Program Increment Planning, is the strategic cornerstone of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). 

In simple terms, it’s a critical event where all members of the Agile Release Train (ART) come together to plan out the next ‘Program Increment’ – a fancy term for a set period (usually 8-12 weeks) during which specific project objectives need to be delivered.

Think of it as a big family meeting where everyone, including those who usually only speak up on Slack, comes together to figure out who’s doing what in the Agile Release Train (ART). 

It’s like mapping out a cross-country road trip, but instead of scenic spots, you’re plotting sprints and deliverables.

With this SAFe PI Planning, you will discuss the grand plan, delegate tasks, identify who depends on whom, and openly talk about risks (spoiler: there are always more than you think). It’s the time to spot potential pitfalls before you stumble into them.

It’s a chance to step back, see the bigger picture, and then dive back into the details with a clearer perspective.

And yes, there’s some group therapy vibes, too. Everyone gets to air their concerns about potential risks. It’s like a collective sigh of relief when you realize you’re all in this together.

The Step by Step

  1. Gathering the Troops: This involves bringing together all teams involved in the ART. Everyone from developers to testers, from UX designers to product owners.
  2. Setting the Scene: The event usually kicks off with leaders presenting the vision, objectives, and any relevant updates. 
  3. Team Breakouts: Teams then break out into smaller groups to discuss, plan, and commit to what they can deliver. Teams review their backlogs, discuss dependencies, and figure out what they can realistically commit to.
  4. Identifying Risks and Dependencies: Teams identify any risks or dependencies that could impact their ability to deliver.
  5. Review and Replan if Needed: Once all teams have their plans laid out, they come back together to present and review. It’s a chance for feedback and adjustments.
  6. Finalizing the Plan: The event concludes with teams having a clear roadmap for the next increment. Everyone should leave with a solid understanding of what they’re doing and why.

Who Participates in PI Planning?

As mentioned, Agile PI Planning isn’t a solo show; it’s more like an all-hands-on-deck situation. Pretty much anyone who’s a key player in your Agile Release Train (ART) will participate. 

Here’s the lineup:

  • Agile Teams: These are the foot soldiers, the developers, testers, designers, and engineers who are in the trenches, turning plans into actions.
  • Product Owners: They’re the ones with the vision. Product owners bring to the table a deep understanding of what needs to be built and why.
  • Scrum Masters: Scrum Masters help keep the process running smoothly, ensuring that Agile principles are followed and teams are functioning effectively.
  • Business Owners: These guys are the high-level stakeholders. They provide the strategic direction and ensure that the work aligns with the broader business goals. 
  • System Architects/Engineers: The tech wizards. They offer insights into the technical feasibility and implications of the proposed plans.
  • Release Train Engineer (RTE): The RTE facilitates the event, ensuring that objectives are clear, time is used efficiently, and outcomes align with the overall strategy.
  • Other Stakeholders: This can include customer representatives, marketing folks, or anyone else whose input is valuable in shaping the direction of the product.

PI Planning involves a diverse cast of characters, and it’s this blend of skills, experiences, and viewpoints that makes the PI Planning process so robust and inclusive.

What’s the Benefit of PI Planning?

PI Planning might sound like a hefty commitment, but it’s packed with benefits that make it a must-have in your Agile arsenal, especially in the realm of product management. 

Let’s break down why it’s more than just a couple of days away from the usual grind:

1. Alignment and Visibility

PI Planning brings everyone to the same page – quite literally. With teams, stakeholders, and leadership all in one room, you get a clear, unified vision of the project objectives. 

It’s like turning on the lights in a dark room and suddenly everyone can see what’s around them.

2. Collaboration and Consensus

Ever tried getting consensus via email threads? Good luck. 

PI Planning provides a platform for real-time discussion and decision-making. It’s where debates happen, ideas clash, and eventually, a consensus is formed. 

This collaborative environment fosters better solutions and more commitment to the plan.

3. Proactive Risk Management

Think of PI Planning as your early warning system. By identifying risks early, you get a chance to put out fires before they even start. It’s about being proactive, not reactive.

4. Efficient Resource Utilization

PI Planning helps you allocate your most precious resource – your team’s time – more effectively. By understanding the capacity and capabilities of each team, you can make informed decisions about where to focus efforts for maximum impact.

5. Increased Motivation and Clarity

When teams understand the ‘why’ behind their work, motivation levels spike. PI Planning ensures that everyone understands the bigger picture and their role in it. 

It’s like giving a map to someone lost in the woods – suddenly, the path ahead is a lot clearer.

What’s the Downside of PI Planning?

Like any powerful tool, PI Planning has its quirks and pitfalls. It’s not always sunshine and Agile rainbows. 

Here are a few scenarios where PI Planning might trip you up:

1. Time-Consuming and Resource-Intensive

PI Planning is like throwing a big party – it requires a lot of prep and clean-up. Organizing such a comprehensive meeting demands significant time and resources. 

2. Complexity Overload

With so many voices in the room, the sheer volume of information and opinions can be overwhelming. It’s like trying to listen to a symphony in a thunderstorm. 

3. Risk of Inaccurate Estimations

With great planning comes great responsibility. The risk of overcommitting or underestimating work is high, especially when teams are under pressure to please stakeholders.

4. Potential for ‘Planning Fatigue’

Let’s face it, two days of intense meetings can be exhausting. There’s a risk that teams might tune out, leading to a lack of engagement and commitment.

The PM’s Hot Take

SAFe PI Planning? It’s like assembling a giant puzzle where the pieces are constantly changing shape. Sure, it can be a mammoth task, and at times, it feels like you’re trying to nail jelly to the wall. 

But when it clicks, it’s pretty spectacular. 

It aligns teams in a way that no spreadsheet or Gantt chart ever could. The best part is when everyone realizes that despite different roles, we’re all rowing in the same direction. 

It’s not just about planning; it’s about building a sense of purpose and direction. 

However, let’s be real – it’s not the holy grail. Sometimes, it can feel like a well-orchestrated play where everyone knows their lines but forgets to improvise when the script changes. The key is to find that sweet spot between rigorous planning and staying nimble enough to adapt when reality laughs at our well-laid plans.


So there you have it – the nuts and bolts of Agile PI Planning.

Remember, it’s a powerful tool, but like any tool, it’s all about how you use it. 

Balancing structure with flexibility is the name of the game. Whether you’re a PI Planning pro or just dipping your toes in, it’s about making this framework work for your team’s unique rhythm.

Craving more Agile insights or looking to up your product management game? Head over to Fibery’s treasure trove of resources for more deep dives and expert tips. 

With the right strategies and a bit of Agile flair, you can turn any planning session from a mundane task into a roadmap to success. 

Psst... Wanna try Fibery? 👀

Infinitely flexible product discovery & development platform.