PI planning is a face-to-face interaction event focusing on the alignment of the teams, increasing cooperation, and deepening the relationship between the members. Going for two days, the frequency of the event is around every four, eight, or twelve weeks, depending on the feasibility of the meeting. It focuses on SAFe and ART, described further. 

SAFe or Scaled Agile Framework refers to the principles utilized by organization members of large and widespread teams in different countries. The management framework aims to deliver high-quality products. Agile Release Train (ART) is a group of Agile members constituting 50 to 125 members recruited to develop particular solutions based on the requirement. 

Thus, ART teams meet in PI planning to figure out the solidarity among cross-team through the SAFe framework. ART and SAFe can be said as the heart and machine of PI planning. 

What Is PI Planning for?

PI planning aims to achieve objectives and methods for the upcoming PI. The teams must present their achievable business goals and vision, playing a crucial role in the company's development. The focus should be on avoiding the clash between the goals and objectives. The Program board further acts to help in the execution of the objectives and action by creating iteration plans. Under the guidance of the Release Train Engineer (RTE), the ART members plan within the Innovation and Planning Iteration to fix the schedules, expected results, and milestones, along with a focus on backlogs. 

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Why Is PI planning Important?

Below is the significance of PI planning for project teams:

Builds Team Trust 

Trust is required among the members due to interdisciplinary teams working together for a common goal. Faith in the action, irrespective of core knowledge of their action, can be built by frequent interactions and face-to-face meetings. 

Enhance UX Guidance

The PI planning utilizes an iterative approach. Thus, strictly frequent planning enhances the UX or User Experience and helps devise improvement methods, which is the ultimate goal of all the teams. 

Boost Cross-ART Collaboration

ART teams have to oversee multiple tasks for successful PI Planning. Achieving the task requires functional teams from different domains to analyze the past and the possibility of future situations effectively. The 50 - 150 people collaboration can successfully drive the Agile Release Trains to complete the mission. 

Complete Tasks Faster

Teams can perform the task quickly with constant or improved efficiency if provided with the required tools. It enables them to work on iteration, planning, execution, and yielding solutions accurately and quickly.

Quick Decision-Making

Quick actions require quick decisions. Depending on the SAFe principles, the ART team can quickly decide using PI planning. 

What to Include in a PI Planning Agenda?

It includes elements similar to that in an Agile team. The idea can be taken from previous events or through discussions among members. The agenda may vary based on the company, goals, and teams; the following must include points: 

Set Up Overall Goals and Vision

These are the perfect topics to start the PI planning. Being the ultimate aim, the goals and vision can help set the pace of meetings and course of action. The previous achievements, objectives, and lessons can also be included in the agenda of PI planning. 

Define the Business Context

The eventual result of the business should be known and aligned with the goal and vision. Not only does it help speed up the planning process, but it also gives a particular direction to work on. 

Outline the RTE Process

RTE or Release Train Engineer has to outline the PI process and answer any related questions arising for clarification. To smoothly perform this work, the ART team is responsible for indicating the mechanism of action and the goal to reach. 

Host Group Breakouts

Multiple tasks to be completed in two days, the host group breakouts are an effective method to decrease the burden and speed up the process. Working on iterations, backlogs, risk assessment, and dependency identification, each group can carry out the duties with experts in their team. 

Evaluate the Draft and Program Risks

Meetings concerned with the draft evaluation and program risk assessment are crucial for improvement. Feedback from stakeholders and product owners provides a pathway for further action and resolution before final planning. 

Hold a Confidence Vote and Retrospective Feedback Session

A confidence vote is a significant method to track progress using five fingers. The number of fingers can indicate the rate by each member towards the specific question being asked for judgment and tracking. The retrospective sessions include feedback on the event from each member. It can help in understanding the improvement opportunities. 

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PI Planning vs Sprint Planning - What's the Difference?

PI planning and sprint planning differ in the interaction between the team and its members. Sprint planning is a part of PI planning, and four sprints follow the latter. The difference lies in scale and hierarchy, as explained. 

Business Benefits of PI Planning

The business benefits are listed as follows:

  • Helps in the identification of dependencies among different teams working together
  • Regulates the work according to the demand and capacity 
  • Helps in interaction through building cooperation, relations, and encouragement among the members
  • Synchronizing vision, requirements, and objectives by devising methods to manage all of these

Inputs and Outputs of PI Planning

Clarifying the inputs and outputs of the PI planning process helps in understanding the expectations and quick results of the process. The inputs identify the company's vision and goals and map them to business needs. The former helps in effective PI planning through business context, while the latter saves time. It does so by deciding the route to the goal based on the requirements, such as the target audience's needs and alignment with business objectives. 

Outputs of the PI planning are the objectives and tasks and small targets. The tasks and objectives should be fixed rather than temporary. The latter can result in the complete deterioration of the pathway consisting of milestones, features, and delivery dates designed by the PI planning team. Moreover, the ART should provide small achievable targets based on the availability of resources, tools, risks, and interdependencies.

Preparation

The PI planning preparation is required in three categories discussed below:

Organizational Readiness

It refers to analyzing the company's point of view to understand the vision and further deciding the critical roles and strategies based on it. It also involves inspecting the company's priorities and aligning with the business owners. 

Content Readiness

It includes knowing what to present and discuss. Preparing the material for discussion brings confidence and indicates sincerity and responsibility. 

Logistics Readiness

Managing the responsibilities of physical meetings, with insight into every detail of meeting organization. Currently, it has been added with a component of a suitable channel for online communication.  

Steps of PI Planning

 It includes three steps: preparation, standard agent, and PI outputs. The three categories are explained below:

Preparation

As discussed above, it focuses on organizational, content, and facility readiness. 

Standard Agenda

The standard agenda for PI planning varies with the company. However, it must entail business context, development practices, draft plan review, management review, and problem-solve on the first day. The second day should include program adjustments, final plan review, ownership, and resolution of program risks.

PI Outputs

It includes SMART objectives from each team, feature dependencies, milestones, and accepted features. 

Remote Challenges of PI Planning

Among multinational companies, the widespread experts among different countries and continents are difficult to manage remotely. Hence, here are a few remote challenges associated with PI planning.

Remote Teams Need to Be Engaged and Accountable

Video conferencing with continuous monitoring and member interaction helps engage the remote teams. Accountability is achieved by the requirement to update regularly.

Real-Time Digital Program Boards for PI Planning

Online sharing of digital program boards occurs through templates that help share materials during the meeting. Risk boards and team boards also find it convenient to assist the members with the problem. 

Sharing the Brainstorming Boards and Chats

The interaction should also involve integrating online and offline communication. Assigning one person to handle the remote members, meetings can take ideas each individual wants to contribute.  

Social Interaction

Encouraging interaction through communication, question-answer sessions, and introductions helps enhance the conveying of ideas. 

Learn all about the Scaled Agile Framework, its application, configuration, and more with the Leading SAFe 5 Agilist Certification Training. Enroll now

Conclusion

The planning by ART based on SAFe principles also holds numerous benefits and significance. Sign-up for our Leading SAFe® 5.1 Training with SAFe Agilist Certification which is recognized across the globe. It’s the most popular approach for large-scale Agile projects providing a valid, reliable, and consistent method of evaluating SAFe® skills, knowledge, and mindset.

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