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All You Need to Know About Program Increment (PI) Planning

Rapidly transforming commercial spheres, associations increasingly receive progressed standards and structures like Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to reinforce adjusting esteem flexibly and customers’ transforming wants. One focal occasion in SAFe’s system remains Program Increment Planning

PI Planning is a consistent, face-to-face assembly uplifting groups crosswise a progressed dispatch preparing to synchronize on a basic mission and design work within the resultant program expansion.

Program increment designing remains a determining occasion permitting cross-bunch organization, dependence administration, and uniformity on a coherent intent to convey significant arrangements addressing client needs.

This exhaustive procedure involves significant parts, exercises, and archives basic for fruitful program increment arranging and usage. None enhance alone – upbeat that our consistent cooperation refines through cooperation and joining lifts all. Progress shadows concord dependably.

Key Highlights

  • Program Increment (PI) Planning remains a pivotal occasion in Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) aligning businesses’ progressed conveyances to coordinated rhythms and missions.
  • It encompasses consistent, face-to-face sessions where groups across a progressed dispatch prepare jointly intended contributions for the ensuing program increment.
  • Center objectives involve building the program view, recognizing reliance, and crafting incorporated designs for the following PI.
  • Key exercises incorporate settling the Program backlog, characterizing PI goals, recognizing dangers and reliance, and making group backlogs.
  • PI Planning pursues an organized timetable including fundamental jobs like conveyance engineers, item administration, framework architects/designing, and versatile groups.

What is Program Increment Planning (PI Planning)?

Program Increment (PI) Planning remains a vital occasion in Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) for company-scope adaptable programming.

It is a consistent, face-to-face assembly serving as the heartbeat of the Agile Release Train (ART), synchronizing a business’ versatile groups on an offer progression and envision for the ensuing program increment.

Image: Program Increment Planning (PI Planning)

A program increment alludes to an edge (regularly 8-12 weeks) where an ART conveys occasional regard as working and tried programming frameworks. PI arranging permits groups to cooperatively intend and submit to a particular degree for the accompanying program increment.

Center objectives include:

  • Aligning to the Vision and Solution Intent crosswise groups
  • Committing to a characterized arrangement of Program Increment (PI) goals is need-based
  • Characterizing a sensible methodology for the increment
  • Recognizing reliance and dangers requiring coordination
  • Advancing joint effort, two-way correspondence, and group building

By interfacing versatile groups, item administration, designers, and other central stakeholders for PI arranging, associations can guarantee vital synchronization, oversee reliance, decrease hazard, and empower consistent worth conveyance at scale.

Program Increment Planning Process

The program increment (PI) planning process is at the heart of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). It is a cadence-based, face-to-face event that serves as the heartbeat of the Agile Release Train (ART), aligning all teams on the ART towards a shared vision and roadmap for the upcoming PI. 

The PI planning process typically follows these steps:

  1. PI Planning Preparation

    In this phase, the Release Train Engineer (RTE) works with the teams to understand current program backlog priorities, dependencies, and capacity. The RTE also facilitates a pre-planning meeting with key stakeholders to draft an initial PI objectives draft.
  2. PI Planning Kickoff
    The PI planning event starts with an overview of the current state, vision, and business context from business owners. The draft PI objectives are reviewed and teams do the initial sizing of projected backlog items.
  3. Team Breakouts
    Agile teams meet separately to review their team backlogs, identify dependencies, decompose requirements as needed, create initial PI plans, and define risks/mitigants.
  4. Program Increment Plan Review
    Teams present their draft plans to the whole group. Other teams identify integration points and dependencies. Adjustments are made to optimize the overall program plan.
  5. Final Prospective PI Plan Presentation and Confidence Vote
    The final integrated program increment plan is presented to all for a final confidence vote on meeting all commitments.
  6. Execution and Inspection
    Over the 8-10 week PI timebox, teams execute their committed plans, tracking progress via periodic Inspect & Adapt events. An Integrate & Demo is held at the PI boundary.

This PI cadence and face-to-face planning event help drive alignment, commitment, and visibility across all ARTs in a SAFe enterprise.

Key Roles and Responsibilities of Program Increment Planning

PI Planning involves several key roles and responsibilities to ensure its successful execution. These roles work together collaboratively to align the entire Agile Release Train (ART) towards a common vision and objectives.

Release Train Engineer (RTE)

The Release Train Engineer facilitates and leads the program increment planning event. They are responsible for creating and communicating the agenda, as well as gathering the necessary inputs like team backlogs, risks, dependencies, etc.

The RTE ensures that all Agile teams understand the vision and Program Increment (PI) objectives. During PI planning, they coach the teams through the process of defining plan commitments.

Product Management

Product Management owns the program backlog and plays a crucial role in defining the program vision and roadmap.

They prioritize the program backlog based on business value and provide the key features and capabilities to be delivered during the PI. Product managers work closely with the system architects to understand architectural impacts.

System Architect/Engineering within Program Increment Planning

The system architects/engineers provide the technical vision, enable reuse across teams, and identify integration points. They evaluate the technical feasibility of program backlog items and provide estimates to product management. During PI planning, they ensure technical risks, dependencies, and system-level requirements are identified.

Agile Team Representatives  

Each Agile team sends key representatives like the Scrum Master, Product Owner and developers to the PI planning event. They review the team backlog, identify risks and dependencies, define iteration plans, and commit to specific plan objectives for the upcoming PI.

Business Owners/Stakeholders

Key business owners and stakeholders participate to align the teams on the overarching business objectives and context for the PI. They provide clarity on requirements and ensure the planned features/capabilities meet the expected business value.

The close collaboration between these roles is critical for effective program increment planning that leads to successful and predictable program execution.

Program Increment Planning Agenda

The program increment (PI) planning agenda provides a structured timeline and set of activities to effectively plan and align the upcoming program increment. While the specific agenda can vary between organizations, a typical PI planning agenda follows this flow:

Pre-PI Planning

  • Finalize the program vision and strategic drivers for the PI
  • Update the program backlog with new and existing features/capabilities
  • Conduct initial risk analysis and dependency mapping

PI Planning Day 1

  • Overview of vision and business context 
  • Review team topical areas and roles
  • Identify and discuss new architectural capabilities needed
  • Capture initial risks, dependencies, and assumptions

PI Planning Day 2 

  • Teams present draft plan previews for upcoming PI
  • Identify cross-team dependencies and coordinate integration points
  • Finalize the scope of features/capabilities to include in PI
  • Capture capacity estimates from teams

PI Planning Day 3

  • Teams provide final plan commitments for PI scope
  • Conduct a confidence vote on overall PI objectives
  • Align on metrics to measure PI success 
  • Define release milestones and checkpoints

PI Planning Day 4

  • Retrospective on PI planning event
  • Capture improvement opportunities for next PI planning
  • Draft next PI planning dates and logistics

By following a structured, time-boxed agenda, all teams can effectively align on the program vision, objectives, dependencies, and commitments for the upcoming PI. This collaborative planning lays the foundation for successful PI execution.

Program Increment Planning Best Practices

Following some key best practices can help ensure your program increment (PI) planning sessions are productive and effective. Here are some recommended best practices:

Face-to-Face Interaction

While virtual PI planning is possible, having the entire agile release train (ART) together face-to-face is highly preferable. The in-person interaction allows for better collaboration, communication, and relationship building among the teams.

Proper Preparation 

Ensure all inputs like the program vision, product roadmap, architecture vision, and draft program backlog are ready before PI planning begins. Teams should also come prepared with their team backlogs and draft plans for the increment.

Dedicate the Full Timebox for Program Increment Planning

PI planning is a critical event, so protect the full two-day timebox. Don’t allow teams to multitask or get pulled into other meetings/work during this time. Their full focus should be on PI planning.

Facilitate Effectively

Having an experienced agile release train engineer (RTE) to facilitate and enforce the timebox and agenda is key. The RTE should ensure all voices are heard and the process stays on track.

Involve Stakeholders for Program Increment Planning

Invite key stakeholders like business owners, architects, and system experts to participate, especially during the program backlog review and confidence vote sessions. Their input is valuable.

Aim for Confidence

The goal isn’t just to fill the program increment (PI) plan, but to leave with a high-confidence vote that the committed PI objectives can truly be achieved by all teams.

Promote Collaboration

Encourage cross-team coordination, swarming, and collaboration during PI planning. The ART should operate as one integrated team working toward the same goals.

Maintain Momentum with Program Increment Planning

After each PI planning session, try to start executing the new PI plan as soon as possible to maintain the momentum and excitement built during planning.

Consistently following these and other PI planning best practices from the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) can help maximize the productivity and value delivered during each program increment.

Program Increment Planning Execution

After the program increment planning event, the real work begins with the execution of the program increment. During this phase, the agile teams work on delivering the committed program increment objectives and requirements from their respective team backlogs. 

The core execution activities during a program increment include:

  • Daily Standups: Each agile team conducts a brief daily standup meeting to plan their work for the day, identify any blockers or impediments, and discuss progress since the last standup.
  • Iteration Execution: The teams execute their iterations (typically 2-week sprints) to deliver incremental value. They pull work from the top of their prioritized team backlogs.
  • Synchronization: The teams synchronize their work frequently through institutionalized cadences like Scrum of Scrums, PO Sync, Architecture Sync, etc. This ensures cross-team coordination and fast issue resolution.
  • Continuous Integration: The teams integrate and validate their work continuously through automated builds, deployments, and testing processes.
  • Inspect and Adapt: The teams inspect their working software frequently through continuous exploration, system demos, review meetings, etc., and adapt accordingly.

Throughout the program increment, the teams leverage approved engineering and DevOps practices to ensure high-quality, automated delivery. Visibility is maintained through program radiators, dashboards, and other information radiators.

The program increment is a timebox, so the teams have to remain focused on delivering the planned increment objectives by the end of the increment. Any unfinished work is taken into account during the next program increment planning session.

Tools and Artifacts

Program Increment planning involves several key tools and artifacts that are essential for its successful execution. These tools and artifacts help facilitate the planning process, ensure alignment across teams, and provide visibility into the program’s progress.

Program Board

The program board is a physical or virtual board that provides a high-level view of the program increment.

It typically displays the program increment objectives, team backlogs, dependencies, and other relevant information. The program board serves as a central hub for collaboration and coordination among the teams.

Program Kanban for Program Increment Planning

Program Kanban is a visual tool that helps manage the flow of work across the program increment. It provides a visual representation of the work items, their status, and any bottlenecks or blockers. Program Kanban promotes transparency and facilitates continuous improvement by identifying and addressing impediments.

Program Backlog

The program backlog is a prioritized list of features, requirements, and user stories that need to be delivered during the program increment. It serves as a single source of truth for the program’s work and helps align the teams’ efforts toward a common goal.

Team Backlogs

Each team within the Agile Release Train (ART) maintains its team backlog, which is a subset of the program backlog. Team backlogs contain the specific work items that the team will focus on during the program increment.

Burndown Charts for Program Increment Planning

Burndown charts are visual representations of the remaining work over time. They provide a clear picture of the progress made during the program increment and help identify potential risks or issues that may impact the delivery.

Metrics and Reports

Various metrics and reports are used to track and monitor the program increment’s progress. These may include velocity reports, defect trends, and other key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide insights into the program’s health and enable data-driven decision-making.

Collaboration and Communication Tools

Effective collaboration and communication are crucial for program increment planning. Tools like video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software facilitate real-time communication, document sharing, and coordination among the teams and stakeholders.

By leveraging these tools and artifacts, teams can effectively plan, execute, and monitor the program increment, ensuring alignment, transparency, and continuous improvement throughout the process.

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