Product Operations

PI Planning

Contents
What is PI Planning?
Definition of PI Planning
PI Planning sessions intentionally align large development teams towards a shared mission and enhanced mutual understanding by deeply coordinating complex dependencies all using a set of lightweight lean–agile executable planning methods specifically scaled to fully map overarching strategy supporting skills (people), systems (technologies) and processes practices for continuous delivery unlocking maximum customer business value improvements.

Pi Planning, or Program Increment Planning, is a critical component of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) that is used in product management and operations. It is a time-boxed event that provides an opportunity for multiple Agile teams to synchronize their work and align to a shared mission and vision. The term "Pi" is derived from the SAFe concept of a Program Increment, which is typically a time period of 8-12 weeks.

This glossary article will delve into the various aspects of Pi Planning, its importance in product management and operations, how it is conducted, and specific examples of its application. The aim is to provide a comprehensive understanding of Pi Planning and its role in facilitating effective product management and operations.

Definition of Pi Planning

Pi Planning is a strategic process that involves all stakeholders in a SAFe Agile Release Train (ART). The ART is a long-lived team of Agile teams, which, along with other stakeholders, synchronously applies, and where necessary, aligns, to a single shared business objective. The goal of Pi Planning is to align all the teams on the ART to a common mission and vision for the next Program Increment.

This planning process is essential for large-scale agile projects where multiple teams are working together. It ensures that all teams are aligned and have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives for the next increment. This alignment is crucial for the successful delivery of the product or service.

Program Increment (PI)

A Program Increment (PI) is a timebox during which an Agile Release Train (ART) delivers incremental value in the form of working, tested software and systems. PIs are typically 8 - 12 weeks long. The most common pattern for a PI is four development Iterations, followed by one Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration.

A PI is to an Agile Release Train (ART) what an Iteration is to the Agile Team. It provides a development timebox (defaulting to 10 weeks) to limit WIP, provide a fixed time for integration, and create an objective measure of progress.

Importance of Pi Planning in Product Management & Operations

Pi Planning plays a pivotal role in product management and operations. It helps in setting a clear direction for the teams and provides a roadmap for the next increment. This roadmap is essential for the teams to understand what they need to achieve and how they need to work together to deliver the product or service.

Moreover, Pi Planning fosters collaboration and communication among the teams. It provides a platform for the teams to discuss their plans, identify dependencies and risks, and resolve any issues that might hinder their progress. This collaborative approach helps in ensuring that all teams are working towards a common goal and are aligned with the overall vision of the product or service.

Alignment of Teams

One of the key benefits of Pi Planning is the alignment of teams. In large-scale agile projects, there are multiple teams working on different aspects of the product or service. Without proper alignment, these teams might work in silos, leading to inconsistencies and miscommunication. Pi Planning helps in aligning these teams to a common mission and vision, ensuring that they are all working towards the same goal.

During the Pi Planning event, all teams present their plans for the next increment. These plans are then reviewed and discussed by all stakeholders, including other teams. This process helps in identifying any discrepancies or conflicts in the plans and resolving them before the start of the increment. This alignment is crucial for the successful delivery of the product or service.

Collaboration and Communication

Pi Planning also fosters collaboration and communication among the teams. During the planning event, teams get an opportunity to discuss their plans, share their ideas, and seek feedback from other teams and stakeholders. This open communication helps in building a collaborative culture where teams are encouraged to work together and help each other.

Moreover, this collaborative approach helps in identifying dependencies and risks early in the process. Teams can discuss these dependencies and risks and come up with mitigation strategies. This proactive approach helps in preventing any potential issues that might hinder the progress of the teams.

How Pi Planning is Conducted

Pi Planning is a two-day event that is facilitated by the Release Train Engineer (RTE). It involves all the teams on the Agile Release Train (ART), along with other stakeholders such as Product Management, System Architects, and Business Owners. The event is structured in a way that allows for maximum collaboration and alignment among the teams.

The first day of the event starts with a presentation by the Product Management team. They present the vision for the next increment, along with the features that need to be developed. This is followed by team breakout sessions where each team discusses their plans for the next increment. The day ends with a draft plan review where all teams present their plans and receive feedback from other teams and stakeholders.

Day One: Vision and Team Breakouts

The first day of Pi Planning starts with a presentation by the Product Management team. They present the vision for the next increment, outlining the business context, the objectives, and the features that need to be developed. This vision sets the direction for the teams and provides a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved in the next increment.

After the vision presentation, the teams break out into separate sessions to discuss their plans for the next increment. Each team creates a plan that outlines the features they will develop, the dependencies they have with other teams, and the risks they foresee. These plans are then reviewed and discussed within the team to ensure that they are aligned with the overall vision and objectives.

Day Two: Draft Plan Review and Final Plan Review

The second day of Pi Planning starts with a draft plan review. During this session, each team presents their draft plan to all the stakeholders. The stakeholders provide feedback on the plans, and any discrepancies or conflicts are discussed and resolved. This review session helps in ensuring that all teams are aligned and are working towards the same goal.

After the draft plan review, the teams refine their plans based on the feedback received. They then present their final plans during the final plan review session. The final plan includes the features to be developed, the dependencies, the risks, and the mitigation strategies. The final plan is then approved by the Business Owners, marking the end of the Pi Planning event.

Specific Examples of Pi Planning

Let's consider a specific example to understand how Pi Planning is conducted in a real-world scenario. Suppose there is a software development company that is working on a large-scale agile project. The project involves multiple teams working on different aspects of the software. The company conducts Pi Planning to align these teams and ensure that they are all working towards a common goal.

The Product Management team starts the Pi Planning event by presenting the vision for the next increment. They outline the features that need to be developed and the objectives that need to be achieved. The teams then break out into separate sessions to discuss their plans for the next increment. Each team creates a plan that outlines the features they will develop, the dependencies they have with other teams, and the risks they foresee.

Example: Software Development Company

In the software development company example, the teams present their draft plans on the second day of the Pi Planning event. The stakeholders review the plans and provide feedback. Any discrepancies or conflicts in the plans are discussed and resolved. The teams then refine their plans based on the feedback received.

The final plans are presented during the final plan review session. The plans include the features to be developed, the dependencies, the risks, and the mitigation strategies. The Business Owners approve the final plans, marking the end of the Pi Planning event. The teams then start working on their plans, with a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved in the next increment.

Conclusion

Pi Planning is a critical component of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) that plays a pivotal role in product management and operations. It helps in aligning multiple Agile teams to a common mission and vision, fostering collaboration and communication among the teams, and providing a clear roadmap for the next increment. By conducting Pi Planning effectively, organizations can ensure the successful delivery of their products or services.

Whether you are a Product Manager, a Release Train Engineer, or a member of an Agile team, understanding Pi Planning and its importance can help you in effectively managing and delivering large-scale agile projects. So, the next time you are involved in a SAFe Agile Release Train (ART), remember the importance of Pi Planning and how it can help in aligning your teams and ensuring the successful delivery of your product or service.