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What Is PI Planning in Agile?

An Agile release train (ART) is a group of multiple Agile teams all working towards the same goal. ARTs include all the teams required to implement, test, and release software or products.

But what is PI in Agile? A program increment (PI) is a timebox in which an ART delivers incremental value in the form of working software or systems. PIs are to ARTs what sprints are to Scrum teams or iterations to Agile teams.  

So what is Agile PI planning? Program increment planning is a face-to-face meeting of all the teams working in an Agile release train. The PI planning event is used to discuss the product roadmap, decide on features, and identify dependencies within the teams. It allows everyone to work together to find solutions for potential roadblocks before they happen. In the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), PI planning is essential to stay true to the core values of alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution.

At the end of PI planning, each team should have clear, well-defined objectives for the next program increment, including a list of features, milestones, and delivery dates.

Who attends PI planning?

The event is facilitated by the Agile release train engineer (RTE), who is responsible for ensuring the teams in the Agile release train work well together. Also in attendance are the Agile teams, business owners, product managers, and other stakeholders.

PI planning is an opportunity to build trust in Agile teams, which is essential in an Agile release train. ARTs are designed to move as one towards a shared vision, and PI planning enables seamless cross-functional collaboration. This, in turn, helps team members to design, execute, and deploy features and solutions faster. 

Further reading
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How to Use Agile Teamwork to Optimize Collaboration

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The Ultimate Guide to Story Mapping Tools

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How to Use a Single Gantt Chart for Multiple Projects

What happens at a PI planning event?

PI planning typically happens over two days. It has a standard agenda that includes a presentation of the business context and vision followed by team planning breakouts, during which teams define their objectives for the next program increment. 

At the end of the first day of planning, each team presents a draft of their plans. The drafts are analyzed for risks and dependencies, and the teams work together to find solutions for these problems.

During the second day of PI planning, the drafts are finalized and presented to the business owners. Teams state the risks that could impact their ability to meet their objectives, and each risk is discussed by the ART and put into one of the following categories:

  • Resolved: The teams agree that this risk is no longer a concern
  • Owned: A team member takes ownership of the risk
  • Accepted: The teams accept the risk as a fact of the process
  • Mitigated: The teams identify a plan to reduce the impact of the risk

At the end of the session, each team conducts a ‘fist of five’ vote of confidence in meeting their objectives. If the average is three fingers or above, the team commits to achieving the goal. Any team member who votes with two fingers or fewer is given a chance to voice their concerns, which may add to the list of risks and lead to re-planning. 

Once each team has voted, the entire ART votes on their confidence in the collective plan. After the planning event, the RTE summarizes the objectives and uses them to track progress towards goals.

So, what is PI planning Agile? A PI planning session brings together multiple Agile teams to decide on their goals for the next program increment. It facilitates cross-functional collaboration and helps teams reach their objectives.