PI (Program Increment) Planning is the key event in encouraging true agile behavior in SAFe®. It is a whole team event where the whole program – the set of smaller agile teams working closely together as a single team-of-teams – come together in a big room (hence it is often referred to as Big Room Planning) to agree a plan for the next 8 – 12 weeks. The goal of the event is to create alignment, encourage collaboration, enable self-organization, eliminate waste and exploit the synergy between the teams. It is the beating heart of Agile Release Train (ART) and any SAFe® implementation. SAFe identifies a number of prerequisites which include:
- Context and planning scope — is the scope (product, system, technology domain) of the planning process understood?
- Do we know which teams need to plan together? Business alignment – Is there reasonable agreement on priorities among the Business Owners?
- Agile teams — do we have agile teams? Are there dedicated developer and an identified Scrum Master and Planning scope and Product Owner for the team?
Why do you need PI Planning?
PI planning helps establish face-to-face communication among all team members and stakeholders; aligns development with business goals regarding the business context, vision, and team and program PI objectives; identifies dependencies; fosters cross-team and cross-ART collaboration; and, overall, helps companies be more productive.
“We started doing PI planning because we wanted everybody within the team to understand what all of the others were doing. At the moment, we’re doing it mainly on the product development level, but we’re planning to make it company-wide at some point, so the OKR system exists for the whole value stream,” says Torben.
Here is a great video about PI Planning :
Scrum of Scrums
The Release Train Engineer (RTE) typically facilitates a weekly (or more frequently, as needed) Scrum of Scrums (SoS) meeting. The SoS helps coordinate the dependencies of the ARTs and provides visibility into progress and impediments. The RTE, Scrum Masters, and others (where appropriate) meet to review their progress toward milestones, program PI objectives, and internal dependencies among the teams. The meeting is time boxed for less than 30 minutes and is followed by a ‘meet after’ to solve any problems.
Product Owner Sync
The PO Sync is the content-focused equal of the Scrum of Scrums. It is a practice performed even in smaller organizations working on the same platform. The purpose of the PO Sync is to ensure alignment of the product vision and work-related content across all involved teams.
Release Management Meetings
Release Management meetings are generally held on a weekly basis to discuss on-going work on releases and maintenance branches. Discussion is also carried out between meetings on mailing lists.
The System Demo is a significant event that provides an integrated view of new Features for the most recent Iteration delivered by all the teams in the Agile Release Train (ART). Each demo gives ART stakeholders an objective measure of development during a Program Increment (PI).
Prepare for the Next PI Planning Event
In reality, preparing for the upcoming PI is a continuous process, with three primary focus areas: Management system and organizational readiness for planning Backlog readiness the actual logistics for the event—facility readiness since any one of these can interfere with the potential outcome—a specific and committed PI plan—careful consideration of all three factors is necessary.
Inspect and Adapt
The Inspect and Adapt (I&A) is a significant event, held at the end of each Program Increment (PI), where the current state of the Solution is demonstrated and evaluated by the train. Teams then reflect and identify development backlog products via a structured, problem-solving workshop.
Solution Train PI Execution
The Large Solution Level has additional important activities and events, which bring a similar focus to the progress of the solution and are described next. Pre- and Post-PI Planning
Pre- and Post-PI Planning
Pre– and Post–Program Increment (PI) Planning events are used to prepare for, and follow up after, PI Planning for Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Suppliers in a Solution Train. Program Increment (PI) planning is the critical, cadence-based synchronization point for every ART. For Solution Trains, however, there are two additional activities: pre- and post-PI planning. They coordinate and support the various ARTs involved in the Solution Train. Planning at this higher level helps align Solution development as a whole and provides direction and visibility into where the trains are going to the next PI.
Solution Increment and Solution Demo
During the PI time box, the ARTs build multiple gain of value, which grow into solution Capabilities. The new capabilities must be designed, developed, tested, and validated holistically, along with the existing capabilities of the system. The solution demo is a critical side of the PI learning cycle. This high-profile event allows large solution stakeholders, Customers, and senior management to view the progress that the solution has made during the past PI.
At this event, the Solution Train demos its efforts for the entire PI. Senior managers and stakeholders review the progress in the broader solution context. It may also inform decisions about whether to AXIS or persevere with capabilities, as well as changes to Lean Budgets for the various Value Streams.
Solution Train Inspect and Adapt
At the end of the PI, an additional I&A workshop may be required for the large solution level. It follows the same format as the program level I&A. Due to the number of people involved, attendees at the Solution Train I&A cannot include all stakeholders from the ARTs, so the best-suited representatives are selected to address that context. This includes the primary stakeholders of the Solution Train, as well as representatives from the various suppliers and ARTs.
In the grand scheme of today’s development world, teams are becoming more and more distributed. While many of the team members may be onsite and can attend the PI Planning meeting, there may be entire teams that cannot. For SAFe to evolve, consideration and thought will need to be given to how best to include the valuable input of these remote teams.
As online tools emerge, business owners and RTEs need to think outside the box and plan how to coordinate and train teams to use these tools for collaboration. The more teams use the tools on a day-to-day basis, the easier it will be to use them for big events such as PI Planning and other iteration meetings and ceremonies. Even teams working within the same building can benefit from having a digital source of information and a single source of truth within the organization for answers to questions. It can also serve to allow team members to know their stakeholders and product managers so that the right people can answer the right questions at the right time.
Teams that rise to this challenge will have the largest pool of skills and talent for their team members and the greatest chance of success in this fast-paced market.
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