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Best Practices and Tips for Effective SAFe PI Planning

When it comes to scaling Agile across enterprises, the Scaled Agile Framework is the widely followed framework. Of course, as you know, Kanban and Scrum are also Agile Frameworks that have proven themselves to be effective at team level scaling. But, the good thing about SAFe is that it endeavors to fill the gap at the scaled level of Agile. It is where more than a single or two teams associate to work on the same outcomes, objectives and products. 

Scaled Agile Framework explains what should happen at every level of the organization to ensure that scaled Agile is successful. As against other frameworks, the good thing about this framework is that it goes way beyond the team level to include even stakeholders. The thought here is that if an organization follows SAFe framework, it will achieve better alignment across teams and visibility of work. In turn, the organization can achieve more predictable business outcomes. This is something gaining importance as the atmosphere for businesses continues to change and customers start to expect more features to be delivered that too at a faster pace. Here, the traditional waterfall approaches fail to help organizations as they are inefficient and slow.

When it comes to large-scale organizations with thousands of developers, they cannot upkeep with the innovation of smaller startup organizations. Not only bigger teams, large-scale enterprises generally follow strict guidelines when it comes to compliance and governance. In turn, agility will be harder for these businesses. For these bigger organizations, it can take around three to four years to launch a fresh feature. In turn, there will be a delay in customer delivery.

In addition, they generally face difficulties with organizing and managing their Development teams. Again, this will make them face difficulties with launching projects on time. They should make a change to quicken things up so that they can reduce the probability of budget blowouts and can make the best use of the resources available. To survive in the competitive market, these organizations look for ways to bring people into products and introduce more effective working ways. 

SAFe is the best option available for these bigger organizations to start moving into the Agile Direction. Here, PI Planning or Program Increment Planning can be of great help to them.

PI Planning in SAFe:

PI Planning is a crucial part of SAFe. It is a procedure that associates representatives from every team for aiding them to work together. It also helps them decide on top features to work on the next, spot reliabilities and make a plan for the next PI. In turn, there will be better visibility across the teams. Also, it results in teams working with each other and not against one another and even it helps with making frequent changes. From thereon, these bigger organizations can quicken up their processes and can work more efficiently, rival with fresh and more spry organizations so that they can stay visible. When it comes to achieving organizational agility, PI Planning and SAFe can be effective tools. Not only bigger organizations but smaller companies can also do their version of PI Planning with an Agile team on the role.

How Can Your Business Benefit from PI Planning?

If your business follows the Scaled Agile Framework, you can get effective PI Planning tips here. Nevertheless, before getting into the details about the PI Planning best practices, it would be good to understand how PI Planning can benefit your business:

It will help with developing face-to-face communication across all stakeholders and team members. Also, it will bring other benefits to your business as listed below:

  • It will quicken decision making
  • PI Planning will help with the elimination of excess work in progress by matching demand to capacity
  • It will build the social network that the Agile Release Trains can rely on.
  • You will get the opportunity to use the right level of architecture
  • It will aid with aligning development to business goals with the business context including team and program objectives and vision.
  • Spotting dependencies and fostering cross-Art and cross-team collaboration.

To achieve all these benefits, you will naturally be interested in gaining some PI Planning tips to move forward with Program Increment planning. 

Tips for PI Planning:
Know the Inputs and Outputs:

Here are the inputs required for successful PI Planning:

  • Proper roadmap and vision
  • Content Readiness
  • Program backlog 

Now, with your knowledge of inputs, you should be aware of the outputs you can expect from successful PI Planning:

  • Program Board: This board will highlight the dates when the new features will be delivered to customers. Further, it will talk about feature dependencies among teams. You can get to know about the appropriate milestones as well from the program board that you get as an outcome from PI Planning.
  • Committed PI Objectives: Further, as a result of PI Planning, you will get to see committed PI objectives. It will be a set of SMART objectives that each team in your organization creates with the value of the business assigned by the owners of your business.
Remember the Uniqueness of Every ART Member:

When it comes to Program Increment planning in SAFe, it is a face-to-face and cadence-based event. When it comes to Agile Release Trains, PI stands as the heartbeat. It helps with aligning all teams on the Agile Release Trains to a shared vision and mission. PI Planning is an essential part of SAFe and if you do not do PI, it means that you are not doing Scaled Agile Framework. So, one of the best PI Planning best practices is to remember that each member of the ART is a different human being. But, one thing you should assume here is that every person in the ART has good intentions.

It is better to start with the attitude that no person is trying to take over. Not even a single person thinks that the other person is not productive or important. So, if one of the members is overlooked or forgotten or not included in the planning, he/she should think that it was not done with any intentions. When every person in the team thinks of himself to be more productive and the best, he/she will be in a position to feel better.

Follow Shu Ha Ri:

As you are looking for PI Planning tips, it is better to remember the Japanese concept called Shu Ha Ri. This concept for learning when applied to Scaled Agile Framework denotes that initially, you should follow the guidelines completely before you get used to them. It is good to make some adjustments to the technique only after you get used to the guidelines entirely. To achieve continuous improvement, you will have to finally make innovations in your practices.

Let us consider that your teams have performed PI Planning quite a few times now. It is time to make adjustments to a few things so that you can identify what makes the most sense within the context of your organization. So, when you are engaged in PI planning, ensure that everyone in the team follows everything step-by-step initially.

Prepare:

One of the PI planning best practices is to prepare, communicate and coordinate. Release Train Engineers can facilitate these things and event attendees including Agile team members, product management and business owners can do. Also, all other people involves like stakeholders, the system team and solution engineers/architects should be notified in advance to stay well prepared. When business owners participate, they will be in a position to give an assurance on the budget.

When preparing for the PI Planning event, you should focus on three key areas. They are:

  • Readiness of your organization: It involves strategic alignment of all teams and the set up of trains.
  • Readiness of content: It includes preparedness for management and development content.
  • Readiness of Logistics: It involves logistics required for successfully conducting the planning event.
Choose the Right Time:

One of the PI Planning best practices is to choose the planning event schedule at a time that suits all participants. Your teams might be operating from different countries or cities. Particularly, when operating from different countries at different time zones, a time, where all of them can join can be hard to agree upon. When talking about the time, the ideal duration for the best PI Planning event is no more than six hours a day. Only then, you can keep the teams active and engaged all through the planning session.

Avoid Surprises:

As you look for useful PI planning tips, it is important to remember one thing. There should not be any surprises to people participating in the planning event. In other words, it is better to stay careful when planning communication, making sure that the stakeholders have complete knowledge on how to perform their appropriate functions well before.

Conclusion:

PI Planning is SAFe is something that should be done with the utmost care and compassion. You can follow the above-mentioned PI planning best practices, to make the PI planning event successful.

References
  1. https://sprint0.com/five-tips-for-an-effective-pi-planning-event/
  2. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/pi-planning/
  3. https://www.adaptavist.com/blog/pragmatic-tips-for-safe-pi-planning-part-2-processes
  4. https://www.adaptavist.com/blog/pragmatic-recommendations-for-safe-pi-planning-part-1-people

Author

Paula

Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.