PI Planning SAFe – A Complete Guide to Preparing and Running a Successful Agile Event

PI Planning, or (PI for Planning Interval), is a major event in the SAFe framework, playing a crucial role in aligning teams and stakeholders around a shared mission and vision.

This ceremony, which can take place face-to-face or in hybrid mode, is essential to ensure the successful implementation of SAFe. As an RTE(Release Train Engineer) or Scrum Master (Team Coach after SAFe 6.0), organizing PI Planning is a major challenge, but crucial to the project’s success.

This article aims to provide you with proven strategies and useful tips for preparing your PI Planning effectivelywhether face-to-face or remote/hybrid. At the end of the article, you’ll also find
an Excel toolbox
Excel toolbox to assist you in every key stage of preparation.

PI Planning is a periodic event, usually organized quarterly, bringing together members of the Agile Release Train (ART) in SAFe. The objective is to plan the activities and goals for the next planning interval, a development period of 8 to 12 weeks. During this phase, teams work together to achieve tangible, meaningful results.

What are the objectives of PI Planning?

Strategic Alignment: Ensure a common understanding and commitment among all ART teams to the company’s vision and strategic objectives. What’s more, PI Planning facilitates effective communication and inter-team collaboration, essential for achieving collective efficiency.

Feature Planning:Establish a clear plan for the development and delivery of features over the next PI (Planning Interval), in line with customer needs and corporate objectives.

Inter-team Dependency Management: proactively identify and address dependencies between teams to prevent blockages and delays in the delivery process.

Risk Management: Anticipate, assess and plan the management of potential risks to improve the organization’s preparedness and responsiveness to the unexpected.

These objectives highlight the crucial role of PI Planning in the efficient and harmonious execution of projects within a SAFe environment, while reinforcing the culture of agility and collaboration within organizations.

pexels pavel danilyuk 8761307 1 PI Planning SAFe - A Complete Guide to Preparing and Running a Successful Agile Event

PI Planning inputs

Effective PI Planning in SAFe 6.0 requires specific inputs to guide discussion and planning:

  1. Business Context: Summary of the business context and market factors influencing ART’s strategy and priorities.
  2. Architectural Vision: Details of the proposed system architecture, including technological innovations and necessary adaptations.

  3. Epics/Features Prepared: A list of epics and features that have been refined (Backlog Refinement) and are ready (Definition of Ready – DOR) to be addressed during PI Planning.

PI Planning outputs

The results of well-conducted PI Planning are key indicators of ART alignment and readiness:

  1. PI Goals: SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) objectives created by each team, with a business value assigned by the Business Owners.

  2. PI ART Board: A board representing the commitment of teams to specific sprints for feature delivery, illustrating dependencies between teams and important milestones.

  3. PI Risks: Identification and management of potential risks to the Increment program, enabling proactive anticipation and preparation for future challenges.

These inputs and outputs form the framework for productive PI Planning, ensuring effective coordination and alignment of all ART teams on common objectives.

Who should be invited to PI Planning?

The success of PI Planning within the SAFe framework depends heavily on the presence and commitment of various key roles within the Agile Release Train (ART).

The Release Train Engineer (RTE ) is responsible for inviting these essential participants, each playing a unique role and contributing to the planning and execution of the Program Increment. Here is an overview of the key participants and their importance:

For SAFe implementation at Essential level :

  • Product Owner : Responsible for prioritizing features and user stories. Their role is crucial in ensuring that development is aligned with end-users’ needs. visit our article dedicated to the Product Owner.
  • Scrum Master : Acts as a facilitator for Scrum teams, helping to overcome obstacles and optimize processes. Find out more about this role in our article on the Scrum Master.
  • Developer: Plays a key role in the technical realization of features and contributes to capacity and resource planning.
  • Product Manager: Provides a global vision of the product and ensures that plans are aligned with the company’s long-term objectives. our article on the Product Manager.
  • Customers or Representatives: Bring an outside perspective and help validate that plans meet market expectations.
  • Business Owners : Provide a business and strategic perspective, essential for prioritizing initiatives. Read more in our article on Business Owners.
  • System Architect/Engineer: Ensures that technical solutions are viable and aligned with the overall system architecture. our article on the System Architect/Engineer.

For a “Large Solution” SAFe implementation :

  • Solution Manager : Oversees the development of complex solutions, coordinating efforts between different teams.
  • Solution Architect/Engineer: Responsible for large-scale architecture and technical consistency across the Solution Train.
  • Solution Train Engineer: Facilitates PI Planning at solution level, ensuring that the various ARTs work in synergy.

For SAFe implementation at the “Portfolio” level :

  • Epic Owners: Manage major initiatives or ‘Epics’, ensuring their alignment with corporate strategies.
  • Enterprise Architects: Provide an enterprise-wide architectural vision, ensuring strategic alignment of technology initiatives.

It’s important to quickly draw up a list of participants for PI Planning and confirm their attendance, as this will influence logistics, equipment requirements, catering and the size of the venue for the event. An example of a table for managing participants is provided in the Excel file at the end of this article.

Illustration: Full SAFe 6.0 Framework Poster - Agile Implementation at Scale

Which agenda for your PI Planning?

PI Planning is a crucial two-day event. Although SAFe offers a standard agenda, it’s often a good idea to adapt it to your ART’s specific needs.

Below you’ll find SAFe’s standard agenda, as well as an explanation of the content of each of the meetings that make up this seminar.

PI Planning SAFe agenda mis a jour version 6.0 PI Planning SAFe - A Complete Guide to Preparing and Running a Successful Agile Event
PI Planning standard and recommended by SAFe 6.0

Program for the first day of PI Planning

  • Business Context”: A session where Business Owners or Managers present the company’s current state and position in the market, highlighting the key issues that ART must address.
  • Product/Solution Vision: Product Managers present the current vision of the product or solution, highlighting key upcoming features and milestones.
  • “Architecture Vision”: The System Architect or Engineer presents the architectural vision, offering an opportunity to introduce development practices such as DevOps and automated testing, essential for the next IP.
  • Planning Context” by RTE: RTE explains the agenda and expected results of PI Planning, setting the scene for the working sessions.
  • “Team Breakouts”: Two teamwork sessions where each group estimates its capacity for each iteration and identifies the key elements of backlogs for future Sprints.
  • Plan Review: A time for teams to present the results of Team Breakouts, discussing capacity, IP objectives, and potential risks.
  • “Management Review and Problem-Solving”: A session to resolve challenges raised during the “Plan Review”, involving discussions on plan adjustments and problem-solving.

Program for the second day of PI Planning

  • Planning Adjustments”: The day begins with a presentation of the changes brought about by the previous day’s negotiations.
  • ART PI Risks: Teams develop and discuss potential risks for the next PI. Find out in this comprehensive article how to manage your risks with the ROAM Matrix for your SAFe train.
  • Confidence Vote: RTE organizes a vote of confidence, which is essential to assess the teams’ confidence in achieving the objectives of the IP.
  • “Plan Rework”: If required, plans can be reworked to ensure a high level of confidence.
  • Planning Retrospective & Moving Forward”: A retrospective to gather feedback and improve the organization of future PI Planning.

Example of a PI Planning Agenda adapted to the context of my current ART

Below is an example of the PI Planning Agenda that I’m currently applying to the Agile Release Train for which I’m the RTE. We’ve adapted the PI Planning agenda template to our needs by merging a few meetings.

In my current role as Release Train Engineer (RTE), I have observed that the specific needs of my Agile Release Train (ART) require a slightly different approach to the standard SAFe agenda. For example, we found it beneficial to have three Team Breakout sessions instead of the usual two during the PI planning. This adaptation has led to a reduction in the duration of other sessions, such as the one dedicated to the “Vision of Architecture”. It’ s essential to remain flexible and adjust the agenda to best meet the specific needs and expectations of your teams.

Finally, it is important that the PI Planning agenda is clearly communicated and shared with all participants before the ceremony begins. To make this process easier, we’ve provided a PI Planning agenda template in Excel format, which you can download free of charge at the end of this article. This model is designed to be easily modified, allowing you to adapt it to the specific requirements of your ART.

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Which online tools should you choose for your remote PI Planning?

With the spread of teleworking and teams spread over several sites or countries, PI Planning often requires a hybrid or fully online approach. Whether to facilitate collaboration between teams that are not co-located, or to meet the needs of a flexible working environment, the choice of online tools becomes crucial to the success of these events.

In this article, I will focus on the two main tools that will make your online PI Planning easier:

A board Miro For your PI Planning

Miro, already well known for its effective use in online Scrum retrospectives, is proving to be a valuable tool for online PI Plannings. Its user-friendliness and extensive functionality make it ideal for collaborative planning sessions.

Find on
this link to a free Miro template for your PI Planning Board.

Miro's advantages for your PI Online planning :

Miro's disadvantages:

template miro pi planning safe en ligne PI Planning SAFe - A Complete Guide to Preparing and Running a Successful Agile Event
Click on the image to use the PI Planning Board online at Miro

Virtual picture iObeya to make your PIP easier

iObeya stands out for its visual management capabilities adapted to the needs of large groups and complex configurations, with the possibility of creating multiple panels to facilitate and organize each stage of your online SAFe PI Planning.

Why choose iObeya for PI Planning?

iObeya's limitations

iobeya template pi planning a distance PI Planning SAFe - A Complete Guide to Preparing and Running a Successful Agile Event
PI Remote Planning on iObeya

How to organize PI Planning in physics?

What location and spatial organization should be chosen for a PI Planning in physics?

The choice of venue is a key factor in the success of face-to-face PI Planning. It’s important to select a room that can accommodate all participants comfortably. Here are some recommendations for optimizing spatial organization:

  • Team layout: Choose a layout where the teams with the most interdependencies are close to each other. This facilitates communication and collaboration during work sessions.

  • Plenary and teamwork areas: Divide the space into two distinct areas – one for plenary sessions and another for small-group work. The plenary area with ART PI Board and overhead projector is used for global presentations.
pi planning cloison anti bruit equipes PI Planning SAFe - A Complete Guide to Preparing and Running a Successful Agile Event
  • Noise Management in Large PI Schedules: In PI Schedules with a large number of participants, noise control is crucial to ensure effective communication. The use of acoustic partitions can be useful, but in groups of over 50 people, it’s often preferable to divide teams into different meeting rooms for work sessions (“Teams Breakouts”). This arrangement significantly reduces ambient noise, improving team concentration.

  • Noise management in Multi-Site or Hybrid PI Schedules: For PI Schedules that include telecommuting teams or teams spread over several sites, separating the teams into individual rooms is also advisable. This method facilitates the integration of remote team members into discussions, thanks to remote connections. This ensures more seamless and integrated collaboration, enabling all participants, whether on-site or remote, to contribute fully.

  • Effective signage: Make sure that room layouts and access routes are clearly indicated to facilitate the movement of participants between different areas, as well as their arrival at the PI Planning venue.

lieu pi planning safe en physique PI Planning SAFe - A Complete Guide to Preparing and Running a Successful Agile Event
Example of an access map for a PI Planning session

What equipment is needed for PI Planning in physics?

Having organized more than twentyPI Plannings as Scrum Master and RTE of an Agile Release Train SAFe, I have developed a list of the essential equipment to ensure the success of these events.

This list, designed to be adaptable to different configurations, has been specially refined for sessions involving up to 5 teams and 60 people spread over 3 Sprints of 4 weeks.

tableau fourniture papeterie necessaire PI Planning PI Planning SAFe - A Complete Guide to Preparing and Running a Successful Agile Event
List of supplies needed for PI Planning. download the Excel file to get all the links!

Download the Excel toolbox to help you prepare your PI Planning

This Excel file contains the perfect kit for preparing your PI Planning :

  • Agenda Day 1 and Day 2 of the PIP.
  • table of event participants.
  • List of supplies needed for a PIP in physics.
  • An example of a table containing rooms and practical information to help you find your way around a PIP in physics.
  • A final table containing links to the tools used during an online PIP.

FAQ : PI Planning SAFe

PI planning is a SAFe framework ceremony that requires a certain amount of preparation. The ceremony lasts 2 days and brings together around 50 people for workshops and meetings. This makes it possible to plan the work to be delivered over the next few Sprints.

What’s more, this meeting is “standardized” by SAFe and has a standard agenda that you can reuse or adapt to your own context.

For the preparation of this meeting we must distinguish 2 possible cases:

  • Or you can carry out this PI planning in physics. and this means reserving a large meeting room. As well as stationery and other necessary materials.
  • Or PI Planning takes place remotely. So you’ll need to choose the right online tools to facilitate this event.

A typical PI Planning session takes place over two days and follows a structured agenda to maximize collaboration and alignment between teams. Here are the key steps:

  1. Opening and Background: Day one begins with presentations to establish the business context, product vision and architectural vision. These presentations provide teams with the information they need to plan effectively.

  2. Team Planning Sessions: Teams then meet to discuss and plan their work for the next Program Increment. They identify the functionalities to be developed, the inter-team dependencies and set SMART objectives.

  3. Plan review and adjustment: Teams present their plans and receive feedback. If there are problems or concerns, plans are adjusted accordingly.

  4. Vote of Confidence and Closing: At the end of the second day, a vote of confidence is held to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the commitments made. Finally, PI Planning ends with a retrospective and the setting of next steps.

This process ensures that all ART teams are aligned on the same objectives and clearly understand their responsibilities for the next increment.

Details of each stage of the PI Planning process can be found in the PI Planning agenda section of this article.

SAFe, or Scaled Agile Framework, is a comprehensive methodological framework for applying agility on a large scale. It integrates multiple elements to facilitate the coordinated work of several agile teams, while preserving their individual agility. Here are the key SAFe components:

  1. Roles: SAFe defines specific roles for the efficient operation of teams at program, portfolio and corporate level.

  2. Ceremonies: The framework includes structured ceremonies, such as PI Planning, which coordinate the efforts of agile teams.

  3. Artifacts: SAFe uses various artifacts to ensure alignment and tracking, such as program and portfolio backlogs.

  4. Lean-Agile principles: combines Lean and Agile principles to optimize value delivery and product quality.

  5. Architecture and Technical Design: SAFe emphasizes architecture and design practices that support flexibility and scalability.

  6. Lean Portfolio Management: Management of development initiatives aligned with business objectives.

  7. Culture and Leadership: Foster a culture of enlightened leadership focused on autonomy, innovation and continuous improvement.

For more information, the official SAFe for Lean Enterprises definition is an essential resource. In addition, the “SAFe from Zero to Hero” training course on Udemy is an excellent option for an in-depth understanding of SAFe, with over 1,400 participants giving positive reviews.

In SAFe 6.0, the term “PI”, which previously stood for “Program Increment”, has been redefined to mean “Planning Interval”. Here are the key details:

  1. Planning Interval :

    • The Planning Interval is a fixed period, usually 8 to 12 weeks, during which an Agile Release Train (ART) focuses on delivering incremental value.
    • This concept emphasizes continuous planning and execution, providing a time frame for team alignment, collaboration, and the delivery of concrete results.
    • Planning Interval helps synchronize team efforts, encouraging an iterative, incremental approach to achieving defined objectives.
  2. PI Planning :

    • The Planning PI is an event that marks the start of each Planning Interval. This is an intensive planning session where ART members come together to align their efforts and plan the work for the upcoming Planning Interval.
    • It plays a crucial role in ensuring that all ART teams understand the vision, objectives, priorities and dependencies for the next planning interval.

In short, the Planning Interval in SAFe 6.0 is the development cycle, while PI Planning is the planning event that initiates and structures this cycle.

The organization of PI Planning is typically the responsibility of the Release Train Engineer (RTE) within the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). RTE acts as facilitator and coordinator for the event, ensuring that all necessary aspects are taken into account. Here are the key responsibilities of the RTE in the organization of PI Planning:

  1. Event planning: RTE plans the event in terms of logistics, agenda and participants. This includes reserving space, organizing the necessary resources and coordinating schedules.

  2. Content preparation: Prior to PI Planning, the RTE works with Product Managers, Product Owners and System Architects to prepare presentations on the business context, product vision and architectural vision.

  3. Event Facilitation: During PI Planning, the RTE facilitates sessions, helps resolve issues and ensures that the agenda is followed. Their role is crucial in keeping the event on track and ensuring that objectives are met.

  4. Post-event follow-up: After PI Planning, RTE helps to finalize plans, resolve remaining issues and ensure that teams are ready to start Planning Interval.

RTE therefore plays a central role in the success of PI Planning, ensuring effective coordination and fluid communication between all the parties involved.

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Ahmed BEN SALEM

Ahmed BEN SALEM

Strongly involved in Agile methodologies, I have held the roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner and Release Train Engineer for SAFe, Scrum and DevOps projects. My approach focuses on people and stakeholder collaboration, creating environments conducive to innovation and performance.

Since 2016, I have successfully led several Agile software development projects for companies of all sizes, including Odigo, Orange and PSA. My solid experience in Agile methodologies, in particular Scrum and SAFe, has enabled me to work with multicultural teams from countries such as the USA, India, Vietnam and Morocco.

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