PI Planning or Program Increment Planning can be said to be the heartbeat of the Agile Release Train(ART). Even more precisely, it sets the tracks for the train to ensure that all rail cars(scrum teams that are a part of ART) travel in the same direction. It is similar to Iteration planning in crum. It is an extension of Iteration planning under a bigger umbrella i.e ART.
PI Planning sessions are regularly scheduled activities held during the year where various teams within the same Agile Release Train (ART) collaborate to agree with a common vision, discuss functionality, prepare the roadmap and define cross-team dependencies. It's a fixed timebox for planning , designing, and validating a complete system, showing value, and having quick feedback.
When you first follow SAFe, chances are, it will start with PI Planning. This is because it forms the basis for the Scaled Agile FrameworkTM. The PI Planning ceremony is the foundation of your transformation and the driver for SAFe. We will take a deep dive into PI planning in detail in this article and understand its importance in SAFe.
Before understanding SAFe ,let’s first understand what Scrum is. Scrum is an iterative product creation approach focusing on a regular production cadence. It relies on cross-functional teams, a set of ceremonies, and certain specific supporting roles to help drive these deliveries.
SAFe is an extension of Scrum at the larger organizational level. SAFe or the Scaled Agile FrameworkTM is a set of principles and strategies designed to help deliver resilience to all departments and levels of the organization. The system is designed to enhance visibility, coordination and cooperation which will result in improved efficiency , better outcomes and faster delivery.
PI Planning is particularly useful for agile companies of large scale. Let 's look at some figures, to understand the effect. Some bigger companies , for example, may have 300-400 teams and 5,000 developers. These teams may never have spoken to each other before, in the old way of working until a crucial issue forced them to collaborate.
Previously, coordination would have been at the level of the leadership team, and they would have had several levels of managers in between who would trickle down details, but the people on the teams would never speak to each other. There would always be a constant struggle to work on the biggest projects for money, budget, and opportunities.
Projects had a habit of overlapping - one team would release something which would then break something in the project of another team. PI Preparation is the first time that many of these very large businesses have joined their teams in a space or on the same call to speak to each other. They are given the opportunity to nut out those crucial talks about who is working on what. When you enter a code or a code repository, you need to know how it can affect another team. You may also need to do some work to allow another team to work first (and vice versa) on their feature.
An ART (agile release train) is a shared objective accomplished by the soul of the different teams that work together. In very large companies, there can be three trains working together, and that is the reason why the teams need to step back every eight to 12 weeks and make sure that they continue to work towards the overall vision and company goals.
Here’s what PI Planning enforces:
As a result, teams can more easily get work done, deliver more updates in less time, and remain on budget.
1) Preparation: It will cover the prerequisites for successful PI.
Setting the agenda is very important and should be mapped out at the outset. Motivational speakers should be called in, who can take time to remember the successes of the last PI. Always provide some time for introductions through ice breaking games. It is important that the teams get to know each other, so that they can work well together. All these can be helpful in work teambuilding and bringing a social aspect to the case.
Here is an example of an agenda from ScaledAgileFramework.com. It outlines the critical steps for a successful case.
Day 2 Agenda
Program Risks-All teams listed their risks and dependencies in the preceding phase. Now that all the goals are written, the teams will tackle each risk in turn and decide whether they can be resolved. The risks fall into one of below categories:
|8:00am - 9:00am||Business context|
|9:00am - 10:30am||Product/solution vision|
|10:30am - 11:30am||Architecture vision & development practice|
|11:30am - 1:00pm||Planning context & lunch|
|1:00pm - 4:00pm||Team breakouts|
|4:00pm - 5:00pm||Draft plan review|
|5:00pm - 6:00pm||Management review & problem solving|
|8:00am - 9:00am||Planning adjustment|
|9:00am - 11:00am||Team breakouts|
|11:00am - 1:00pm||Final plan review & lunch|
|1:00pm - 2:00pm||Program risks|
|2:00pm -2:15pm||Confidence vote|
|2:15pm - X:XXPM||Plan rework (if needed)|
|When ready||Planning retrospective & moving forword|
This plan may be ideal for you or you can change it according to the needs of your team. Distributed teams, very large ARTs, and other factors can require the schedule to be modified in a creative way. You will find some sessions require more time, while others may need to be shortened. If it's your first PI Planning experience, try the regular agenda, get input from your team and play with different formats.
PI Output- The output which comes out from PI planning is as follows :
Planning for PI offers many business advantages including:
Many businesses think that the correct period of time for an increment is 8-12 weeks (which adds up to 4-6 x 2-week iterations).
Some firms keep PI Planning quarterly, for example:
But timing and duration depend on how long each phase of the program is planned to last. The positive thing about PI Organizing activities is that they happen regularly on a set timetable, so you can plan well in advance for them. That means there is plenty of notice from teams and business owners to ensure they can turn up for the case.
Since the two-day PI Preparation case obviously is just not enough, pre-planning events may be required. These exist for a very good purpose -to make sure the ART is synchronized before PI Preparation is carried out within the wider Solution Train. It's all about synchronizing with the other ARTs to ensure that the answer moves in the right direction, along with the organization. What normally happens is that key people from the Solution Train, along with members from the ARTs and related suppliers get together. Here are some of the people you'll find at such an organizing event :
They'll look at the top Project Backlog, Project Goal, Vision, and Solution Roadmap capabilities. It's a lot like PI Preparation, but at a higher level, through the solution as a whole and not just the individual work. The event begins with each ART summing up its previous increment and achievements in order to set the context. A senior executive would then brief the attendees on the current situation before Project Management addresses the new vision of the project and any improvements from what had previously been discussed.
The Agile Manifesto says, "A face-to - face interaction is the most effective and efficient method of conveying information to and within a development team."
Keeping the members of the remote team involved and focused on the planning tasks can be challenging indeed. A range of video conference services are available on the market that allow teams not only to carry out video conferencing with individual members, but also to interact with local teams with cameras. Everyone can see and communicate with one another in the same way as if they were all seated in a conference room together.
Applications like Zoom / Web ex / Google Meet /Microsoft Team offer video conferencing facilities for teams and can be used for group sessions for PI preparation. Remote participants can be asked to keep their cameras on so they can be seen.
Within the grand scale of today's development environment, teams are often divided across geographies. Team members who are going to be on-the-spot can attend the PI meeting in person, but entire groups might not be ready to participate from the same location. Remote teams should be able to collaborate and give their feedback, in order for SAFe to develop.
In such cases, RTEs and company owners need to think outside the box as online technologies evolve. They must prepare to organize and train teams to use these technology resources for effective collaboration.
The more frequently the teams use the tools, the simpler it'll be to use them for major events like PI Preparation and alternative iteration conferences and ceremonies. For answers to questions, often teams operating within the same building will profit from providing a remote source of knowledge and a common source of truth within the organization. It can also help to encourage team members to know their stakeholders and product managers, so that at the right time the right people can answer the right questions.
Teams who are able to meet this challenge will benefit from the largest pool of skills and expertise, and can get set to reap the highest chance of success in this fast-paced industry.
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