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What is PI planning in agile?

Last updated

9 July 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Sophia Emifoniye

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Software development often calls for organizations to identify better strategies as they strive to deliver efficient and customer-centric products

Agile methodologies revolutionize the process by emphasizing adaptability, flexibility, and iterative progress. 

Different practices are associated with agile, like PI. Let’s learn more about PI planning in agile and its benefits.

PI planning in agile

PI planning stands for program increment planning. It’s a collaborative, time-boxed event that aims to align multiple agile teams working on a shared product or product line.

It enables different agile teams to meet up and align their work for the upcoming program increment, as agile methodology is an iterative process. 

PI planning aims to: 

  • Establish a shared understanding of the project objectives

  • Identify dependencies

  • Allocate resources

  • Create a roadmap for successful execution

Understanding PI planning allows organizations to leverage their power, streamlining collaboration, achieving alignment, and driving business agility.

What is the importance of PI planning?

Program increment planning is essential in agile for several reasons:

Builds the team's trust

PI planning can help build and reinforce trust in a team. It brings together diverse agile teams, fostering cross-functional communication and collaboration. 

As the teams engage in discussions and share knowledge, they develop an understanding of each other's perspectives and a sense of collective ownership. 

Additionally, it promotes transparency and visibility as the teams share their progress, challenges, and dependencies openly. 

Creating a culture of accountability and openness enables teams to identify and address issues together, allowing faster problem-solving. 

Moreover, teams can work together to establish realistic goals creating a shared plan for the program's increment. 

Boost cross-ART collaboration

PI provides a structured framework for aligning multiple agile teams working on a shared product. 

Representatives from various groups meet to define objectives, prioritize their work, and synchronize activities. This encourages open communication and promotes cross-team collaboration. 

A clear plan enables the teams to identify potential conflicts or dependencies and address them together. PI boosts agile release train (ART) collaboration, resulting in smoother integration, reduced delays, and improved overall productivity and effectiveness.

Complete tasks faster

Promoting collaboration and alignment among teams provides a shared understanding of project objectives. This reduces misunderstandings and enables teams to work faster and more efficiently. 

In addition, breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable increments helps teams focus on delivering specific features within a timeframe. 

The approach allows quicker feedback, adjustments, and course corrections, accelerating the project's timeframe.

PI planning also involves capacity planning, where teams estimate their resources and workload. Balancing workloads and addressing dependencies upfront means teams streamline their efforts, resulting in faster task completion and overall project delivery.

Quick decision-making

In software development and project management, quick decision-making is essential to ensure the swift completion of your project. 

Program increment planning brings together multiple agile groups, ensuring they synchronize their activities. A shared understanding of goals involves aligning various tasks, which is crucial for quick-decision making.

Teams can identify potential roadblocks, assess risks, and allocate resources effectively with a clear roadmap and defined scope of work. 

PI planning supports the iterative nature of agile, empowering teams to adapt and respond swiftly to changes, enabling quicker decision-making in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.

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What are the inputs and outputs of PI planning?

Inputs of PI planning

Several inputs of PI planning in agile make it effective, including:

Vision and strategy

The leadership team usually establishes the organization's overarching vision and strategic direction, providing context for PI planning. 

This guiding principle helps teams align their efforts and prioritize work.

Product backlog

The product backlog comprises prioritized features, user stories, and requirements. 

It serves as an input to PI planning, allowing teams to break down work, estimate effort, and identify dependencies.

Team capacity and availability

Understanding the capacity and availability of agile teams participating in PI planning is crucial for resource allocation and workload balancing.

Stakeholder input

Input from stakeholders, including customers, product owners, and business leaders, provides insights into their expectations, market dynamics, and customer needs. 

This input shapes the planning process and helps prioritize work.

Outputs of PI planning

Certain outputs of PI planning in agile play a key role, including:

PI objectives

PI planning results in clearly defined objectives for the upcoming program increment. 

These objectives serve as measurable goals that guide teams and focus their efforts on delivering value.

Program board

The program board visually represents the plan for the program increment. It includes features, user stories, and milestones, providing a shared understanding of the work and the completion timeline.

Refined and prioritized backlog

Refining and prioritizing the product backlog based on the defined objectives ensures teams clearly understand the work and its priorities.

Dependencies and risks

PI planning uncovers dependencies between teams, workstreams, or external stakeholders

Identifying and addressing these dependencies reduces potential bottlenecks and mitigates risks to successful execution.

Capacity allocation and iteration plan

Teams can allocate their capacity and plan iterations within the program increment, ensuring realistic commitments.

Providing precise inputs and producing tangible outputs facilitates the alignment, coordination, and focus needed to achieve successful outcomes during a program increment.

What are the steps for effective PI planning?

PI planning necessitates preparation, coordination, and communication between several agile teams. To ensure your readiness, sit with various teams to ensure everyone understands the project's goals. 

For effective PI planning, you should consider these core areas:

Organizational readiness

Organizational readiness ensures the organization has the structure, processes, and mindset to support successful planning and execution. 

This encompasses several aspects, including:

Agile culture

The organization should have an environment that allows agile values and principles. 

Furthermore, the culture should encourage collaboration, transparency, and continuous improvement among the agile teams.

Clear roles and responsibilities

You should adequately define and communicate the functions of the personnel involved in the PI planning to ensure clarity and accountability.

Stakeholder engagement

Various stakeholders should prioritize tasks based on customer needs.

Supportive infrastructure

The organization should have the necessary tools, resources, and infrastructure to effectively plan and track progress throughout the program increment.

Cross-functional collaboration

Encouraging cross-functional collaboration and breaking down silos within the organization enables effective communication, knowledge sharing, and problem-solving.

Content preparedness

Content preparedness ensures the readiness of the necessary content before the planning session, allowing the right stakeholders to participate. 

It’s crucial to consider the following stages:

  • The executive briefing defines the context of the current business.

  • The product management prepares a product vision briefing, comprising the top ten features of the program backlog.

  • The architecture vision briefing illustrates new program features, and the CTO or system analyst presents it.

Also, it includes aligning stakeholders on prioritizing features, refining the backlog from feedback and insights, and addressing any outstanding questions or concerns. 

Preparing content beforehand ensures PI planning sessions are more focused, productive, and efficient, enabling teams to plan and align their work collaboratively.

Logistics preparation 

Logistics preparation and accessibility involve ensuring all logistics are in place to facilitate a productive planning session. 

It can include:


This involves securing a suitable venue or arranging a virtual meeting platform to accommodate all participants comfortably. 


This element involves providing necessary tools and resources, such as whiteboards, sticky notes, markers, and digital collaboration tools, to support collaborative discussions and visualizations. 

Communication channels 

These channels ensure all participants, including team members, stakeholders, and product owners, have easy access to the planning session. 

It involves coordinating schedules, communicating clearly about the session's date, time, and duration, and addressing potential conflicts or constraints that may hinder participation.

Carefully preparing the logistics and ensuring accessibility allows organizations to create an environment conducive to effective PI planning. This fosters collaboration and engagement while achieving program increment objectives.

Who should be involved in PI planning?

Including key roles guarantees successful coordination and collaboration in PI planning. 

These are some of the important roles that should participate in PI planning:

Scrum master

It’s crucial to involve scrum masters from each agile team participating in the PI planning. They bring their team's standpoint, offer insights into the team's capacity, and assist in coordinating and guiding talks within the teams they represent.

Scrum masters facilitate PI planning preparation. They help the team: 

  • Estimate their capacity for iterations

  • Finalize team objectives

  • Manage the timing, dependencies, and ambiguities during breakout sessions

Release train engineer (RTE)

The RTE is in charge of coordinating and guiding the PI planning event. 

A release train engineer (RTE), also known as a SAFe® release train engineer, is a servant leader and instructor for the agile release train (ART). 

Their duties include managing, helping, and mentoring teams using lean/agile ideas. 

Product manager

The product manager or product owner (PO) is critical in PI planning. 

They bring the overall product strategy, rank features, and user stories and ensure the planning aligns with it. They also describe needs, respond to inquiries, and direct the teams.

The PO works closely with product management, clients, and other stakeholders to establish how to realize the commercial benefits of the feature. 

The product owner gives the agile team an explanation of these features and also guarantees that the team can develop features progressively by creating user stories. These insights aid the team with narrative estimations and sequencing in a responsible manner. 

Additionally, the PO and agile team collaborate to discuss and define the team's PI goals.


Developers contribute important knowledge about technical viability and suggestions for reasonable effort and time estimates. 

Together with their product owner, they take part in breakout sessions during PI planning to develop and improve user stories and acceptance criteria while modifying the working plan. 

Developers assist with identifying pitfalls and dependencies and helping the team draft and finalize team PI objectives before participating in the team confidence vote.

What to include in a PI planning agenda

An ideal PI planning agenda varies as it relies on a company's goals and teams. 

Still, some of the must-haves in your agenda are:

Set up overall goals and vision

The ultimate goals and vision can aid in determining the tempo of meetings and the path of action: You must communicate the goals and intended results for the program increment to accomplish this. 

The PI planning agenda might include prior accomplishments, goals, and lessons. 

Define the business context

Align the teams' knowledge of the external elements influencing the PI. Everyone should clearly understand the business's ultimate outcome that aligns with its objective and vision. 

This expedites the planning process and provides a focused area to work in.

Outline the RTE process

The RTE explains the anticipated outcomes and the planning process.

Host group breakouts

Divide participants into agile teams. Each team holds a separate breakout meeting to organize their portion of the program increment. 

Teams estimate capacity, review features, pinpoint dependencies, and develop iteration schedules during the breakout session.

The amount of time you devote to these areas is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong, but team members may need help to stay focused if they participate electronically. Provide enough stops throughout the session to preserve their interest and motivation.

PI planning will be increasingly vital in managing complex projects and achieving organizational objectives as agile methodologies evolve. 

Embracing PI planning and implementing best practices allows organizations to harness the power of agile. It’s key to driving innovation and delivering customer value in a dynamic business environment.


What is the difference between PI planning and sprint planning?

PI planning is a higher-level event that aligns multiple teams for a program increment. 

In contrast, sprint planning is a team-specific planning activity within each sprint, focusing on selecting and planning work for a shorter period.

How many sprints are there in PI planning?

The number of sprints can vary depending on the organization and the duration of the program increment. 

The duration of a program increment is typically 8–12 weeks. Within that time frame, you can conduct multiple sprints. 

The number of sprints in PI planning depends on several factors, such as: 

  • The length of the program increment

  • The project's complexity

  • The size of the agile teams

  • The organization's specific agile practices

It’s common to have multiple sprints within a program increment to allow for iterative development, feedback, and incremental value delivery.

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