How is PI Planning different from Sprint Planning?

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Nov 30, 2022
Updated on
Nov 30, 2022
Table of Content

The concept of Agile software development has been gaining traction in the world of product development over recent years. Agile methodology emphasizes adaptive planning, collaboration between cross-functional teams, continuous delivery, and feedback loops. 

It is an iterative approach that allows teams to deliver high-quality products in a more efficient manner. One important aspect of Agile software development is PI Planning, which stands for program incremental planning. 

PI Planning is a form of Sprint Planning. However, it involves the whole organization rather than just the engineering team. While Sprints are all about short-term goals and activities, PI plans focus on long-term objectives such as providing guidance and alignment across departments. 

In this article, we will be discussing the differences between PI Planning and Sprint Planning in detail.

What Is PI Planning?

PI Planning (also known as Program Increment Planning) is an iterative session used to plan a larger software development project. This activity takes place every 8 to 12 weeks with the aim of ensuring that all teams on an Agile Release Train (ART) are in alignment with a shared mission and vision

PI Planning events are face-to-face meetings organized by ART members from several teams that work together on the same product. These events provide an opportunity for teams to plan, define and commit to the work scheduled during the PI duration which is typically 8 to 12 weeks long. 

During these meetings, team members review product backlogs, discuss which features will add value and create or update their product roadmap as well as identify potential risks or dependencies linked to their projects. 

Moreover, this process helps improve communication between multiple teams and encourages collaboration among them in order to reach a common goal. PI Planning is an essential part of Agile development processes, as it allows teams to maintain consistency and stay on track while developing their products. 

It also provides an effective way to ensure that all teams are working towards the same objectives and are aware of potential risks or dependencies related to their projects. 

Finally, PI Planning helps promote transparency and open communication within teams in order to ensure successful product delivery. 

What Is the Ultimate Goal of the PI Planning Event?

The PI Planning event is structured around the Agile Release Train (ART). The goal of the PI Planning event is to synchronize, collaborate, and align objectives across all teams, from product management to engineering. 

During the planning session, each team in the ART will create its own roadmap for delivering on customer needs within the context of the larger goals for the organization.

The agenda for PI Planning usually follows a set pattern: it begins with an overview of organizational goals, followed by presentations from each team that outlines their strategies and plans. 

Teams then discuss how they can work together to achieve these shared objectives more efficiently and effectively. After this group discussion, teams assess their progress towards creating features that will deliver on customer needs. 

Finally, there is a retrospective session to review lessons learned and takeaways that can be used for the next planning event.

The PI Planning event is an important part of SAFe’s strategy for succesful Agile adoption at scale. It enables teams to align their workflows and communicate effectively across departments, while also helping them focus on delivering customer value. 

Having all teams involved in the same conversation eliminates potential rework or delays due to dependencies between teams not being identified before the start of development. 

The collaborative nature of PI Planning means that each team has visibility into what other teams are working on so that they can identify any common goals or areas where collaboration could be beneficial.

Overall, PI Planning is an essential event for organizations using the SAFe framework. It provides teams with a forum for collaboration and alignment, as well as increased visibility into what each team is working on.

Pi Planning vs. Sprint Planning

PI planning and Sprint Planning are two popular Agile project management activities. Both of these approaches share some similarities; however, they have different goals and uses in the development process.

At a high level, PI Planning is a comprehensive planning exercise that happens at an organizational level and spans multiple Sprints. The purpose of this activity is to ensure business value is delivered with each subsequent Sprint by aligning collective team objectives with delivery goals for the upcoming Sprints. 

During this process, teams will gather key stakeholders from across their organization to define their strategy and roadmap for the next 8–12 weeks. This activity requires extensive collaboration between Product Owners, business analysts, designers, developers, quality assurance engineers, and other groups involved in software development.

Meanwhile, Sprint Planning is a much more detailed and team-level event. Unlike PI Planning which happens at an organizational level, Sprint Planning is focused on the development of a single Sprint. 

This planning activity involves a deep dive into concrete tasks and user stories that are to be completed during the upcoming sprint. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure each team member understands their respective roles in completing the necessary work and meeting delivery goals for that Sprint. 

It is essential for teams to make certain that they have sufficient capacity available throughout each Sprint in order to accommodate any unforeseen changes or problems that may crop up during the course of the Sprint.

Overall, PI Planning and Sprint Planning serve two very distinct purposes within Agile project management. PI Planning helps teams understand the overall vision and roadmap in order to make sure they are delivering business value with every Sprint. 

On the other hand, Sprint Planning focuses on individual tasks and deliverables that will help teams reach their goals for a single Sprint. By combining both of these activities, Product Owners and development teams can work together to ensure the successful delivery of their projects.

It is important to note that these two planning approaches should not be seen as separate entities but rather as an interconnected part of the larger development process. When used together, PI Planning and Sprint Planning can provide valuable insight into what needs to be done in order for teams to achieve success for each Sprint.

As such, it is essential for organizations to understand the differences between these two processes so they can use them in the most effective way possible. By doing so, teams can ensure they are maximizing their efforts and delivering optimal business value with each Sprint.

PI Planning vs. SAFe Planning

SAFe Planning is a more elaborate and interactive process as compared to PI Planning. SAFe demands human interactions and deeper relationships between members which leads to better cooperation later. 

On the other hand, PI Planning results in a plan of iterations, backlog, objectives, and risks for the upcoming PI. The objectives are determined by the Product Owner while the risks are identified by the release train engineer. Although these plans go hand in hand as PI Planning is exhibited in a SAFe environment.

Pi Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide

The main steps in the PI Planning process involve preparing for a PI Planning meeting, preparing for a PI planning meeting, and concluding a Pi planning meeting. This guide will provide step-by-step instructions to help you set up a PI Planning session. 

Preparing for a PI Planning Meeting

Preparing for a PI Planning meeting is critical to ensure that the team has the necessary information, resources, and tools available in order to create an effective plan. The RTE (Release Train Engineer) should ensure that all stakeholders are invited and have been informed of the expectations for their participation. 

The RTE should also coordinate with management teams to define any changes in scope or resources that need to be taken into consideration when creating the plan. 

Additionally, it is important to establish ground rules and norms around how teams will work together during the session and enable digital boards that everyone can access remotely if needed.

Facilitating a PI Planning Meeting

Facilitating a PI Planning meeting starts with setting up the planning boards so that they accurately reflect objectives and constraints established by management. Teams then break out into smaller groups and start brainstorming ideas for how to meet the objectives, taking into account all constraints and dependencies. 

The teams then present their plans back to the RTE who will ensure that all of the plans are consistent with each other and meet the objectives established by management. 

After this is done, a confidence vote is taken so that any risks or areas where there is low confidence can be addressed before moving forward.

Conclusion of a PI Planning Meeting

At the conclusion of a PI Planning meeting, teams should have a clear plan with objectives, milestones, and deliverables listed in detail. 

It is important to review these items one last time before moving on to Post-PI Planning activities such as integrating the results into vision and roadmap documents or setting up demos to showcase what was accomplished during this Sprint. 

Additionally, the RTE should hold a small retrospective to identify areas for improvement and ensure that teams understand the expectations going into the next PI Planning sessions. 

Overall, PI Planning is an effective way of aligning large groups of distributed team members toward achieving a common goal in an Agile environment. By understanding what goes into preparing, facilitating, and concluding a PI Planning session, teams can be better equipped to work together and create successful plans that meet their objectives.

Conclusion

PI Planning is a more comprehensive approach that covers the entire product development cycle. This means that it can be more time-consuming, but it also provides a more complete picture of the project. 

Sprint Planning, on the other hand, focuses on a single Sprint. This makes it more concise and easier to execute, but it can also lead to problems if there are changes or unforeseen issues during the Sprint.

The main objective of PI Planning is to ensure the alignment of stakeholder expectations with the delivery teams' capacity and focus. While it may seem like Sprint Planning, there are several key differences between the two events. 

Hopefully, this article has helped to clear up some confusion around what PI Planning is, its objectives, and how it compares to Sprint Planning. If you need help planning your next PI meeting check out GoRetro

GoRetro provides a space for you to plan every aspect of your sprint, from beginning to end. Capacity Planning for each team member is now clearer and easier than ever with the GoRetro Capacity Planning Dashboard. GoRetro also supports different estimation techniques and various score summarization methods from syncing your backlog management tool with GoRetro. This, combined with GoRetro's deep Jira integration that allows teams to see their velocity, carryover, buffers, and planned-versus-actual trends makes GoRetro's Sprint Planning tools everything your team needs.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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