What is a SAFe PI Planning?

As your company grows, your team expands with it. Managing multiple teams with various duties and responsibilities is challenging; you want to make sure that every team is aligned with the long-term objectives of the company and that you continually re-assess the existing processes. Without a shared vision, it is easy for the company goals and objectives to be watered down. It is important to know what SAFe PI planning is to ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page. 

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Goal of the event

PI (program increment) planning is a time-managed period within the scaled agile framework environment. This period is usually 8 to 12 weeks between each PI meeting. The fixed schedule is closely linked to the goal of the ceremony, which is to define the work that is being done and to continually assess if there are any improvements or changes to be made.

If you are familiar with scrum events, then you should have an idea of how the PI meetings work. However, SAFe PI planning is better suited for larger corporations or those that consist of multiple agile teams. 

The ultimate goal of the PI planning ceremony and meetings is to make sure that all teams are moving forward in the same direction. Traditionally, meetings are called for when there are problems that arise that require solutions to be discussed. This is a risky move, especially when there are different teams in your organization, as they have the tendency to work in silos. There is little to no communication between the different teams. 

PI planning aims to correct that approach. The goal is to periodically establish communication and effectively plan every stage of the progress. Otherwise, the problem could become too big before you find a solution. It is a proactive approach because it identifies risks and mitigates them instead of waiting to address problems as they arise.

goal of the PI planning

Who Attends PI Planning?

All team members, managers, stakeholders, business opener, product managers, and product owners (if any) must attend and be involved in the PI planning sessions. True to its commitment to improving collaboration, all members of the team are involved and can participate in the planning event. In fact, participation is of the highest priority to ensure that all of the essential viewpoints are considered during the planning process. 

For this reason, active participation of the teams is encouraged during each session. Their roles are clearly defined as presenting the vision for the team and the rest of the participants will help in determining how potential blockers are to be addressed. 

Input and Output of PI Planning 

In order for PI planning to be successful, input from team members and participants is required. Here are a few sample inputs: 

  • Business context – An assessment of the organization’s current status and how effective the existing business solutions are at meeting customer and market needs. 
  • Roadmap and vision – The proposed solution for improving existing processes and addressing any issues. 

On the other hand, there are also expected outputs to be derived from the PI planning sessions, such as the following: 

  • Committed PI objectives – This is a clearly defined SMART objective or goal for each agile team.
  • Program board – This will provide detailed information about delivery dates, relevant milestones, and dependencies among teams. 
Input and Output of PI Planning


Developing an agenda is a must in SAFe PI planning. This enables you to keep track of the essential points that should be addressed during the meeting. It also ensures that you stay within the schedule and that you do not spend more than the necessary amount of time discussing each aspect of the agenda.

PI planning events are typically held for two days. Here is an example of the agenda.

Day 1
Business Context-The management informs the Agile Release Train (ART) about the status of the business in relation to the consumer and market needs.
Product Vision or Solution-Managers discuss the business vision for the upcoming PI.
Development Practices/Architecture Vision-Discussion of IT infrastructure improvements
Planning Context-The release train engineer (RTE) communicates the expectations for the meeting and the planning process
Team Breakouts-Teams evaluate the planning board to determine the steps needed to accomplish each task. For remote team members, a digital planning board should be available.
Review of Draft Plan-Teams will present their PI draft plans to obtain feedback
Problem-Solving-If issues are identified, RTE and management devise solutions. It is designed to formulate a new set of priorities that will be discussed on day two.
Day 2
Adjustments-Based on the results of the day one planning, management will communicate any changes in priorities in terms of scope, resources, and team management.
Team Breakouts-The teams will once again regroup to evaluate and assess the new and revised planning boards.
Final Plan Review-Teams will present their new plans and they will be evaluated for risks and dependencies.
Program Risks-The risks that were identified will be discussed to come up with potential solutions.
Confidence Vote-Teams will show their vote of confidence that the PI objectives were accomplished and any known risks were identified and addressed.
Planning Retrospective-The RTE must lead a small retrospective in order to identify key points during the PI planning and suggested improvements for future sessions. 

Why PI planning?

PI planning offers tremendous benefits for large-scale agile organizations. It’s important to dig deeper in order to understand exactly how beneficial it is.

Most large organizations are made up of 200 to 300 teams working on individual projects. These teams are made up of 10,000 developers. In a non-agile environment, these individuals/team members do not communicate on a regular basis, unless a problem arises.

Alignment is typically limited to the top leadership or management level. The distribution of information is handled at a cascading level from the highest tier of management to the employees. As a result, individual teams struggle to get access to resources, opportunities, and budgets within the same organization. This lack of synchronization often means that if one team achieves progress, another is stalled.

PI planning is designed to resolve all of the above issues. All teams need to progress at the same rate and in the same direction. This is the reason why SAFe PI planning is a vital component of modern and agile organizations. It directly impacts three vital areas of an efficient organization: communication, collaboration, and productivity

Manage your program increment with the Program Objectives Tool. Click here for a 30day trial.