As Agilists, we aim to build the right thing at the right time. Program Increment (PI) Objectives ensure we cooperatively build just enough of the right thing
No matter the methodology or framework, the dance between development teams and business is the same. The business requests something; teams interpret the business request; teams deliver; business (and customer) reacts positively or not.
What PI Objectives are not:
- A checklist of tasks
- A list of features or stories
- Work on a Scrum or Kanban board
What PI Objectives are:
- Short, clearly articulate statements of intended outcomes
- Business or technical in nature
- Rolled up summaries of multiple features to be delivered in the PI
Teams agree to meet these objectives instead of specific stories. After completing each story, a team should ask, “Have we met the objective (i.e., can we stop work now and deliver this objective?) This subtle delineation enables a faster release of genuine value with a short time box.
Developing PI Objectives
Before we begin work during an iteration, the stakeholders, business owners, product managers, and the agile teams discuss potential future PI objectives. Which stories are ready to be worked? Do the stories help the organization achieve the intent of the solution? During PI Planning, the discussion continues. Stories are thoughtfully placed on each of the PI’s iteration boards. Once the PI’s iteration boards are ready, the team crafts their Team PI objective(s). eams group many stories and features under a few PI objectives. As the business owners assign business value to the Team PI objective(s), the business owner and product manager describe the strategy and context of the business intent. The team uses this crucial information as they work toward delivering the PI objective. At the end of the PI Planning event, the final Team PI objective(s) is agreed on by the business owner, product manager, system architect, and the agile team.
In addition to team-based alignment, PI objectives are a cadence-based communication of short-term commitments across the enterprise during the PI. (A Program Increment is often five iterations in length. Iterations are usually two weeks each.) After the PI Planning event, each Release Train Engineer (RTE) summarizes their agile teams’ Team PI objectives into (ART) Program PI objectives. If there is a solution layer reporting, each Solution Train Engineer (STE) summarizes their ARTs’ Program PI objectives into Solution PI objectives. The result is verifiable and meaningful intent for the outcome of the PI seen from different perspectives. It keeps every layer on track without slowing down other layers. These short-term (PI) commitments validate the current PI roadmaps and feed verifiable data into future PI roadmap plans.
PI Objectives make it easy to measure the value delivered by your organization. At the team layer, objectives focus agile team delivery on business intent instead of small tasks that lose sight of the big picture. Focusing on business intent enables the faster release of genuine value with a short timebox along with the ability to measure that value. Another benefit of defining PI Objectives is the ability to create roadmaps and forecasts at every layer of the SAFe enterprise, ART, Solution, and Portfolio. PI Objectives can easily be overlooked, but when applied, they can provide your enterprise with some useful and actionable information.