What’s the difference between a Sprint, Iteration, and Increment?

Sprint, Iteration, and Increment are time boxes used to ensure aligned cadence and synchronization.

Sprint and Iteration

Sprint and iteration are essentially the same things. Scrum teams use the term “Sprint” while Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) teams use “iteration.” The standard duration for each is two weeks. However, on rare occasions, the work context may make

Durations should be set and remain in place without continual disruption. A Sprint (or iteration) is just long enough to be able to complete (develop and test) stories while short enough to pivot quickly. The ability to pivot or preserve quickly is key to agility. The two-week time box culminates with a system demo of new features in the staging environment, ready for release.

Program Increment

In a scaled agile environment, a Program Increment (PI) is a timebox that ensures synchronization between all teams (and stakeholders) in the program or portfolio. The recommended PI length is five iterations. A typical pattern is four working iterations and one Innovation & Planning (IP) iteration. A PI is just long enough to deliver a working (built and tested) increment of value in the staging environment, ready for release.

PI Planning

The PI Planning event is essential to the Scaled Agile Framework. During the PI’s last iteration, everyone gathers to synchronize, discuss, and align to the shared vision, business context, architecture guidance, UX guidelines, dependencies and constraints, risks, and the roadmap. The PI objectives for the upcoming PI are discussed, agreed to, and broadcast.

By synchronizing the program or portfolio on a regular cadence, the enterprise reduces deviations that add no genuine value to save precious time. The enterprise ensures that the broader team is working on the right thing at the right time at that point in time. More importantly, the PI Planning event builds the social network necessary to enable decentralized decision making for inevitable future challenges. The Program Increment culminates with a demo of new integrated features in a staging environment to a larger audience (per its configuration).