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Drive your Agile teams in SAFe through PI objectives

PI Objective is a commonly used buzzword in the SAFe world. However, in many companies, the way it is defined and implemented is not as per SAFe guidelines. This also creates redundancy as these objectives are already covered in Features in the planning sessions.

But when implemented in the right way, PI objectives serve as an amazing tool. In this article, we are going to unearth the what and why of the PI objective. We will start with its meaning, and importance and will share how to write great PI objectives for your team. 

What are PI Objectives?

Pi objectives are short for Program Increment Objectives, and they are the brief of technical goals as well as business goals that the Agile Team or the Agile Release Train intends to achieve by end of the Program Increment (PI). 

These objectives summarize the goals of the Agile team or ART. During the planning, the team comes up with PI Objectives. They are the summarized goals of all the stories/features/enablers that the team planned during this PI.

There are two types of PI objectives:

Committed Objectives: These are the objectives that the team is confident in completing in the given program increment. They are out as committed objectives by a vote of confidence by the whole team.

Uncommitted Objectives: These are regarded as “nice to have” objectives. They are part of the capacity of the team; the team plans them as part of the PI, however, they are not sure whether they will be able to achieve these objectives or not, hence they keep these objectives as uncommitted objectives. 

Why are PI Objectives required?

Here are the reasons for having them.

  1. They are the summarized goals for the team to achieve by the Program Increment. Let’s assume that an Agile Team plans for 15 stories per iteration. In 6-iteration PI, the team would have planned for 75 stories (for 5 iterations, excluding IP iteration). Likewise, there are 10 agile teams in an ART. This means, there are approximately 750 stories planned. How will the Business owner understand what each team will build in this PI? Hence, summarizing 75 stories into 5-6 team-level PI objectives will help the leaders understand what the team will accomplish by this Program Increment (PI).
  2. By defining the objectives for the PI for each team, each team has a goal to achieve. Hence the team march towards achieving each one of them during the PI execution. This drives the culture of ownership and accountability.
  3. It provides a common language to communicate with business stakeholders and technology stakeholders.
  4. It brings a near-term focus to achieving the goals for the next 1 PI (2-3 months)
  5. It enables the ART to measure its performance of predictability through the business value of the PI objectives achieved.
  6. PI Objectives also bring dependencies between the teams that require some level of coordination. It connects teams together to deliver a common objective.

How to write your PI objectives?

A lot of work goes into the planning session and if you have all the PI objectives written in the correct way, they will serve their purpose on point. So below are some of the steps that can be used to have effective PI objectives for your team:

Number of objectives per PI per team

There is no fixed rule on the number of PI objectives for a team, however, the common guideline is to have 7 to 10 PI objectives per team. For example, a team that has 70-80 user stories planned per PI probably can have 7 to 10 objectives per PI.

There are certain questions that should be asked while writing the PI objectives:

  • What are those goals and what is the need to achieve those goals in the team?
  • How are you planning to attain those goals with your team?

What all can be PI objectives for a team?

  1. Typically, teams write features as PI objectives. Features can be objectives; however, they need not be only features.
  2. At times, the same feature is delivered by multiple teams, in such cases, both teams can have the same PI objective.
  3. PI objectives are not only business objectives, they can also be technical objectives, for example, proof of concept, an enhancement to development infrastructure, etc.
  4. It can be initiatives like automation goals like code coverage increase, increase in test coverage, etc.
  5. It can also be milestones that need to be achieved by this PI
Program Backlog

Let PI Objectives be SMART

Now that you have a great understanding of what is needed to write PI objectives, it is time to write that down in statements so that everyone can understand them. Make sure that these are both technical and business goals. The information should be clear and precise. To make it better, you can use the SMART rule mentioned below:

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Let’s go over each one.

Specific: It should be simple, concise, and as explicit as possible. One tip is to start the objective with an action verb.

Measurable: It should be clear what a team needs to do to achieve the objective. Measures can be either YES or NO, measured quantitatively, or provide a range. At the end of PI, the business owner should be able to measure how much of the objective is met.

Achievable: The objective should be within the team’s influence or control. The team should be able to achieve the objective.

Realistic: It’s important to recognize the factors that cannot be controlled outside the team. 

Time-bound: The objective should be achieved by this PI. It cannot span across PIs.

Assign Business Value

The PI objectives are now written but one major thing that is missing is the business values that they will possess. This is the task of business owners to assign the business value for each PI objective, during the PI planning session. This is typically done during the Team Breakout 2 session, before the final plan review on Day 2.

The value ranges from 1-10, 10 being the highest. These numbers are not relative, they are the absolute number given by the Business Owner. 

The Business value is given in front of the team, so the team understands the intent behind the business value given for each objective. This is one way of bringing business agility to the technical team.

These values will serve as the priority for the team to deliver them. These PI Objectives give transparency and visibility to the entire ART and it takes each team to work towards the shared mission/goal. 

Considerations to have while giving business value

When the Business Owner assigns the business value, he/she can consider the following parameters.

  1. Commercial Value: What new/existing revenue that this objective can bring?
  2. Market Value: How is it different from other competing products/services? What new opportunities that it can bring to expand the market opportunities?
  3. Regulatory Value: What fine, revenue loss, or damage will happen if this objective is not delivered?
  4. Efficiency Value: Does it reduce the operating cost? Does it bring down the technical debt? Does it bring any improvement in the pipeline?
  5. Future Value: Can it help realize a future value – for example, enablers, Proof of Concepts (POCs), research spikes, etc

This will help BO to provide the right business value on a scale of 1 to 10.

Why Business Value for PI Objectives?

Business Value is given during the PI planning. At the end of PI, Business Owners look at what each team has achieved in terms of their committed objectives and provide the actual business value achieved in this PI for each objective.

This will help measure the predictability of the team as well as the program based on business value achieved. A safe guideline is to have 80-100% predictability based on the business value of committed business objectives.

Program predictability is measured at the end of PI and it is published to the ART like the picture depicted below.

program predictability measure

ART-level Objectives:

All the team objectives are consolidated into Program level / ART level objectives as given in the below picture.

PI Objectives
Summing up

In the given article, we have learned all about PI objectives and with the steps provided above, you will be able to write effective PI objectives for your team. 

If you are also someone who is interested in learning more about SAFe and its practices and want to learn more about pi objectives examples, then the best way of doing so is by having trained for SAFe Certification. 

There are many great platforms where you can have these certifications. With Leanwisdom, you are going to find the best professionals at your aid. They are industry experts and with their guidance, not only you will have clear theoretical knowledge but have hands-on practical knowledge too. So choose a great career path with Leanwisdom now.

Furthermore, we are going to share the best platform for your SAFe Agile Training so that you can have a smooth career in this field.