Quick Tips for Shared Services Teams in SAFe® PI Planning

Jun 11, 2020

How can Shared Services team members—such as security, infrastructure, and end user training—effectively participate in Program Increment (PI) Planning? I’ve developed the following tips over the past 7 years of helping people adopt the The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe). I usually share them online and with colorful handouts.

The PI Planning event enables 5-12 teams on an Agile Release Train (ART) to align, plan, manage dependencies, and commit to what will be delivered in an 8 – 12 week time period. This article covers your rights as a Shared Service representative, your responsibilities, and tips to gain the most from your time at the PI Planning event.


Your Rights Working with an Agile Release Train

  1. Understand the features that the agile teams are working on to achieve outcomes. (Details are available in the agile tool and from discussions with Product Managers and System Architects.)
  2. Understand what’s expected from your team (per iteration) to support those features.
  3. Understand enough about the methods being used to understand what’s on the physical or online wall and how that data relates to your team’s work.
  4. Be honestly informed about progress, wins, risks, and impediments.


Your Responsibilities During PI Planning

All references to Day 1 morning, afternoon, etc. assume a classic 2-day PI Planning session. Globally distributed teams and teams working remotely often spread PI Planning over more calendar days to maximize overlap hours. Check with your Release Train Engineer (RTE) or Solution Train Engineer (STE) for their customized agenda.

  1. Your participation is optional during Day 1’s opening presentations. These presentations set the business and technical context for the work to be done. Plan to attend if you want to better understand the context and priorities.
  2. Your participation is expected during Day 1’s afternoon. The extent of dependencies will influence how much time to spend. Here is your checklist for what to do during this time:
    1. Set up easel sheets or the online equivalent to share your work that affects the Agile Release Train. The amount of info that you need to display and/or collect will influence how you set up your space. See the suggestions in the picture to the right and below this list. Ask the RTE for more guidance, if needed.several teams with little work
    2. Create a sticky note for each piece of work requested by the teams on the train and post it in the correct swim lane and time frame. If it makes more sense to post a list, talk with the RTE.
    3. Create a sticky note for each significant event (e.g., release or decision point) that may affect the work of the agile teams and post it in the correct swim lane and time frame. If it makes more sense to post a list, talk with the RTE.
    4. “Walk the walls” (i.e., visit each team’s wall space) to review and ask questions about what each team is doing and how it relates to your work. Both parties are responsible for ensuring the other knows about upcoming work that will impact them and what is needed to make the whole effort successful. Negotiate time frames and dependencies as necessary and update your wall and program board to reflect the agreements.
    5. Periodically visit the program board, which shows a summarized view of features, milestones, and dependencies. Talk with the RTE about adding a Shared Services swimlane on the program board if one does not already exist. Update the program board accordingly. If you see dependencies posted in the Shared Services swimlane that don’t correspond to work already on your board, then talk with the appropriate team and adjust the board accordingly.
    6. Optional: Stay for the draft plan review (see your agenda for timing) to hear each team’s summarized outcomes. Sometimes the draft plan review reveals additional work for the Shared Services teams.
      Tips - Non-SAFe or Shared Services at PI Planning v4-1Figure 2. Several shared service teams, each with a lot of work, shown by swim lanes across 4 pages (1 per iteration)
  3. Your participation is expected during Day 2’s late morning and early afternoon so you can check in with each team and adjust plans and risks as necessary.
    1. Review the program board for changes that affect your work.
    2. Visit each team’s work area to discover if their updated plans will create, change, or remove your planned work. Share any updates that you have on your work that would affect their plans. Consider risks and discuss them with the team, too. They may need to update their risks.
    3. If your work affects other Shared Services teams, discuss dependencies with them and adjust your plans.
    4. Adjust your data on the program board and your wall based on the above.
    5. If you see additional risks, discuss them with the RTE if your area does not have a risk board.
  4. Your participation is expected on Day 2’s afternoon so you can hear the final plans, ask remaining questions, and participate in the confidence vote and PI Planning retrospective. Those activites are another opportunity to improve everyone’s success and collaboration.
Written by Kathy Marshak , SAFe Fellow, SPCT, IC Agile certified EBA Trainer


Kathy Marshak is a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Fellow and Agile Transformation Coach and instructor with ICON. For more than 20 years, she has helped clients improve how they deliver value to customers and stakeholders through the adoption and sustainment of lean and agile values, principles, and practices. She works with C-suites, leaders of teams of teams, and team members to guide the cultural changes required to make a new way of working stick. Kathy became a certified SAFe Fellow in 2019, an immense achievement. She became a SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) in 2012 and achieved the SPC Trainer (SPCT) certification in 2014.