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We're moving to SAFe in my company, and I have trouble understanding the differences. I'm certified in Scrum (CSM/CSPO), but don't know much about SAFe, and I don't really see much of a difference between the SAFe Innovation & Planning's planning part vs. the Scrum Sprint Planning. What's the difference? Tried Googling but it seems like they're the same, however in our team we're doing both I&P with scoring user stories and whatnot, but also have Sprint planning where we also (re-)score USs. I have a feeling we're doing something wrong.

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In Scrum, the Sprint Planning occurs at the start of every Sprint. In most implementations of Scaled Scrum, the Sprint Planning is synchronized among the teams and often has a shared component where the teams align their plans for the upcoming Sprint. In SAFe, this activity is represented by Iteration Planning on the team level.

SAFe's Innovation and Planning Iteration doesn't have a corresponding event in Scrum. The Innovation and Planning Iteration occurs once per Program Increment. In Scrum, every Sprint (iteration) is intended to produce a potentially releasable product. However, the Innovation and Planning Iteration is a buffer period for improving tooling and infrastructure, continuing education and cross-training or skill building, formal verification and validation activities, user acceptance testing, other release-related activities, and Program Increment Planning. It has a different type of work than other Iterations.

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Before one move into a scaled agile framework (SAFe, LeSS, or any other) everyone in the process must be 110% clear on why the movement.

The key about scaling the process is, as others already said, about doing the same process a normal team would do, but this time at another level. I've been working with Programs with 300+ engineers, so in this case a scaled framework is a must. Like a team of 7 engineers would do a planning, refine and agree with PO what can be delivered for the next 2 weeks, the "same" happens when you have 700 engineers... but the "same" in this case is... well, not exactly the same.

Back to the original question: "I don't see much of a difference between the SAFe Innovation & Planning's planning part vs. the Scrum Sprint Planning."

There's a series of artefacts that are a result of a PI planning that are not common on a Scrum Sprint Planning. Your mileage may vary, but a few key aspects I've observed to be fundamental to a proper PI Planning are:

Business Stakeholders active Participation

In comparison to a normal Scrum Sprint Planning, the business is represented by the PO. In the case of the PI planning, it's highly recommended to have the project and program sponsors actively participating, asking questions and, towards the end of the PI planning, to assign a business value to these features.

Visualisation of cross team dependencies

The visualisation of cross team dependencies, as others already mentioned, is almost inexistent on teams using pure Scrum. On scaled frameworks, it's (unfortunately) common to have cross team dependencies. They should be highlighted, risks identified and mitigations agreed between parts prior to the actual Sprint Planning. If team A depends on something from team B and team B cannot commit to help team A, then maybe team A may need to review their priorities or look for alternatives.

There's a lot of push on having such sessions with everyone on the same physical locations, although in Covid19 times that's not the case. That's how a normal physical dependency board looks like (this board is available for everyone at all times and teams go picking items from the backlog and assigning them accordingly, highlighting dependencies and risks):

enter image description here

Confidence vote

Also, towards the end of the PI planning, every engineer is asked about how confident they are about the committed (and uncommitted) work for the next PI. If the confidence is low, stakeholders and sponsors might have an opportunity on-spot to clarify questions, dependencies and open room for identifying problems that, in a normal model, sponsors would take weeks or months to realise.


This is how a PI planning agenda look like:

enter image description here


More details about the PI Planning in SAFe are available in https://www.scaledagileframework.com/pi-planning/

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The Innovation&Planning in SAFe is effectively an activity consisting of two parts: the first is a classical inspect & adapt exercise, much similar to a Scrum's Retrospective. The second part is the planning exercise, when the next Program Increment (PI) is committed by all teams.

The difference with a Sprint Planning is that in Scrum it refers to one single team and one single iteration. SAFe instead is addressing how to scale Agile with multiple teams.

In SAFe all teams join the PI planning and it spans multiple iterations, typically three or four: the teams are presented with the vision for the Increment (what is the business target) and the requirements are split among the teams based on their area, then each team breaks out and plan its own iterations and details the assigned requirements into own User Stories.

This team's break out can be a classical Scrum Sprint planning (SAFe is agnostic about the Team methodology) but multiplied for all iterations. No need to have a separate Sprint Planning after the PI planning.

And after each team has prepared its own plans for all next iterations, they are reviewed with all other teams to find and solve/plan dependencies; finally each team is fine tuning the sprints plans/backlogs based on this review.

We are talking here about many teams. If a project is split among less than five teams, it does not make much sense to use SAFe. Coordination could be achieved by using e.g. Scrum of Scrums

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