“Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” – Socrates
Over thousands of years, scientists & architects around the world, have been bewildered trying to understand how the great pyramids of Egypt were erected. The key lay in some extraordinary planning, known only to a few chief architects, who at that time, were one of the most important members of the king’s inner circle and responsible for all the royal work carried out. Although everyone knew ‘who’ built the pyramid, the million-dollar question was, ‘how’ did the chief architect of the pyramid communicate his precision planning techniques to a workforce of around 10,000 men?
I know what you are thinking next, but yes, I am going to use this analogy to relate the chief architect of a Pyramid to an SPC (SAFe Program consultant). This analogy for me is relevant, since much like the architects who built the pyramids, the SPCs have an important task, of not only designing & charting out plans to take an enterprise on its path of efficiently scaling Agile but also to ensure, that they clearly communicate the plan to the very last scrum team involved in day-to-day product delivery. So, if you want to be an architect who wants to build a pyramid in your kingdom, oops, sorry got a bit carried away; I meant, if you are willing to become an SPC, who wants to implement SAFe in your Enterprise, then this blog is definitely for you, so please do read on.
‘With the demand for Certified SAFe® professionals continuing to grow at an accelerated rate—especially among Global 2000 enterprises—the value of an SPC certification is greater now than ever before.’ – Scaledagile.com
SAFe Program consultants are lean agile change agents who provide knowledge, share experience and pump in that extra horsepower needed to implement change. They are very much the first point of contact for the executives, when the organization reaches the so-called tipping point, running too many programs, hundreds of delivery teams and pretty much a chaotic situation. SPCs work on this rationale for a significant change. Most importantly, SPCs are empowered to officially train people on the SAFe Framework which has an obvious multiplier effect on organizational competitiveness by increasing productivity, quality, and time-to-market.
There is also a strong return on investment for these trainings, especially if you are an internal change agent. At the end of the day, a SAFe Program Consultant helps increase employee engagement and fosters continuous learning while helping enterprises achieve better outcomes. Yep, that’s what they do. Amazing, isn’t it?
SPCs in their role should also be looking to address some of the gaps in other frameworks, like the below:
By now I am sure, we all would agree that an SPC is a true servant leader who plays a crucial role in SAFe implementation, by applying the latest expert knowledge. They can correlate to existing enterprise (lean agile) ways of working and help the transformation team to identify the sweet spots to start the SAFe transformation. In order to achieve this, SPCs generally would have a very lean focus area, as shown below.
As an SPC, you would be expected to be committed to helping people understand and implement SAFe properly and that too in a servant leadership manner. Many enterprise coaches have mentioned that SAFe isn't the only scaling approach that they work with, but a lot of people say (more often than others) that they do want to implement SAFe but want to keep to the true spirit of Agile and that probably is a key thing to keep in mind for any aspiring SPC candidate.
Well, if I have to be brutally honest, you actually don’t need any specific certification in order to become an agile coach at an enterprise level. However, this only works out if you are well recognised within your organization, as a person who values agile practices and SAFe principles and has the key ability, to contribute to the enterprise level scaling initiatives. For everyone else (at least 90% of us) there is an SPC (SAFe Program Consultant) certification. This course is intended for all those who will be materially and directly involved in a SAFe adoption. This includes practitioners, change agents, and consultants responsible for implementing Agile programs and portfolios as part of an enterprise Lean-Agile change initiative.
SPC certification definitely gives you an edge over the competition, as SAFe is pretty popular and in some cases, leads the way to adopt and professionalize aspects of scaling agile. SPC certification holds a lot of market value. It will also give you a deep dive into the SAFe implementation roadmap and its nitty gritty concepts. You will learn all about implementing SAFe in organizations at an enterprise level and how you can support this process in the capacity of consultant or internal change agent.
For e.g. a major concern that is raised against SAFe is the incorrect usage of the IP iteration. Rather than taking a break and finding ways to improve productivity, these iterations are more or less used as a Hardening sprint. Where an effective SPC will come into the picture, is when he/she coaches the team to take this time to do some design thinking, create prototypes to communicate about their business ideas (in most cases, the teams are the ones who know the problems much better as they are closer to it), present them to product VP and get them funded for next planning cycle. You see the difference straight away, don’t you? These are some important things that an SPC needs to be empowered to take up. So if you are a senior agilist in your organization, instead of cribbing about some of the anti-patterns, why don’t you empower yourself by taking an SPC certification? Food for thought, eh?
Given that SPC is an advanced level certification, its mandatory to go through the Implementing SAFe course, details of which can be read through in the following link.
This is a 4-day training program, typically a classroom training but given the pandemic situation, a remote training mode (an online course with many practical tools) has been adopted and that too quite successfully. The hours are approximately 6 hours per day and may be extended to an extra course day. Please do expect some detailed case studies (success stories), some pre-reading/ video viewing material sent in advance so that you are better prepared (along with mock tests where applicable). Most of the trainers have quickly transitioned to online courses and they do a great job. Things have managed to move on faster than I thought and its only for the larger good.
However, there are some pre-requisites for taking up the certification, as below:
There is also the money factor, yes training & exam costs. For SPC, you may need to spend a min of $3000 (some training academies may offer a discounted price, so please do watch out for that) and then you have to pay $800+ per annum (yes, that is correct!) towards renewal costs. This can take a toll on quite a few but believe me there are many organizations willing to bear these costs for their employees as they understand its importance.
Here are some tips which you might be interested in, on how to prepare yourself for the SPC exam. Most of the SPC aspirants have applied these tips/tricks and have provided positive feedback that this actually works.
Make sure that you take an effort to sincerely relate it to the enterprise where you are working. Jot down a name in front of each role listed in the big picture and then map it to the relevant functions.
Whilst you are getting prepared to immerse yourself into the workshop or the exam, also please spend some time on understanding who is going to give you the training. It’s a sound advice, especially to those planning to register to an Implementing SAFe class to become SPCs – please do ask around and make sure you verify your SPCT knows his/her Scrum and Kanban properly. This can be done by checking if they have also obtained related scrum/Kanban specific certifications etc.
‘Once trained, SPCs have the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to educate and train managers, teams, and the other stakeholders necessary to effectively drive the change. They become a critical part of the sufficiently powerful coalition for the changes needed to drive the next critical move’ - © Scaled Agile, Inc.
I think this in itself is a very powerful motivation which can be used to reap further benefits.
As you can see, you clearly can’t ignore the enormous benefits of becoming a SAFe Program Consultant. Given that this certification is a formal recognition world over, it helps in supporting you advance in your professional development and for a few of you an SPC certification may as well be an important prerequisite to even apply for certain assignments. Taking up international assignments will only become that much easier. Since SAFe is so prevalent, an SPC certification will open up huge opportunities. A great SPC would be the one who can guide an organization to balance business agility with predictability; both of which are extremely important to the typical enterprise-scale technology organization.
Thanks for your patience and wish you all the very best in your Agile journey. In case you want me to write about any specific topic, please feel free to comment below and I’ll be more than happy to add them to my ‘Blog Backlog’. If you liked the article, please do share it in your agile community to help spread the word.
Hope to see you soon, with more such interesting topics.
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