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Designing Shared-Services Teams in SAFe®️ with Service Trains

Shared services teams always pose peculiar challenges to successful Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️) implementations. The nature of their work which is mostly determined by the requests from the other Agile teams on the framework often leads to priority mismanagement, political conflicts and uncontrolled chaos in the system. One of the major issue organizations face is to deal with multiple shared services team under one ART or a solution train.In this article, we present an approach called “Service Train” to facilitate that scenario. Also, this article will help you in managing  the shared service teams in SAFe®️ with service trains.How to design shared services in SAFe®️ with service trainsSAFe®️ aims to scale-up the agility of multiple teams by aligning them to Agile Release Trains (ART), Solution Trains and Portfolios. Multiple teams deliver in cadence, the results committed to, at various layers viz., Team, Program, Solution and Portfolio. (Refer to the SAFe®️ site  for more information)                                                                                         Scaled Agile Framework (Source: scaledagileframework.com)Tips for shared services Design in SAFe®️ with service trainsThings get trickier when multiple Agile teams started using service trains in SAFe®️ at shared services and Team request the services to the shared services teams. SAFe®️recommends the operation of the shared services of teams at the ART level but it gets difficult to facilitate them when those teams tend to grow big in numbers.The simple idea of having all of them at the program level leads to chaos and confusion at times. For example- imagine a team of 30 people trying to help the other teams out. Moreover, when the members of those teams are not generalists, then organizing them by skills would get problematic too.One workable solution to this problem is to organize all the shared-services teams into a “Service Train” which is similar to the ART but acts as a service pipeline to one or more ARTs. It spreads across multiple ARTs and Solution Trains providing requested services. The teams on this service train may be Scrum or Kanban teams adhering to the SAFe®️ principles and implementing its practices.While implementing shared service teams in SAFe®️ with service trains, the service teams run their usual cadences (recommended to sync with the ART cadences) and they deliver services to the ARTs continuously on demand. The ART delivery pipelines tie up these deliverables to their own during the continuous integration activities and deliver solutions to the Stakeholders.The service train differs from an ART in the following ways:The PI's on the service trains are optional. The teams may opt for sprint to sprint ( Or cadence to cadence ) planning on the Service train. In such cases, all the teams plan the sprints/cadences together.There may not be a dedicated “Train Engineer”. The role could be rotating or replaced by a team of facilitators.The backlogs of the service teams are generated by the requests of the teams on the ART.The metrics on the train are in the context of the metrics of corresponding ARTs.Their program board may be linked to one or more program boards of the ARTs.The service trains come in as valuable constructs as:They eliminate the chaos-generating out of having too many service team members at the program levelCross-functional teams may be formed around dedicated service areas, so the Agile teams know where to place the requestsThe trains can deliver services to multiple ARTs at the same time - in other words, they are not constrained by the ARTs (Or the Solution trains)However, there are a few things to watch out for:1. Some traditional leaders may use this as an opportunity to impose the “Matrix Structure” on the teams and misuse this design as a way to break cross-functional teams.2. There is a scope of the service teams getting siloed, resulting in poor collaboration3. The service train may become a bottleneck to the ARTs, if it doesn’t run slightly ahead of their schedules.Skills needed for Shared servicesThe team members of Shared services need to grasps the following type of specialized skills:Agile and Software/Systems Engineering CoachesApplication/web portal managementConfiguration managementData modeling, data engineering, and database supportDesktop supportEnd-user trainingEnterprise architectureInformation architectureInfrastructure and tools managementInternationalization and localization supportIT Service Management and deployment operationsSecurity specialist (InfoSec)System QA and exploratory testingTechnical WritersRoles and Responsibilities in Shared servicesThe shared services employees handle the following roles and responsibilities.Participates more actively in Program Increment (PI) planning and pre- and post-PI planning as well.Managing the requirements wherever needed, adding to the backlog and taking ownership of that particular task.Collaborating with the Agile teams to achieve the Program Increment execution dependencies.Actively taking part in the Inspect and Adapt(I&A) workshops, System demos, and Solution demos when any improvement backlog items show challenges with the availability of specialized skills and dependencies on the team.  Generally, the team members of Shared services choose to work as a single team. In such case, the team members iterate on the same cadence because the Agile Release Train (ARTs) work like any other Agile team.ConclusionAgile teams need the support of either sustained or transitional specialty expertise. The staff of Shared services might become a part of an Agile team for the shorter duration. During this period, the staff of Shared services not only experience the Agile dynamic but also understands the speed of the development and the quality of the product. It also allows a knowledge transfer decreasing a dependency on specialized skills.
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Designing Shared-Services Teams in SAFe®️ with Service Trains

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Designing Shared-Services Teams in SAFe®️ with Service Trains

Shared services teams always pose peculiar challenges to successful Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️) implementations. The nature of their work which is mostly determined by the requests from the other Agile teams on the framework often leads to priority mismanagement, political conflicts and uncontrolled chaos in the system. One of the major issue organizations face is to deal with multiple shared services team under one ART or a solution train.

In this article, we present an approach called “Service Train” to facilitate that scenario. Also, this article will help you in managing  the shared service teams in SAFe®️ with service trains.

How to design shared services in SAFe®️ with service trains

SAFe®️ aims to scale-up the agility of multiple teams by aligning them to Agile Release Trains (ART), Solution Trains and Portfolios. Multiple teams deliver in cadence, the results committed to, at various layers viz., Team, Program, Solution and Portfolio. (Refer to the SAFe®️ site  for more information)
Scaled Agile Framework                                                                                         Scaled Agile Framework (Source: scaledagileframework.com)

Tips for shared services Design in SAFe®️ with service trains

Things get trickier when multiple Agile teams started using service trains in SAFe®️ at shared services and Team request the services to the shared services teams. SAFe®️recommends the operation of the shared services of teams at the ART level but it gets difficult to facilitate them when those teams tend to grow big in numbers.

The simple idea of having all of them at the program level leads to chaos and confusion at times. For example- imagine a team of 30 people trying to help the other teams out. Moreover, when the members of those teams are not generalists, then organizing them by skills would get problematic too.
shared services Design in SAFe®️ with service trainsOne workable solution to this problem is to organize all the shared-services teams into a “Service Train” which is similar to the ART but acts as a service pipeline to one or more ARTs. It spreads across multiple ARTs and Solution Trains providing requested services. The teams on this service train may be Scrum or Kanban teams adhering to the SAFe®️ principles and implementing its practices.
Service Delivery of ARTsWhile implementing shared service teams in SAFe®️ with service trains, the service teams run their usual cadences (recommended to sync with the ART cadences) and they deliver services to the ARTs continuously on demand. The ART delivery pipelines tie up these deliverables to their own during the continuous integration activities and deliver solutions to the Stakeholders.

The service train differs from an ART in the following ways:

  1. The PI's on the service trains are optional. The teams may opt for sprint to sprint ( Or cadence to cadence ) planning on the Service train. In such cases, all the teams plan the sprints/cadences together.
  2. There may not be a dedicated “Train Engineer”. The role could be rotating or replaced by a team of facilitators.
  3. The backlogs of the service teams are generated by the requests of the teams on the ART.
  4. The metrics on the train are in the context of the metrics of corresponding ARTs.
  5. Their program board may be linked to one or more program boards of the ARTs.

The service trains come in as valuable constructs as:

  1. They eliminate the chaos-generating out of having too many service team members at the program level
  2. Cross-functional teams may be formed around dedicated service areas, so the Agile teams know where to place the requests
  3. The trains can deliver services to multiple ARTs at the same time - in other words, they are not constrained by the ARTs (Or the Solution trains)

However, there are a few things to watch out for:

1. Some traditional leaders may use this as an opportunity to impose the “Matrix Structure” on the teams and misuse this design as a way to break cross-functional teams.
2. There is a scope of the service teams getting siloed, resulting in poor collaboration
3. The service train may become a bottleneck to the ARTs, if it doesn’t run slightly ahead of their schedules.

Skills needed for Shared services
Skills needed for Shared servicesThe team members of Shared services need to grasps the following type of specialized skills:

  • Agile and Software/Systems Engineering Coaches
  • Application/web portal management
  • Configuration management
  • Data modeling, data engineering, and database support
  • Desktop support
  • End-user training
  • Enterprise architecture
  • Information architecture
  • Infrastructure and tools management
  • Internationalization and localization support
  • IT Service Management and deployment operations
  • Security specialist (InfoSec)
  • System QA and exploratory testing
  • Technical Writers

Roles and Responsibilities in Shared services

The shared services employees handle the following roles and responsibilities.

  • Participates more actively in Program Increment (PI) planning and pre- and post-PI planning as well.
  • Managing the requirements wherever needed, adding to the backlog and taking ownership of that particular task.
  • Collaborating with the Agile teams to achieve the Program Increment execution dependencies.
  • Actively taking part in the Inspect and Adapt(I&A) workshops, System demos, and Solution demos when any improvement backlog items show challenges with the availability of specialized skills and dependencies on the team.  

Generally, the team members of Shared services choose to work as a single team. In such case, the team members iterate on the same cadence because the Agile Release Train (ARTs) work like any other Agile team.

Conclusion

Agile teams need the support of either sustained or transitional specialty expertise. The staff of Shared services might become a part of an Agile team for the shorter duration. During this period, the staff of Shared services not only experience the Agile dynamic but also understands the speed of the development and the quality of the product. It also allows a knowledge transfer decreasing a dependency on specialized skills.

Bhardwaj Tim

Bhardwaj Tim Lakshmi

Agile Transformation Leaders & Coaches

Bhardwaj is an agile enabler, transformation leader and coach, specializing in organizational & business transformations at scale and innovation methodologies. Tim is an agile transformation specialist focusing on coaching, training and managing organizational agile transformations, maturation and change management. Lakshmi is a transformation agent and a program manager focused on cultivating new ways of improving customer value through lean and agile approaches in product management.

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However, in order to earn this certification, an individual need to attend 2-days of CSPO course taught by Certified Scrum Trainer (CST).Steps to achieve Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®) certificationThe following steps need to be followed to earn a Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®) certification:Attend two days (16 hours) of CSPO course mentored by Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)Scrum Alliance will release the certification designating you as a Certified Scrum Product Owner®The certification will be valid for 2-years from the date of issuanceTarget audience of the CSPO courseThis 16 hours of CSPO course is curated for an individual who is responsible for directing a product and setting up finance during a Scrum project implementation. Scrum Masters can also take this training without thinking that the CSM course is a prerequisite to attend the CSPO course. The CSPO certification can be viewed as an alternative to the CSM course. The target audience for this course is:Project ManagersDevelopersProduct OwnersManagers-Software developmentArchitects-Software developmentProduct ManagersSoftware developersSoftware testersTeam leads/Team members interested in learning more about ScrumScrum MastersExecutivesBusiness StakeholdersCareer Path of the CSPO certified professionalsAfter mastering the CSPO course, you can level-up your knowledge with Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (A-CSPOSM) and then Certified Scrum Professional®-Product Owner (CSP®-PO).d) Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (A-CSPO℠) If you are a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), you are responsible for maximising the product’s business value and understanding the Stakeholder’s requirements to deliver the best at regular intervals [known as Sprints or Iterations]. Now, the next step is to achieve the advanced level certification- Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (A-CSPO℠) certification.Prerequisites to achieve Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner℠(A-CSPO℠) certification A candidate must hold an active CSPO certification to attend Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner® (A-CSPO®) course from Scrum Alliance and at least 1-year of work experience as a Scrum Product Owner.Steps to become Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner℠ (A-CSPO℠) certification If you have an active CSPO certification, attend an A-CSPO certification training to learn more techniques in managing the Stakeholders and Product BacklogComplete successfully all the educator-designed components of an approved institute.Scrum Alliance will ask you to accept the A-CSPO license agreement and complete your Scrum Alliance membership profile.You will get A-CSPO certification from Scrum Alliance. Maintain your certification by renewing your certification every two years.Target audience of the A-CSPO courseThis course is targeted towards practicing Product Owners who are looking to upgrade their career with the basic mechanics of the PO role and are CSPO certified.Career Path of the A-CSPO certified professionalsCertified Scrum Professional Product Owner® (CSP-PO®) certification is the next certification in the list after A-CSPO certification.Developer TrackToday, Scrum Developers have more demand in the market because of their specialized Agile and Scrum skills and proficiency in continuous improvement. Earning Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) certification is expanding the need of the Scrum Developers in Agile enterprises. Today, Scrum Developers are earning an average of $82k per year, playing the roles like .Net Developer, Software Engineer, IT Project Manager, and many more.e) Certified Scrum Developer® (CSD)Certified Scrum Developers® exhibit their knowledge through formal training and technical skills assessments. Being certified, they demonstrate their practical as well as theoretical understanding of Agile and Scrum principles along with Agile Engineering skills. Prerequisites to achieve Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) certificationAn individual with programming knowledge can attend CSD course. To earn this certification, an individual needs to undergo at least 5-days of formal CSD training course instructed by a Scrum Alliance Registered Education Provider (REP) and a Scrum Alliance Authorized Instructor. On the other hand, the certification offers the privilege to the candidates who are CSM certified. They can skip the first 2 days and directly join from the 3rd day of the technical training.Steps to earn CSD certificationThe following steps are followed to earn CSD certification:Enroll for 5 days of CSD course taught by the Scrum Alliance approved CSD instructor. It consists of two tracks to get CSD certification and the tracks are:Track 1-Attend CSM course (for 2 days)CSD technical course (for 3 days)Track 2- A basic introductory course (for 1 day)CSD technical course (for 3 days)CSD technical elective course (for 1 day)After successfully completing the course (following track 1/track 2), Scrum Alliance will send you a CSD license agreement.Congrats! You are now CSD certified. The certification will be added to your profile, which will be valid for another 2 years.Maintain your certification by earning Scrum Education Units® (SEUs) and by renewing your certification in every two years.Target audience of the CSD courseThe Certified Scrum Developer® certification is beneficial for the software developers (programmers) building software in the Scrum organizations. This course will benefit ArchitectsDBAsDesigners Developers, Development ManagersDirectors Product ManagersQA Engineers, Software EngineersTechnical Analysts, Technical LeadsTechnical Writers TestersAnyone who wants to be a good developer well aware of top Agile practices such as TDD, Extreme Programming etc.Career path of CSD certified professionalLevel-up your skills with Certified Scrum Professional® (CSP) certification, once you have mastered this course. f) Certified Scrum Professionals (CSP) certificationsCertified Scrum Professionals let their teams constantly improve the implementation of Agile and Scrum practices and principles applied to the Scrum project. This certification marks CSP’s experience, skills enhanced through training and a proven Scrum knowledge in development after being certified as CSD®. Prerequisites to achieve Certified Scrum Professional® (CSP) certificationsAn individual should hold an active Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) certification issued by the Scrum Alliance in order to achieve Certified Scrum Professional® certifications. In addition, an individual should:An individual should have at least 36 months of working experience as a Scrum Master/ Product Owner/ Developer/ Other in Agile or Scrum based project in the recent past 5 years.At least 70 SEUs [Scrum education units] in past 3 yearsSteps to earn Certified Scrum Professional® certificationsIf you have an active CSD certification, you are eligible to enroll your name for the Certified Scrum Professional® certification course as per the respective certifications Attend the CSP training to enhance your Agile facilitation and coaching skillsComplete all the educator-designed components. These components may incorporate pre- or post- course work as regraded essential by your Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) to finish the learning objectivesComplete your Scrum Alliance membership profile by agreeing to the CSP-SM/PO/D license agreement and fulfilling a minimum of 36 months of work experience as a Scrum Master/ Product Owner/ Developer respectivelyMaintain your CSP certification by renewing a certification every 2-years.Target audience of the Certified Scrum Professional® (CSP) courseThe course is designed for the Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and Developers with working knowledge ready to take the next step in their career learning. Agile leaders, including coaches, consultants, project managers, facilitators, and technical leaders, all can  be benefited from enhancing their skills with the CSP certification.Career Path of the Certified Scrum Professional® (CSP®) certified professionalsAn individual with CSP® certification is expected to demonstrate the practical as well as the theoretical knowledge and a body of knowledge of the Scrum roles, events, and artifacts of the complete Scrum framework. Certified Scrum Professional (CSP®) certification provides a gateway for those who are looking for their future as a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), Team Coach, Agile Coach globally.2. Guide Level certificationsGuide level certifications are aimed at professionals who have advanced knowledge and well-qualified coaches, trainers, mentors, and thought leaders who spread their knowledge on Agile practices and Scrum framework among the professionals. Scrum Alliance provides one certification focused on trainers and two certifications in the coaching category. Individuals with Guide level certifications are considered as professional certifications holder from Scrum Alliance. Let’s see Guide or Elevated level certifications as follows:a) Certified Team CoachSM (CTC)The Certified Team Coach (CTC) usually works at the team level with the management, Scrum teams, and Stakeholders. Enterprise hires Certified Team Coaches to provide coaching, facilitation, training, mentoring, impediment removing, and leadership to encourage collaboration, continuous development, and value delivery across multiple teams and departments.  Prerequisites to become CTCAn active Certified Scrum Professional certification 1,000 hours of Agile coaching experience in the last 2 years without considering your role as Scrum MasterCoaching experience in at least 2 organizations Must be actively participated in at least 5 Agile eventsPractical experience of Scrum implementation and coaching experience in Agile and Scrum framework.Who can attend CTC training?The Certified Team Coach (CTC) is specifically targeted to the Scrum Evangelist interested in coaching at multiple levels. Also, Certified Scrum Professional (CSP-SM/PO) is the recommended certification that will make you eligible to gain CTC credential.  Steps to achieve CTC certificationTo earn Certified Team Coach (CTC) certification, an individual need to submit an application with the application feeScrum Alliance will cross-check the application to meet all the prerequisites required to earn this credentialOnce it is approved, individuals are required to pay an annual fee to maintain this certificationb) Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC)The Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) by Scrum Alliance is skilled at Scrum (both in theoretical and practical knowledge). The Certified Enterprise Coaches (CECs) have years of experience in enterprise Scrum transformations and a detailed understanding of implementing Scrum practices and principles. The CECs guide organizations towards the challenges organizations are facing during Scrum adoption. Prerequisites to become Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC)A candidate aspiring Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) credential must possess:Knowledge of Scrum practices, proven leadership, and coaching skills An active CSP-SM™ or CSP-PO™ or CSP® certification Working experience in Scrum team rolesCoaching experience in at least three organizations2,000 hours over the past 3 years of work experience as a Coach. Who can attend CEC training?This training is aimed at Agile professionals who are looking to guide the organizations in their Agile transformation. Steps to achieve CEC certificationSubmit an application form along with a feeScrum Alliance does a peer assessment, candidates are asked to pay the annual fee.c) Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST)The CST® certification is the most sought-after and only trainer-centric certification offered by Scrum Alliance. As a CST, you are the individuals who wishes to transform the way of working of the people and team they work with. Successful completion of the CST course will let you teach CSM or CSPO courses.   Prerequisites to become Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST)To become a CST, you should have:In-depth knowledge of the Scrum concepts, practices, and principlesAn active Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster™ (CSP-SM™) or Certified Scrum Professional Product Owner™ (CSP-PO™) or CSP® designation from Scrum AllianceHands-on experience in Scrum implementation as a ScrumMaster, Product Owner, or Development team memberTeaching experience in partnership with any Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) or independently-Taught to at least 100 candidatesHosted at least 10 or more days ScrumMaster training sessions Respective certifications in order to train on the courses (e.g. if want to train on CSPO, an individual should hold an active CSPO certification.  Target audience of Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) courseThis certification is for the candidates who are well-versed in executing the Agile practices and desire to train other professionals.Steps to achieve Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) courseIndividuals seeking CST certification need to submit an application with by paying an application feeTrainer Approval Community (TAC) will review this application Once approved by them, Interview and Certification panel will invite those individuals to attend an in-person interviewYour performance in the interview will decide your full CST status or denial of the CST certificationIf approved as a CST, you are requested to sign the CST agreement and pay the annual feeIf canceled, your interview TAC will reschedule the interview3. Agile Leadership certificationsAs the world of work is changing continuously and becomes complex, enterprises and leaders are asked to continuously deliver more innovative products and services, keeping the culture of an organization zestful and gratifying. Agile Leaders produces extraordinary teams, communicate with a clear purpose, and achieve extraordinary business outcomes to the customers and their organizations. There are two Agile Leadership credentials are available:Certified Agile Leader I (CAL I)Certified Agile Leader II (CAL II)These two CAL certifications (CAL I + CAL II) by Scrum Alliance represents unique two-part education and practice-based programs to build Agile leadership competencies. The CAL certifications provides a platform to enhance your leadership skills and will make you a better leader, irrespective of your current role in the organization. We will see them in detail later on.Whom Agile Leadership  training is for?The participants for this program varies according to their professional background and work experience. The key factor here is their wish to transform workplaces into better way by executing Agile values, practices, and metrics. The CAL certifications are designed for anyone participating and interested in leading an Agile transformation. Agile Leadership training are designed for:Coach/ConsultantManagers ExecutivesCrave to play a Leadership roleLet’s take a look at two kinds of CAL certifications:a) Certified Agile Leadership I certificationCertified Agile Leadership I (CAL I) is an introductory professional course that comprises of in-depth leadership development learning objectives across five categories.  Prerequisites to attend CAL I certificationThere are no eligibility criteria to attend CAL I training. This credential can be achieved after successfully completing the set of learning objectives. The certification has no expiry date. The digital badge earned after the certification remarks your start on your agile journey.Career Path after CAL I certificationAfter CAL I certification, you can take CAL II certification to complete your Certified Agile Leadership (CAL) certifications. Career Path after CAL II certificationWith CAL II certification, you will be able to guide leaders in applying, growing, and sharing your Agile leadership journey with the Scrum teams.Prerequisites to attend CAL II certificationTo earn this credential, individuals must have CAL I certification and successful accomplishment of:Advanced Education- additional education on a unique leadership development topic, customized according to your learning journey and taught by an approved CAL educatorValidated Practice- implementing the newly earned skills at work.Renewal Policy of Scrum Alliance certificationsScrum Alliance always aims to keep the certifications and training program updated. According to Scrum Alliance, certification holders need to maintain their certifications by renewing every two years. The fee to renew the level-based certifications are:Foundation level certifications are renewed by paying $100 renewal feeAdvanced level or Professional level certifications are renewed by earning 40 Scrum Education Units (SEUs) and paying $250 as a renewal feeCoach and Trainer based certifications must be renewed annually and are required to meet all the current requirements for each such renewal.Job roles available for Scrum Alliance certified professionalsSome of the common job roles played by the Scrum Alliance certified are transformational leads, transformation coaches, Scrum Masters, developers, managers, engineers, testers, technical writers and architects. Scrum Alliance also maintains its own job panel to assist community members in their job search. If you want to know more about the recent job postings, career news, blogs, and more, you can visit Agile careers section of the Scrum Alliance.    
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