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How SAFe®️ Core Values Quicken The Progress Of An Agile Team

What is Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️)?The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️) helps businesses address the significant challenges of developing and delivering enterprise-class software and systems in the shortest sustainable lead time. It is an online, freely revealed knowledge base of proven success patterns for implementing Lean-Agile software and systems at enterprise scale.Developed in the field, SAFe®️  draws from three primary bodies of knowledge: Agile development, systems thinking, and Lean product development. It synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for large numbers of Agile teams. Scalable and configurable, SAFe®️ allows each organization to adapt it to its own business needs. It supports smaller-scale solutions employing 50–125 practitioners, as well as complex systems that require thousands of people. Why use  SAFe®️ ?SAFe®️ combines the power of Agile with systems thinking and Lean product development. It synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for multiple Agile teams. As a result,  SAFe®️ provides dramatic improvements to business agility, including productivity, time to market, quality, and employee engagement, and more.SAFe®️ is improving business outcomes for companies of all sizes across the world. It has produced dramatic increases in time to market, employee engagement, higher quality, higher customer satisfaction, and overall improved economic outcomes. It also helps create cultures that are more productive, rewarding, and fun.QualityBuilt-In Quality practices increase customer satisfaction and provide faster and more predictable value delivery. They also improve the ability to innovate. Without quality, the Lean goal of the maximum value in the shortest sustainable lead time cannot be achieved. ProductivityWhen productivity increases, system development economics improves, as does employee engagement. For team members, productivity is a critical, personal need. Everyone feels better when they’re contributing more and doing less wasteful work.Employee EngagementAccording to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), employees with the highest level of commitment perform 21 percent better and are 65 percent less likely to leave the organization. Clearly, employee engagement is directly linked to business performance.Faster Time to MarketLean-Agile frameworks allow businesses to deliver value to the market more quickly. Companies that adopt Agile development practices routinely gain first-mover advantages and enjoy the higher gross margins afforded to market leaders. SAFe®️ enterprises typically see a 30–75 percent (as much as 3x!) improvement in time to market.SAFe®️ configurationsSAFe®️ supports the full range of development environments with four out-the-box configurationsEssential SAFe®️Portfolio SAFe®️Large Solution SAFe®️Full SAFe®️Essential SAFe®️The Essential SAFe®️ configuration is the heart of the Framework and is the simplest starting point for implementation. It’s the basic building block for all other SAFe®️ configurations and describes the most critical elements needed to realize the majority of the Framework’s benefits.  Together, the Team and Program Levels form an organizational structure called the Agile Release Train (ART), where Agile teams, key stakeholders, and other resources are dedicated to an important, ongoing solution mission.Large Solution SAFe®️The Large Solution SAFe®️ configuration is for developing the largest and most complex solutions that typically require multiple Agile release trains and Suppliers, but do not require portfolio-level considerations. The Solution Train organizational construct of the Large Solution Level helps enterprises that face the biggest challenges—building large-scale, multidisciplinary software, hardware, and complex IT systems. Building these solutions requires additional roles, artifacts, events, and coordination. Portfolio SAFe®️The Portfolio SAFe®️ configuration helps align portfolio execution to the enterprise strategy, by organizing Agile development around the flow of value, through one or more value streams. It provides business agility through principles and practices for portfolio strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance. Full SAFe®️The Full SAFe®️ configuration is the most comprehensive version of the Framework. It supports enterprises that build and maintain large integrated solutions, which require hundreds of people or more and includes all levels of SAFe®️: team, program, large solution, and portfolio. In the largest enterprises, multiple instances of various SAFe®️ configurations may be required. Scaled agile framework core values  - SAFe®️  SAFe®️ is broad and deep and based on both Lean and Agile principles as its foundation.Importance of core valuesCore values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization.The core values are the guiding principles that speak behavior and action.Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong.It helps companies to determine whether they are working on the right path or not.SAFe®️ upholds four Core Values: alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution, as illustrated in Figure below and described in the following sections.1. AlignmentAlignment ensures that many people act as one unit or team, all pulling in the same direction. Alignment in SAFe®️ is achieved when everyone in the portfolio, and every team member on every ART, understand the strategy and the part they play in achieving it.SAFe®️ delivers alignment by orchestrating strategic themes, vision, roadmap, and PI planning. Economic prioritization and the visible flow of work through the various Kanban systems and backlogs provide visibility and transparency.2.Built-in QualityBuilt-in quality is one of the important core values of SAFe®️. The enterprise’s ability to deliver new functionality with the fastest sustainable lead time and to be able to react to rapidly changing business environments is dependent on solution quality. But built-in quality is not unique to SAFe®️. Rather, it is a core principle of the Lean-Agile mindset, where it helps avoid the cost of delays associated with recall, rework, and defect fixing. The Agile Manifesto is focused on quality as well: “Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.”The following sections summarize recommended practices for achieving built-in quality.SoftwareSAFe®️’s software quality practices—many of which are inspired by Extreme Programming (XP)— help Agile software teams ensure that the solutions they build are high quality and adaptable to change. The collaborative nature of these practices, along with a focus on frequent validation, creates an emergent culture in which engineering and craftsmanship are key business enablers. Test-Driven DevelopmentTest-Driven Development (TDD) is a philosophy and practice that recommends building and executing tests before implementing the code or a component of a system. By validating them against a series of agreed-to tests, TDD—an Agile Testing practice—improves system outcomes by assuring that the system implementation meets its requirements. TDD, along with Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), is part of the ‘test-first’ approach to Build Quality into development. Writing tests first creates a more balanced testing portfolio with many fast, automated development tests and fewer slow, manual, end-to-end tests. Acceptance Test Driven DevelopmentAcceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) is a practice in which the whole team collaboratively discusses acceptance criteria, with examples, and then distills them into a set of concrete acceptance tests before development begins. It’s the best way to ensure that all have the same shared understanding of what it is we are building. It’s also the best way to ensure we have a shared definition of Done.Behavior-Driven DevelopmentBehavior Driven Development (BDD) is a Test-First, Agile Testing practice that provides Built-In Quality by defining (and potentially automating) tests before, or as part of, specifying system behavior. BDD is a collaborative process that creates a shared understanding of requirements between the business and the Development Team. Its goal is to help guide development, decrease rework, and increase flow. Without focusing on internal implementation, BDD tests are business-facing scenarios that attempt to describe the behavior of a Story, Feature, or Capability from a user’s perspective. When automated, these tests ensure that the system continuously meets the specified behavior even as the system evolves. That, in turn, enables Release on Demand. Automated BDD tests can also serve as the definitive statement regarding the as-built system behavior, replacing other forms of behavioral specifications.Continuous IntegrationThis is the practice of merging the code from each developer’s workspace into a single main branch of code, multiple times per day. This lessens the risk of deferred integration issues and their impact on system quality and program predictability. Teams perform local integration at least daily. But to confirm that the work is progressing as intended, full system-level integration should be achieved at least one or two times per iteration.RefactoringRefactoring is “a disciplined technique for restructuring an existing body of code, altering its internal structure without changing its external behavior.” A key enabler of emergent design, refactoring is essential to Agile. To maintain system robustness, teams continuously refactor code in a series of small steps, providing a solid foundation for future development.Pair WorkSome teams follow pair programming, but that may be too extreme for many. More generally, pair work may couple developers and testers on a story. Still, others prefer more spontaneous pairing, with developers collaborating for critical code segments, refactoring of legacy code, development of interface definition, and system-level integration challenges.HardwareHardware quality is supported by exploratory early iterations, frequent system-level integration, design verification, modeling, and set-based design. The Agile architecture supports software and hardware quality.1.System IntegrationDifferent components and subsystems—software, firmware, hardware, and everything else—must collaborate to provide effective solution-level behaviors. Practices that support solution-level quality include:Frequent system and solution-level integrationSolution-level testing of functional and Nonfunctional RequirementsSystem and Solution Demos2.ComplianceSAFe®️ enterprises that build high assurance systems define their approved practices, policies, and procedures in a Lean Quality Management System (QMS). These systems are intended to ensure that development activities and outcomes comply with all relevant regulations and quality standards, as well as providing the required documentation to prove it.3.TransparencyTransparency builds trust. Trust, in turn, is essential for performance, innovation, risk-taking, and relentless improvement. Trust exists when the business and development can confidently rely on another to act with integrity, particularly in times of difficulty. Without trust no one can build high-performance teams and programs, nor build (or rebuild) the confidence needed to make and meet reasonable commitments.  And without trust, working environments are a lot less fun and motivating.Here are few SAFe®️ practices which enable trust:ARTs have visibility into the team’s backlogs, as well as other Program Backlogs.Teams and programs commit to short-term, visible commitments that they routinely meet4. Program ExecutionSAFe®️ places an intense focus on working systems and business outcomes. History shows us that while many enterprises start the transformation with individual Agile teams, they often become frustrated as even those teams struggle to deliver more substantial amounts of solution value, reliably and efficiently. That is the purpose of the ART, and that is why SAFe®️ focuses implementation initially at the Program Level. In turn, the ability of Value Streams to deliver value depends on the ability of the ARTs and Solution Trains.ConclusionThe four Core Values of alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution represent the fundamental beliefs that are key to SAFe®️ effectiveness. These guiding principles help dictate behavior and action for everyone who participates in a SAFe®️ portfolio. Successful teams and programs implementing  SAFe®️ have aligned their organizations along these core values and getting many benefits—employee engagement, productivity, quality, and time to market. 

How SAFe®️ Core Values Quicken The Progress Of An Agile Team

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How SAFe®️ Core Values Quicken The Progress Of An Agile Team

What is Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️)?

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️) helps businesses address the significant challenges of developing and delivering enterprise-class software and systems in the shortest sustainable lead time. It is an online, freely revealed knowledge base of proven success patterns for implementing Lean-Agile software and systems at enterprise scale.

Developed in the field, SAFe®️  draws from three primary bodies of knowledge: Agile development, systems thinking, and Lean product development. It synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for large numbers of Agile teams. Scalable and configurable, SAFe®️ allows each organization to adapt it to its own business needs. It supports smaller-scale solutions employing 50–125 practitioners, as well as complex systems that require thousands of people.

 Why use  SAFe®️ ?

SAFe®️ combines the power of Agile with systems thinking and Lean product development. It synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for multiple Agile teams. As a result,  SAFe®️ provides dramatic improvements to business agility, including productivity, time to market, quality, and employee engagement, and more.

SAFe®️ is improving business outcomes for companies of all sizes across the world. It has produced dramatic increases in time to market, employee engagement, higher quality, higher customer satisfaction, and overall improved economic outcomes. It also helps create cultures that are more productive, rewarding, and fun.

SAFe®️  Benefits

Quality

Built-In Quality practices increase customer satisfaction and provide faster and more predictable value delivery. They also improve the ability to innovate. Without quality, the Lean goal of the maximum value in the shortest sustainable lead time cannot be achieved. 

Productivity

When productivity increases, system development economics improves, as does employee engagement. For team members, productivity is a critical, personal need. Everyone feels better when they’re contributing more and doing less wasteful work.

Employee Engagement

According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), employees with the highest level of commitment perform 21 percent better and are 65 percent less likely to leave the organization. Clearly, employee engagement is directly linked to business performance.

Faster Time to Market

Lean-Agile frameworks allow businesses to deliver value to the market more quickly. Companies that adopt Agile development practices routinely gain first-mover advantages and enjoy the higher gross margins afforded to market leaders. SAFe®️ enterprises typically see a 30–75 percent (as much as 3x!) improvement in time to market.

SAFe®️ configurations

SAFe®️ supports the full range of development environments with four out-the-box configurations

  • Essential SAFe®️
  • Portfolio SAFe®️
  • Large Solution SAFe®️
  • Full SAFe®️

Essential SAFe®️

The Essential SAFe®️ configuration is the heart of the Framework and is the simplest starting point for implementation. It’s the basic building block for all other SAFe®️ configurations and describes the most critical elements needed to realize the majority of the Framework’s benefits.  Together, the Team and Program Levels form an organizational structure called the Agile Release Train (ART), where Agile teams, key stakeholders, and other resources are dedicated to an important, ongoing solution mission.

Large Solution SAFe®️

The Large Solution SAFe®️ configuration is for developing the largest and most complex solutions that typically require multiple Agile release trains and Suppliers, but do not require portfolio-level considerations. The Solution Train organizational construct of the Large Solution Level helps enterprises that face the biggest challenges—building large-scale, multidisciplinary software, hardware, and complex IT systems. Building these solutions requires additional roles, artifacts, events, and coordination. 

Portfolio SAFe®️

The Portfolio SAFe®️ configuration helps align portfolio execution to the enterprise strategy, by organizing Agile development around the flow of value, through one or more value streams. It provides business agility through principles and practices for portfolio strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance. 

Full SAFe®️

The Full SAFe®️ configuration is the most comprehensive version of the Framework. It supports enterprises that build and maintain large integrated solutions, which require hundreds of people or more and includes all levels of SAFe®️: team, program, large solution, and portfolio. In the largest enterprises, multiple instances of various SAFe®️ configurations may be required. 

Scaled agile framework core values  - SAFe®️ 

 SAFe®️ is broad and deep and based on both Lean and Agile principles as its foundation.

Importance of core values

  • Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization.
  • The core values are the guiding principles that speak behavior and action.
  • Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong.
  • It helps companies to determine whether they are working on the right path or not.

SAFe®️ upholds four Core Values: alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution, as illustrated in Figure below and described in the following sections.
Scaled agile framework core values

1. Alignment

Alignment ensures that many people act as one unit or team, all pulling in the same direction. Alignment in SAFe®️ is achieved when everyone in the portfolio, and every team member on every ART, understand the strategy and the part they play in achieving it.

SAFe®️ delivers alignment by orchestrating strategic themes, vision, roadmap, and PI planning. Economic prioritization and the visible flow of work through the various Kanban systems and backlogs provide visibility and transparency.

2.Built-in Quality

Built-in quality is one of the important core values of SAFe®️. The enterprise’s ability to deliver new functionality with the fastest sustainable lead time and to be able to react to rapidly changing business environments is dependent on solution quality. But built-in quality is not unique to SAFe®️. Rather, it is a core principle of the Lean-Agile mindset, where it helps avoid the cost of delays associated with recall, rework, and defect fixing. The Agile Manifesto is focused on quality as well:

 “Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.”

The following sections summarize recommended practices for achieving built-in quality.

Software

  • SAFe®️’s software quality practices—many of which are inspired by Extreme Programming (XP)— help Agile software teams ensure that the solutions they build are high quality and adaptable to change. The collaborative nature of these practices, along with a focus on frequent validation, creates an emergent culture in which engineering and craftsmanship are key business enablers.
  •  Test-Driven Development

    Test-Driven Development (TDD) is a philosophy and practice that recommends building and executing tests before implementing the code or a component of a system. By validating them against a series of agreed-to tests, TDD—an Agile Testing practice—improves system outcomes by assuring that the system implementation meets its requirements. TDD, along with Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), is part of the ‘test-first’ approach to Build Quality into development. Writing tests first creates a more balanced testing portfolio with many fast, automated development tests and fewer slow, manual, end-to-end tests.
  •  Acceptance Test Driven Development

    Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) is a practice in which the whole team collaboratively discusses acceptance criteria, with examples, and then distills them into a set of concrete acceptance tests before development begins. It’s the best way to ensure that all have the same shared understanding of what it is we are building. It’s also the best way to ensure we have a shared definition of Done.
  • Behavior-Driven Development

    Behavior Driven Development (BDD) is a Test-First, Agile Testing practice that provides Built-In Quality by defining (and potentially automating) tests before, or as part of, specifying system behavior.
     
    BDD is a collaborative process that creates a shared understanding of requirements between the business and the Development Team. Its goal is to help guide development, decrease rework, and increase flow. Without focusing on internal implementation, BDD tests are business-facing scenarios that attempt to describe the behavior of a Story, Feature, or Capability from a user’s perspective. When automated, these tests ensure that the system continuously meets the specified behavior even as the system evolves. That, in turn, enables Release on Demand.
     
    Automated BDD tests can also serve as the definitive statement regarding the as-built system behavior, replacing other forms of behavioral specifications.
  • Continuous Integration

    This is the practice of merging the code from each developer’s workspace into a single main branch of code, multiple times per day. This lessens the risk of deferred integration issues and their impact on system quality and program predictability. Teams perform local integration at least daily. But to confirm that the work is progressing as intended, full system-level integration should be achieved at least one or two times per iteration.
  • Refactoring

    Refactoring is “a disciplined technique for restructuring an existing body of code, altering its internal structure without changing its external behavior.” A key enabler of emergent design, refactoring is essential to Agile. To maintain system robustness, teams continuously refactor code in a series of small steps, providing a solid foundation for future development.
  • Pair Work

    Some teams follow pair programming, but that may be too extreme for many. More generally, pair work may couple developers and testers on a story. Still, others prefer more spontaneous pairing, with developers collaborating for critical code segments, refactoring of legacy code, development of interface definition, and system-level integration challenges.

Hardware

Hardware quality is supported by exploratory early iterations, frequent system-level integration, design verification, modeling, and set-based design. The Agile architecture supports software and hardware quality.

1.System Integration

Different components and subsystems—software, firmware, hardware, and everything else—must collaborate to provide effective solution-level behaviors. Practices that support solution-level quality include:

  • Frequent system and solution-level integration
  • Solution-level testing of functional and Nonfunctional Requirements
  • System and Solution Demos

2.Compliance

SAFe®️ enterprises that build high assurance systems define their approved practices, policies, and procedures in a Lean Quality Management System (QMS). These systems are intended to ensure that development activities and outcomes comply with all relevant regulations and quality standards, as well as providing the required documentation to prove it.

3.Transparency

Transparency builds trust. Trust, in turn, is essential for performance, innovation, risk-taking, and relentless improvement. Trust exists when the business and development can confidently rely on another to act with integrity, particularly in times of difficulty. Without trust no one can build high-performance teams and programs, nor build (or rebuild) the confidence needed to make and meet reasonable commitments.  And without trust, working environments are a lot less fun and motivating.

Here are few SAFe®️ practices which enable trust:

  • ARTs have visibility into the team’s backlogs, as well as other Program Backlogs.
  • Teams and programs commit to short-term, visible commitments that they routinely meet

4. Program Execution

SAFe®️ places an intense focus on working systems and business outcomes. History shows us that while many enterprises start the transformation with individual Agile teams, they often become frustrated as even those teams struggle to deliver more substantial amounts of solution value, reliably and efficiently. That is the purpose of the ART, and that is why SAFe®️ focuses implementation initially at the Program Level. In turn, the ability of Value Streams to deliver value depends on the ability of the ARTs and Solution Trains.

Conclusion

The four Core Values of alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution represent the fundamental beliefs that are key to SAFe®️ effectiveness. These guiding principles help dictate behavior and action for everyone who participates in a SAFe®️ portfolio. Successful teams and programs implementing  SAFe®️ have aligned their organizations along these core values and getting many benefits—employee engagement, productivity, quality, and time to market.

 



Mukundan

Mukundan Bashyam

Program/Project Manager

Mukundan Bashyam has more than 15 years of IT experience working in different roles such as Agile Coach, Scrum Master, and Product Owner. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Scrum Master(CSM) and Certified Agile Coach from ICAgile. He is an accomplished Agile trainer for many organizations and a contributing author for KnowledgeHut. Mukundan has a Bachelor’s degree from Indian Institute of Technology (BHU)-Varanasi and a Master’s degree in Industrial Management from National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Mumbai. He has worked with startups and large companies like Hewlett Packard(HP), Target Corporation India, Diageo, and Robert Bosch.  

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Technology has made our lives easier. The number of tools and devices we have at our disposal has made our lives more productive and our work more efficient. The Agile software development methodology has been adopted by several organizations to improve their adaptability, responsiveness, and productivity.  How can we improve the way we incorporate Agile Scrum into our projects? Scrum tools can be the answer. Just like the other gadgets in our lives, Scrum software and tools help improve the productivity of our teams, keep stakeholders happy and help us deliver better products. Before we jump into the use and needs of Scrum software and tools let us understand more about Scrum roles and how they work.Three essential roles for Scrum successThe Scrum Guide defines three pillars of a Scrum team, which include:The Scrum MasterThe Product OwnerThe Development TeamThe Scrum team is a small unit which is self-organised and works towards achieving the same goal; that is, the development and deployment of the product and customer satisfaction.Three essential roles in a Scrum TeamThe Scrum Product OwnerThe Scrum Product Owner is among the most essential roles in the Scrum team and acts as a bridge between the stakeholders and the development team. More involved with the business side of the software development process, the PO represents the customer and can be considered as their proxy.  The Product Owner defines the product vision, and, along with the Scrum Master and the development team works towards delivering a product that matches stakeholder needs.The Scrum MasterThe Scrum Master is the servant leader whose main responsibility is to ensure that the Scrum team can perform to the best of its abilities. They do this by overseeing the day-to-day activities of the Scrum team and removing any impediments that may hinder the productivity of the development team. The Scrum Master facilitates stakeholder collaboration along with the product owner and ensures that teams can handle complex environments and deliver projects successfully.The Scrum development teamThe development team generally consists of three to nine people, according to the Scrum Guide. These would include developers, testers, designers and more. The team is allowed to take decisions and decide the length of the sprint and how they will go about it. The development team collaborates to create a high-quality product increment at the end of each sprint that is as per the expectations of the stakeholders.Scrum ceremonies or eventsScrum has five formal events as defined by the Scrum Guide. These events help to validate the Scrum artifacts and implementing them helps enhance transparency. The events are also called ceremonies and are:Sprint PlanningDaily ScrumSprint ReviewSprint RetrospectiveThe SprintWhat Does A Scrum Tool Do?What would you need a good Scrum tool to do? Make your life easier by making processes more efficient and less cumbersome, help you deliver quality products without making a huge dent on your budget, right?  With Scrum topping the popularity charts for Agile project management methodologies, the need for efficient Scrum tools has risen. There are plenty of Scrum tools available that fit the bill and provide interfaces that help teams seamlessly follow Scrum processes and reap its benefits. These tools help:Increase productivityIn task management, daily scrum management  Increase team collaborationIn progress tracking and risk managementScrum Software for the Ultimate ProjectThere are several Scrum software tools that aid in project development using Scrum; not just in technical environments, but in non-technical sectors as well. Software like JIRA, Infinity, TargetProcess, QuickScrum, Wrike etc provide:User friendly GUICompetitive pricingProduct backlog managementTime tracking and calendar tools for schedulingScrum metrics and chartsSprint planning toolsThird party tools for integrationUser story mappingBurnup and Burndown chartsand many more features that will help Agile teams serve their customers better, improve return on investment, reduce costs, enhance collaboration and ensure stakeholder satisfaction. These tools help team uphold the values of Agile and make implementing the Scrum framework easier.Best Scrum ToolsHere are some of the best Scrum tools available in the market:1. JIRAJira is a popular tool used by large organizations to manage their Scrum projects. It has numerous features including customizable scrum boards, reporting features and more. Here’s how teams benefit from this toolCustomizable Scrum and Kanban boardsRoadmaps to communicate with team and with stakeholdersAccess to tools for Agile reportingView of code and deployment statusEnd to end DevOps visibilityEasy scalabilitySecure deploymentDeveloper tool integrationRich APIs to automate processes2. TargetProcessThis tool has been especially designed for teams that want to scale agile. It offers a number of customizable features that make it easy to work with scrum and agile.  Here’s how teams benefit from this tool(Source: Targetprocess Agile Portfolio and Work Management Tool)IdeationBuilt in reports to analyse data and uncover trendsGather ideas across sourcesCloud hosting and on-premise hostingEnterprise grade securityCollaborate across the enterprise  Collaborate with DevOps tools including GitLab, Azure DevOps, GitHub etc3. VivifyScrumThis tool is marketed as an all-in-one solution to manage projects, collaborate and track. Here’s how teams benefit from this tool (Source: Agile Project Management Software - VivifyScrum)Tools to manage agile projects—organize, manage, track and deliverCollaboration boards to effectively collaborate with team and stakeholdersCreate invoices to track and manage business and clientsManage teams and track tasks4. InfinityThis tool is among the most popular in Agile and Scrum organizations due to the many customizations and features it provides. Its various tools help reduce time to market, ensure better quality, improve collaboration and enable customer satisfaction.Here’s how teams benefit from this tool Source: Infinity | Customizable Work Management Platform (startinfinity.com)How Can Scrum Apps Benefit Your Team?The number of Scrum apps and software available in the market for Scrum projects is mind boggling. Which one you choose depends on the requirements of your team and project, and each comes with its own benefits. Some of these benefits include:They help teams, organizations and the product being createdThey ensure better quality by providing the right framework, support mechanism and the right processesAllow for continual improvement by putting in place a feedback loop and sprint reviews by stakeholdersHelp solve impediments and daily issues by incorporating daily testing and product owner feedback into the development processEnsure upfront documentation and help prioritise high value items in the product backlog, thus decreasing time to market.  Quick feedback also helps improve the product and thus helps in continuous improvement.The faster marketing of products increases return on investment, helps tap the market demand and ensures long term benefits for the customer and thus earns their trust for the organizationThe primary tenet of Agile is team collaboration. Scrum software tools help in high level collaboration between the Scrum Master, Product Owner and the development team. Teams can organise, review, plan and discuss everyday tasks, meetings, impediments and more.How to Pick the Best Tool for Your Team?With so many options available, choosing the right Scrum tool for your team can be a tricky task. What you need to do is go through the features of the best tools and see which one best fits your requirements. While the number of features you get will be directly proportional to the money you are ready to pay for the tool, there are some basic requirements your tool must satisfy.Backlog creation:  The very basic format of a Scrum project lies in the creation of a product backlog which sets the pace for the entire project. The backlog is primarily created by the Product Owner with assistance from the Scrum Master and the development team. The tool you choose should help you create the product backlog so that you can prioritise items, define the sprints and identify sprint goals.Implement feedback:  Scrum projects are based on the Agile values of continuous feedback. Your scrum tool should have features which will make your customer’s feedback and requirements easily accessible to you. This will help you implement these changes at the earliest. This continuous feedback loop will help keep customers happy.Sprint creation:  Scrum is iterative and adaptive and works by breaking down projects into small sized sprints. Your tool must aid you in the creation of sprints and burndown charts. These help you keep track of your progress on the project and are essential components of a Scrum project.The other things your tool should be able to do include:Plan and trackCustomise process templatesCustomise dashboards and reportsHelp in time managementHelp create epics and storiesProvide collab and reporting toolsProvide review toolsAnd just like you will create a product that is user friendly, the tool you use also needs to be user friendly for the team. If your team is happy using it, and it makes your life easier and your projects better, then you have the right tool!
Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

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Safe Agile Ceremonies - Expert Guide

“Winners take time to relish their work, knowing that scaling the mountain is what makes the view from the top so exhilarating.” ― Denis WaitleyWhat are SAFe agile events (or) ceremonies? – a brief overview:Before we jump into the topic, could I just take you a step back and remind you what SAFe is all about? SAFe is a way of taking any iterative Agile way of working (normally restricted to a team or few teams) and scaling it up at various levels of the organization, whilst applying a mindset of Lean manufacturing. It also deals with scalability at various levels. Beginning from Essential SAFe right up to Full SAFe, the framework caters to all organizational levels of scaling agility. As part of this, it broadens the core idea of agility mindset beyond just projects/development teams right up to executives/CXOs, who must prepare for enterprise level uncertainties. In a sense, it provides valuable enterprise level scaling insights helpful for the executives to tackle any uncertainties/risks associated with a project.As you start applying SAFe in your organisation, it is important for you to understand how each level works in conjunction with the other, depending on how mature your SAFe enterprise is. The key link between these levels is the SAFe specific events which help with smooth value delivery facilitation. The events help with alignment across teams, ARTs etc thus helping in managing risk by providing a level based cadence and synchronization.Essential SAFe - Your First Level of Scaling Using an Agile Release Train (ART). Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgileWhy do we need level-based ceremonies?While it is important to go through your team level events (like the 4 sprint events if you are doing scrum etc.) it is important to have the scaling events that help with bridging gaps and unblocking dependency between teams. The most important part of these SAFe specific events is for ‘Business Stakeholders’ to get a look (demo) at a proper incremental product and thus the value arising out of it. Makes sense? It did for me and let me tell you why.I was once associated with 3 feature teams, who were working towards a common product goal. They all had the same business stakeholders but were working on individual features. Team A was working on developing a Login page, Team B was working on a landing dashboard while Team C was hopping along, trying to provide a search functionality for the user. All of them were applying the Scrum framework and were running their own events. Sprint demos were happening individually and were being represented by the Product owner separately along with his business analysts. All seemed fine but there was a nagging problem. The product owner was worried, because he couldn’t bring any business stakeholder to view the demos, as they were being run in silos and there was no visibility on the incremental product. Well technically there was, but they would have to sit through three or four-hour events individually to get bits and pieces of the product demo. In the real world, it's not a possibility simply because your business stakeholders will not have that much time to spend on multiple demos. It is not a good use of their time either. So, what’s the solution? Simple, it’s SAFe to the rescue! Let’s try and understand how the SAFe specific events help with this.Prescribed PI Cadence for Various Levels of Scaling. Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgileHow do the events (or) ceremonies help to scale up according to the levels in SAFe:SAFe is very relevant and designed to thrive in situations where there are significant cross functional dependencies between agile teams and support / functional teams (infrastructure teams, architect community etc).  Essential Level:   As you start to scale up one level up, you will be working with anywhere between 5-12 agile teams who will all be collectively working towards a common goal which is the program increment or PI. The anchoring catalyst that brings them all together is your ART (Agile release train). Before getting into the events, lets understand the various roles involved at this level because this is the common denominator across all levels of SAFe and across organizations. This is where you need to get it right without which there is not much use in scaling higher. Key Roles involved: Release Train Engineer (RTE) System Architect/Engineer Product Management   Business OwnersPrescribed events on a typical Agile release train (ART). Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled AgilePI PlanningAccording to me, PI planning (hands down) is THE most significant aspect of executing this framework. This is where all the magic happens. It is sometimes referred to as the heart of the framework as it offers a clear vision of what the program increment needs to be, what the cross-team dependencies are and how they bring together the cultural sustainability much needed within the release trains. It is so important, that if carried out incorrectly it could lead to several ambiguities, development challenges and mostly a disastrous product increment. However, when it works well, the iterative cycle serves to flesh out the crucial elements of the plan and the processes ensure buy in from the stakeholders.Duration: A normal PI planning is a 2-day activity, which is a face to face cultural get together of the various ART teams. However, a new 3-day distributed PI planning has been introduced to help with geographically distributed teams (across various time zones), very apt for the current pandemic situation.“There is no magic in SAFe® except maybe for PI Planning”. – The authors of the SAFe framework.In big organizations with multiple distributed teams across multiple vendors, work streams etc. it is almost impossible to run these teams independently, whilst still having to deliver an incremental program. SAFe via the PI planning exercise mentioned above, helps with sorting out these issues by recognising cross team dependencies upfront, constantly negotiating & visualising them. This doesn’t just stop with the PI planning but the framework also proposes a cadenced way of continuing this via the scrum of scrums. The Program Board is an ideal way to showcase the cross-team dependencies.A sample SAFe Program board. Courtesy © Scaled Agile, Inc. Source: Scaled Agile1. Inspect and Adapt (I&A)An inspect and adapt event is scheduled after every PI. This event is dedicated to aligning to the principles of Kaizen, which simply means to change for the better. The events contain self induced thought processes to revalidate your assumptions that everything is working OK. The I&A event consists of three sub-parts as below:  PI System DemoQuantitative and qualitative measurementRetrospective and problem-solving workshop2. ART Sync Agile release trains tend to apply a cadenced synchronization process to help manage the ability to focus on continuous value delivery. An ART sync will typically comprise of the below sub-events.  Scrum of Scrums: This event is for representatives from all the teams on a release train to come together in a regular cadenced manner, especially on large ARTs. This is normally facilitated by the release train engineer (RTE) and will involve scrum masters of the individual teams and a few selected team members (authorised by the team). The sole purpose of the SoS calls are to understand progress towards the common goal, validate cross team dependencies and unblock impediments that may arise out of them. Duration: The length and frequency of the meeting will depend on a few factors like the size of the ART, the release frequency, type of features being worked on, ability to decouple releases etc. For e.g an ART which releases features into production every 4 weeks might want to have an SoS call every 2 weeks for about an hour. Again, if this doesn’t work for you, just inspect and adapt to what works well for your organizational needs. Just make sure that the SoS is utilised for its sole purpose and not just status updates as depicted in the below comic representation.Scrum of Scrums PO SyncThis event is represented by the Product Owner, business analysts and the product management group. This is used mainly to level up the product backlog refinement and for clarifying PI (Program Increment) scope, reviewing roadmaps and grooming for the upcoming PIs.Duration: Very similar in concept to the SoS, so just follow what works for the group. 3. System DemoAs part of a common understanding towards delivering incremental software, shortly after each iteration in the PI, there is a system demo scheduled. Work completed across all teams from the release train are compiled in a stable environment before it is reviewed by the business stakeholders and other important sponsors who may have a keen interest in the product. This is on top of the individual team level demos that happen after each iteration.Duration: Anywhere between 2-3 hours that will allow time for a demonstration of the program increment in a collative manner, on top of what has been delivered from the previous PIs as well.In case your ART is pretty small, then you may want to have just have some of the events combined into a more generic ART sync, where all roles come together to collaborate towards the program increment. This can sometimes occur if the ART is focusing on a particular value stream, confined to limited business functionality, rather than elaborate features.Solution/Portfolio LevelsAs you scale higher, the processes and events become much less prescriptive. There is a good reason for this because the focus at this level is not just on having repetitive demos that have already happened before but on building thought leadership around business outcomes and enhancing business agility. Which is why we will not be diving deep into that in this blog. But let us look at the events that occur at the macro level.Lean Budget Review  Idea Sharing via Communities of Practice (not a formal event but a collaborative group)Solution DemoPortfolio SyncRoadshowWhat are the benefits of SAFe Agile ceremonies?:The Magic of PI planningWell, the more I talk about this, the more excited I am. A PI planning event when carried out to its truest purpose, gets half the job done. Here is where most of the brainstorming occurs and business value gets determined and, in some cases, gets assigned in a quantifiable manner to user stories and helps with the prioritisation.PI Planning Synchronisation towards a common goalThe events are a constant reminder that all teams are working towards delivering incremental value either on a particular value stream, or feature or program. An RTE and Product Management will help reiterating the need to focus on the larger goal whilst helping sorting out inter team dependencies.Less prescriptiveAs is the framework itself, SAFe events/ceremonies are less prescriptive. An SPC would recommend, apply the principles but inspect and adapt as to what works for your organization. As per the example I provided earlier w.r.t to the duration of the SAFe events, start with something reasonable and then validate its effectiveness. Then leave Kaizen to do the rest.Visualization of incremental value deliveryOpportunity for Business stakeholders and sponsors to have a look at the overall program increment every iteration, thus helping them evaluate the progress and provide timely feedback on market trends. What are the common mistakes?Lack of a shared product visionThings can go wrong if there is not enough representation in the product management group, say for e.g at the PO Sync event. This can lead to a blurred product vision with each team working out of sync. This may ultimately get detected too late, probably at the time of the system demo, and lead to a whole lot of unwanted rework.SoS as a status updateThe Scrum Of Scrum event should be used as an event to unblock cross team impediments or dependencies and not to just update what each team has been doing or is doing in its current sprint. TimeboxingGiven the scale at which these events will be conducted, it is critical that the associated events are facilitated in a timeboxed manner or else the participants could end up sitting and talking for hours. Roles like RTE, SPC Coaches etc will be critical in addressing this issue.Remote facilitationLack of effective collaboration tools could lead to some disastrous situations whilst facilitating the SAFe events. Given that most teams are running virtual ceremonies/events at the moment, its crucial to establish a working distributed model. This will then ensure that the platform is set up for the most effective collaboration and cross-functional work to take place.While you try to scale, as per the implementation roadmap, its essential that you solidify the process around which your ARTs will be functioning. It’s like setting the railway tracks with the correct track gauge matching the configurations of the wheelsets of the trains that will run on them. If not, they will just derail. As your ARTs pass through your set process, they will only benefit by sustaining focus and pace while moving towards a successful incremental product delivery.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 among your agile community to help spread the word.  Hope to see you soon, with more such interesting topics.
Safe Agile Ceremonies - Expert Guide

“Winners take time to relish their work, knowing... Read More

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