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What is Program Increment Planning and its importance in SAFe®?

PI Planning or Program Increment Planning can be said to be the heartbeat of the Agile Release Train(ART). Even more precisely, it sets the tracks for the train to ensure that all rail cars(scrum teams that are a part of ART) travel in the same direction. It is similar to Iteration planning in crum. It is an extension of Iteration planning under a bigger umbrella i.e ART.  PI Planning sessions are regularly scheduled activities held during the year where various teams within the same Agile Release Train (ART) collaborate to agree with a common vision, discuss functionality, prepare the roadmap and define cross-team dependencies. It's a fixed timebox for planning , designing, and validating a complete system, showing value, and having quick feedback.  When you first follow SAFe, chances are, it will start with PI Planning. This is because it forms the basis for the Scaled Agile FrameworkTM. The PI Planning ceremony is the foundation of your transformation and the driver for SAFe. We will take a deep dive into PI planning in detail in this article and understand its importance in SAFe.What is SAFe®?Before understanding SAFe ,let’s first understand what Scrum is. Scrum is an iterative product creation approach focusing on a regular production cadence. It relies on cross-functional teams, a set of ceremonies, and certain specific supporting roles to help drive these deliveries.SAFe is an extension of Scrum at the larger organizational level. SAFe or the Scaled Agile FrameworkTM is a set of principles and strategies designed to help deliver resilience to all departments and levels of the organization. The system is designed to enhance visibility, coordination and cooperation which will result in improved efficiency , better outcomes and faster delivery.Image SourceIntroduction to Program Increment :PI Planning is particularly useful for agile companies of large scale. Let 's look at some figures, to understand the effect. Some bigger companies , for example, may have 300-400 teams and 5,000 developers. These teams may never have spoken to each other before, in the old way of working until a crucial issue forced them to collaborate.Previously, coordination would have been at the level of the leadership team, and they would have had several levels of managers in between who would trickle down details, but the people on the teams would never speak to each other. There would always be a constant struggle to work on the biggest projects for money, budget, and opportunities.Projects had a habit of overlapping - one team would release something which would then break something in the project of another team. PI Preparation is the first time that many of these very large businesses have joined their teams in a space or on the same call to speak to each other. They are given the opportunity to nut out those crucial talks about who is working on what. When you enter a code or a code repository, you need to know how it can affect another team. You may also need to do some work to allow another team to work first (and vice versa) on their feature.An ART (agile release train) is a shared objective accomplished by the soul of the different teams that work together. In very large companies, there can be three trains working together, and that is the reason why the teams need to step back every eight to 12 weeks and make sure that they continue to work towards the overall vision and company goals.Here’s what PI Planning enforces:CommunicationVisibilityCollaborationAs a result, teams can more easily get work done, deliver more updates in less time, and remain on budget.Executing the PI /Agenda- It is very important to understand the steps involved in executing PI. Let's try to understand the same:1) Preparation: It will cover the prerequisites for successful PI.Organization preparation : PI meetings are supposed to be arranged well in advance, and it is important to call into account all the stakeholders and leaders involved in the program. Usually, large organizations arrange this as a quarterly meeting, which helps to talk about the end of the preceding quarter and to set all in order for the start of the next quarter.Content preparation: For the launch the preparation on the aim and the vision has to be made well in advance. This should be drilled into the team from day one, which is done by the Company owners and the leaders of the projects who are in the best position to do so.  Facility preparation: A spacious room that is twice the size of the amount of people should be prepared, where the employees are able to walk around and ask other employees questions.2) Agenda:Setting the agenda is very important and should be mapped out at the outset. Motivational speakers should be called in, who can take time to remember the successes of the last PI. Always provide some time for introductions through ice breaking games. It is important that the teams get to know each other, so that they can work well together. All these can be helpful in work teambuilding and bringing a social aspect to the case.Here is an example of an agenda from ScaledAgileFramework.com. It outlines the critical steps for a successful case.Day OneBusiness Background – The background of the business is  provided by a senior management member or a company owner who offers insights on business performance and on how they are able to keep up with market demands and customer needs.Product / Solutions Strategy- The Project management will outline the company vision for the next PI. The salient features that will help achieve these targets will be defined by the company management.Architecture Vision & Development Practices – Next, the Systems Architect or IT department will talk about the systems and architectural vision for infrastructure upgrades that will help increase market time and will affect growth during the upcoming PI. Process changes associated with Agile that would improve speed and communication will be discussed.Preparation Background & Lunch – After this, it is the turn of the Release Train Engineer (RTE) to explain the planning process for PI and what the teams and the general meeting are required to do. The planned results for the meeting will be discussed, and any questions from the Team will be addressed.Team breakouts- Teams will meet around the boards (analogue or digital) to measure their pace for each iteration and look at their backlogs and what needs to be progressed to help the functionality outlined in the vision. They will apply their draft plans to review and provide input to all the teams. They'll need to recognize and mitigate possible threats and addictions.Draft Plan Review- During this time-boxed meeting, teams will deliver their draft plans and receive input from product owners, company owners,  stakeholders and other teams. They may use the feedback to fine-tune their drafts before consulting the management. They will also discuss possible issues to be addressed by the management.Review by Management and Problem Solving- Draft plans would also raise problems with design, scale, and people and resource constraints. Only the management renegotiation and future features may often solve these problems. The RTE (Release Train Engineer) organizes this meeting and stakeholders and business owners must come out of the meeting with a new set of goals or features for the teamsDay 2 AgendaProgram Adjustments- At the start of the day,  changes or decisions taken at the problem-solving meeting by management and stakeholders will be considered. Teams are apprised of these changes and decisions and priorities may be revisited. These adjustments will be put on the board of the company so that all departments can take a look and reorganize themselves.Breakouts- During breakouts, teams take the changes back to their discussion meeting and come back to the program board with their PI targets. Company owners may assign values to each of the goals and rate them for execution. At this stage, teams will get a clearer sense of their targets in the context of the iterations ahead.Final Plan Review and Lunch- Finally, each team will carry their plans to the front and present them. Threats and dependencies will be listed out at the finish of the presentation. While this is not the time to try and fix those problems, the various plans are posted to allow the teams to review and get inputs from others.Program Risks-All teams listed their risks and dependencies in the preceding phase. Now that all the goals are written, the teams will tackle each risk in turn and decide whether they can be resolved. The risks fall into one of below categories:Resolved- The teams conclude after discussion that the topic is no longer a problem.  Owned – Someone on the train takes ownership of the item to work on a later resolution of the issue.  Accepted – Certain threats are simply facts or future issues that need to be acknowledged and embraced.  Mitigated- Teams will strategize together to mitigate a risk item 's effects. The solution or fix is implemented.Trust Vote – Once all the challenges and targets are discussed and addressed, the teams can vote on their conviction that the target can be achieved in the coming PI. The Trust vote is a quintessential vote, when team members can hold up one to five fingers in a show of hands. Anything that is less than a three-finger ballot should be re-looked at.The team member who has an issue with that particular goal would need to give more clarity, so that the teams can fix it. Once the issue has been resolved, the target of achieving a vote of confidence for the coming PI is again put to vote.Retrospective – The RTE will have a brief retrospective on the PI Planning case at the very end of the meeting to collect input about what was going well for the case, and what needs to be modified or enhanced for the next event.Day 18:00am - 9:00amBusiness context9:00am - 10:30amProduct/solution vision10:30am - 11:30amArchitecture vision & development practice11:30am - 1:00pmPlanning context & lunch1:00pm - 4:00pm Team breakouts4:00pm - 5:00pmDraft plan review5:00pm - 6:00pmManagement review & problem solving                                                                                                                           Day 28:00am - 9:00amPlanning adjustment9:00am - 11:00amTeam breakouts11:00am - 1:00pmFinal plan review & lunch1:00pm - 2:00pmProgram risks2:00pm -2:15pmConfidence vote2:15pm - X:XXPMPlan rework (if needed)When readyPlanning retrospective & moving forwordThis plan may be ideal for you or you can change it according to the needs of your team. Distributed teams, very large ARTs, and other factors can require the schedule to be modified in a creative way. You will find some sessions require more time, while others may need to be shortened. If it's your first PI Planning experience, try the regular agenda, get input from your team and play with different formats.PI Output- The output which comes out from PI planning is as follows :Smart goals are set by each participating team.The program manager updates the program board based on PI output. The feature list is accepted by each participating team.The new release date for features is aligned between teams.Dependencies of roles (between teams and other ARTs) are set.Milestones are noted down.Planning for PI offers many business advantages including:  Setting up face-to - face contact with the stakeholders and all team members – It is critical to keep everybody focused on the event.  Establishing the social network depends on the ART – The purpose of icebreakers and team-building games is to help instill trust and collaboration even for remote team members.Matching progress on business goals with the business background, vision, and priorities of the Team and Program PI – Everyone comes together so that they feel like a part of the process and are able to grasp the vision of the organization.Finding similarities and promoting cross-team and cross-ART communication – Many people who have been virtually in touch are now able to put a face to a name. When resolving concerns, dependencies and threats, it's important for everyone to feel comfortable reaching out for support and finding out how the teams can work together.Quick decision making –No need to worry if they have received your text or wait for someone to get back to you when everyone is together. Rather than days or weeks, discussions and decisions take place in minutes or hours.When is PI Planning held?Many businesses think that the correct period of time for an increment is 8-12 weeks (which adds up to 4-6 x 2-week iterations).  Some firms keep PI Planning quarterly, for example:  Q1 PI: December  Q2 PI: March  Q3 PI: June  Q4 PI: September  But timing and duration depend on how long each phase of the program is planned to last. The positive thing about PI Organizing activities is that they happen regularly on a set timetable, so you can plan well in advance for them. That means there is plenty of notice from teams and business owners to ensure they can turn up for the case.What is a pre-PI Planning event and when is it needed?Since the two-day PI Preparation case obviously is just not enough, pre-planning events may be required. These exist for a very good purpose  -to make sure the ART is synchronized before PI Preparation is carried out within the wider Solution Train. It's all about synchronizing with the other ARTs to ensure that the answer moves in the right direction, along with the organization. What normally happens is that key people from the Solution Train, along with members from the ARTs and related suppliers get together. Here are some of the people you'll find at such an organizing event :  Solution Train EngineerSolution ManagementSolution Architect/EngineeringSolution System TeamRelease Train EngineersProduct ManagementSystem Architects/EngineersCustomersThey'll look at the top Project Backlog, Project Goal, Vision, and Solution Roadmap capabilities. It's a lot like PI Preparation, but at a higher level, through the solution as a whole and not just the individual work. The event begins with each ART summing up its previous increment and achievements in order to set the context. A senior executive would then brief the attendees on the current situation before Project Management addresses the new vision of the project and any improvements from what had previously been discussed.Remote Teams must be engaged and accountableThe Agile Manifesto says, "A face-to - face interaction is the most effective and efficient method of conveying information to and within a development team."  Keeping the members of the remote team involved and focused on the planning tasks can be challenging indeed. A range of video conference services are available on the market that allow teams not only to carry out video conferencing with individual members, but also to interact with local teams with cameras. Everyone can see and communicate with one another in the same way as if they were all seated in a conference room together.  Applications like Zoom / Web ex / Google Meet /Microsoft Team offer video conferencing facilities for teams and can be used for group sessions for PI preparation. Remote participants can be asked to keep their cameras on so they can be seen.ConclusionWithin the grand scale of today's development environment, teams are often divided across geographies. Team members who are going to be on-the-spot can attend the PI meeting in person, but entire groups might not be ready to participate from the same location. Remote teams should be able to collaborate and give their feedback, in order for SAFe to develop.In such cases, RTEs and company owners need to think outside the box as online technologies evolve. They must prepare to organize and train teams to use these technology resources for effective collaboration.  The more frequently the teams use the tools, the simpler it'll be to use them for major events like PI Preparation and alternative iteration conferences and ceremonies. For answers to questions, often teams operating within the same building will profit from providing a remote source of knowledge and a common source of truth within the organization. It can also help to encourage team members to know their stakeholders and product managers, so that at the right time the right people can answer the right questions.Teams who are able to meet this challenge will benefit from the largest pool of skills and expertise, and can get set to reap the highest chance of success in this fast-paced industry.

What is Program Increment Planning and its importance in SAFe®?

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What is Program Increment Planning and its importance in SAFe®?

PI Planning or Program Increment Planning can be said to be the heartbeat of the Agile Release Train(ART). Even more precisely, it sets the tracks for the train to ensure that all rail cars(scrum teams that are a part of ART) travel in the same direction. It is similar to Iteration planning in crum. It is an extension of Iteration planning under a bigger umbrella i.e ART.  

PI Planning sessions are regularly scheduled activities held during the year where various teams within the same Agile Release Train (ART) collaborate to agree with a common vision, discuss functionality, prepare the roadmap and define cross-team dependencies. It's a fixed timebox for planning , designing, and validating a complete system, showing value, and having quick feedback.  

When you first follow SAFe, chances are, it will start with PI Planning. This is because it forms the basis for the Scaled Agile FrameworkTM. The PI Planning ceremony is the foundation of your transformation and the driver for SAFe. We will take a deep dive into PI planning in detail in this article and understand its importance in SAFe.

Program Increment Planning and its importance in SAFe®?

What is SAFe®?

Before understanding SAFe ,let’s first understand what Scrum is. Scrum is an iterative product creation approach focusing on a regular production cadence. It relies on cross-functional teams, a set of ceremonies, and certain specific supporting roles to help drive these deliveries.

SAFe is an extension of Scrum at the larger organizational level. SAFe or the Scaled Agile FrameworkTM is a set of principles and strategies designed to help deliver resilience to all departments and levels of the organization. The system is designed to enhance visibility, coordination and cooperation which will result in improved efficiency , better outcomes and faster delivery.

Scaled Agile Framework

Image Source

Introduction to Program Increment :

PI Planning is particularly useful for agile companies of large scale. Let 's look at some figures, to understand the effect. Some bigger companies , for example, may have 300-400 teams and 5,000 developers. These teams may never have spoken to each other before, in the old way of working until a crucial issue forced them to collaborate.

Previously, coordination would have been at the level of the leadership team, and they would have had several levels of managers in between who would trickle down details, but the people on the teams would never speak to each other. There would always be a constant struggle to work on the biggest projects for money, budget, and opportunities.

Projects had a habit of overlapping - one team would release something which would then break something in the project of another team. PI Preparation is the first time that many of these very large businesses have joined their teams in a space or on the same call to speak to each other. They are given the opportunity to nut out those crucial talks about who is working on what. When you enter a code or a code repository, you need to know how it can affect another team. You may also need to do some work to allow another team to work first (and vice versa) on their feature.

An ART (agile release train) is a shared objective accomplished by the soul of the different teams that work together. In very large companies, there can be three trains working together, and that is the reason why the teams need to step back every eight to 12 weeks and make sure that they continue to work towards the overall vision and company goals.

Here’s what PI Planning enforces:

  • Communication
  • Visibility
  • Collaboration

As a result, teams can more easily get work done, deliver more updates in less time, and remain on budget.

  • Executing the PI /Agenda- It is very important to understand the steps involved in executing PI. Let's try to understand the same:

1) Preparation: It will cover the prerequisites for successful PI.

  • Organization preparation : PI meetings are supposed to be arranged well in advance, and it is important to call into account all the stakeholders and leaders involved in the program. Usually, large organizations arrange this as a quarterly meeting, which helps to talk about the end of the preceding quarter and to set all in order for the start of the next quarter.
  • Content preparation: For the launch the preparation on the aim and the vision has to be made well in advance. This should be drilled into the team from day one, which is done by the Company owners and the leaders of the projects who are in the best position to do so.  
  • Facility preparation: A spacious room that is twice the size of the amount of people should be prepared, where the employees are able to walk around and ask other employees questions.

2) Agenda:

Setting the agenda is very important and should be mapped out at the outset. Motivational speakers should be called in, who can take time to remember the successes of the last PI. Always provide some time for introductions through ice breaking games. It is important that the teams get to know each other, so that they can work well together. All these can be helpful in work teambuilding and bringing a social aspect to the case.

Here is an example of an agenda from ScaledAgileFramework.com. It outlines the critical steps for a successful case.

Day One

  • Business Background – The background of the business is  provided by a senior management member or a company owner who offers insights on business performance and on how they are able to keep up with market demands and customer needs.
  • Product / Solutions Strategy- The Project management will outline the company vision for the next PI. The salient features that will help achieve these targets will be defined by the company management.
  • Architecture Vision & Development Practices – Next, the Systems Architect or IT department will talk about the systems and architectural vision for infrastructure upgrades that will help increase market time and will affect growth during the upcoming PI. Process changes associated with Agile that would improve speed and communication will be discussed.
  • Preparation Background & Lunch – After this, it is the turn of the Release Train Engineer (RTE) to explain the planning process for PI and what the teams and the general meeting are required to do. The planned results for the meeting will be discussed, and any questions from the Team will be addressed.
  • Team breakouts- Teams will meet around the boards (analogue or digital) to measure their pace for each iteration and look at their backlogs and what needs to be progressed to help the functionality outlined in the vision. They will apply their draft plans to review and provide input to all the teams. They'll need to recognize and mitigate possible threats and addictions.
  • Draft Plan Review- During this time-boxed meeting, teams will deliver their draft plans and receive input from product owners, company owners,  stakeholders and other teams. They may use the feedback to fine-tune their drafts before consulting the management. They will also discuss possible issues to be addressed by the management.
  • Review by Management and Problem Solving- Draft plans would also raise problems with design, scale, and people and resource constraints. Only the management renegotiation and future features may often solve these problems. The RTE (Release Train Engineer) organizes this meeting and stakeholders and business owners must come out of the meeting with a new set of goals or features for the teams

Day 2 Agenda

  • Program Adjustments- At the start of the day,  changes or decisions taken at the problem-solving meeting by management and stakeholders will be considered. Teams are apprised of these changes and decisions and priorities may be revisited. These adjustments will be put on the board of the company so that all departments can take a look and reorganize themselves.
  • Breakouts- During breakouts, teams take the changes back to their discussion meeting and come back to the program board with their PI targets. Company owners may assign values to each of the goals and rate them for execution. At this stage, teams will get a clearer sense of their targets in the context of the iterations ahead.
  • Final Plan Review and Lunch- Finally, each team will carry their plans to the front and present them. Threats and dependencies will be listed out at the finish of the presentation. While this is not the time to try and fix those problems, the various plans are posted to allow the teams to review and get inputs from others.

Program Risks-All teams listed their risks and dependencies in the preceding phase. Now that all the goals are written, the teams will tackle each risk in turn and decide whether they can be resolved. The risks fall into one of below categories:

  1. Resolved- The teams conclude after discussion that the topic is no longer a problem.  
  2. Owned – Someone on the train takes ownership of the item to work on a later resolution of the issue.  
  3. Accepted – Certain threats are simply facts or future issues that need to be acknowledged and embraced.  
  4. Mitigated- Teams will strategize together to mitigate a risk item 's effects. The solution or fix is implemented.
  • Trust Vote – Once all the challenges and targets are discussed and addressed, the teams can vote on their conviction that the target can be achieved in the coming PI. The Trust vote is a quintessential vote, when team members can hold up one to five fingers in a show of hands. Anything that is less than a three-finger ballot should be re-looked at.The team member who has an issue with that particular goal would need to give more clarity, so that the teams can fix it. Once the issue has been resolved, the target of achieving a vote of confidence for the coming PI is again put to vote.
  • Retrospective – The RTE will have a brief retrospective on the PI Planning case at the very end of the meeting to collect input about what was going well for the case, and what needs to be modified or enhanced for the next event.
Day 1
8:00am - 9:00amBusiness context
9:00am - 10:30amProduct/solution vision
10:30am - 11:30amArchitecture vision & development practice
11:30am - 1:00pmPlanning context & lunch
1:00pm - 4:00pm Team breakouts
4:00pm - 5:00pmDraft plan review
5:00pm - 6:00pmManagement review & problem solving
                                                                                                                           Day 2
8:00am - 9:00amPlanning adjustment
9:00am - 11:00amTeam breakouts
11:00am - 1:00pmFinal plan review & lunch
1:00pm - 2:00pmProgram risks
2:00pm -2:15pmConfidence vote
2:15pm - X:XXPMPlan rework (if needed)
When readyPlanning retrospective & moving forword

This plan may be ideal for you or you can change it according to the needs of your team. Distributed teams, very large ARTs, and other factors can require the schedule to be modified in a creative way. You will find some sessions require more time, while others may need to be shortened. If it's your first PI Planning experience, try the regular agenda, get input from your team and play with different formats.

PI Output- The output which comes out from PI planning is as follows :

  • Smart goals are set by each participating team.
  • The program manager updates the program board based on PI output.
  •  The feature list is accepted by each participating team.
  • The new release date for features is aligned between teams.
  • Dependencies of roles (between teams and other ARTs) are set.
  • Milestones are noted down.

Planning for PI offers many business advantages including:  

  • Setting up face-to - face contact with the stakeholders and all team members – It is critical to keep everybody focused on the event.  
  • Establishing the social network depends on the ART – The purpose of icebreakers and team-building games is to help instill trust and collaboration even for remote team members.
  • Matching progress on business goals with the business background, vision, and priorities of the Team and Program PI – Everyone comes together so that they feel like a part of the process and are able to grasp the vision of the organization.
  • Finding similarities and promoting cross-team and cross-ART communication – Many people who have been virtually in touch are now able to put a face to a name. When resolving concerns, dependencies and threats, it's important for everyone to feel comfortable reaching out for support and finding out how the teams can work together.
  • Quick decision making –No need to worry if they have received your text or wait for someone to get back to you when everyone is together. Rather than days or weeks, discussions and decisions take place in minutes or hours.

When is PI Planning held?

Many businesses think that the correct period of time for an increment is 8-12 weeks (which adds up to 4-6 x 2-week iterations).  

Some firms keep PI Planning quarterly, for example:  

  • Q1 PI: December  
  • Q2 PI: March  
  • Q3 PI: June  
  • Q4 PI: September  

But timing and duration depend on how long each phase of the program is planned to last. The positive thing about PI Organizing activities is that they happen regularly on a set timetable, so you can plan well in advance for them. That means there is plenty of notice from teams and business owners to ensure they can turn up for the case.

What is a pre-PI Planning event and when is it needed?

Since the two-day PI Preparation case obviously is just not enough, pre-planning events may be required. These exist for a very good purpose  -to make sure the ART is synchronized before PI Preparation is carried out within the wider Solution Train. It's all about synchronizing with the other ARTs to ensure that the answer moves in the right direction, along with the organization. What normally happens is that key people from the Solution Train, along with members from the ARTs and related suppliers get together. Here are some of the people you'll find at such an organizing event :  

  • Solution Train Engineer
  • Solution Management
  • Solution Architect/Engineering
  • Solution System Team
  • Release Train Engineers
  • Product Management
  • System Architects/Engineers
  • Customers

They'll look at the top Project Backlog, Project Goal, Vision, and Solution Roadmap capabilities. It's a lot like PI Preparation, but at a higher level, through the solution as a whole and not just the individual work. The event begins with each ART summing up its previous increment and achievements in order to set the context. A senior executive would then brief the attendees on the current situation before Project Management addresses the new vision of the project and any improvements from what had previously been discussed.

Remote Teams must be engaged and accountable

The Agile Manifesto says, "A face-to - face interaction is the most effective and efficient method of conveying information to and within a development team."  

Keeping the members of the remote team involved and focused on the planning tasks can be challenging indeed. A range of video conference services are available on the market that allow teams not only to carry out video conferencing with individual members, but also to interact with local teams with cameras. Everyone can see and communicate with one another in the same way as if they were all seated in a conference room together.  

Applications like Zoom / Web ex / Google Meet /Microsoft Team offer video conferencing facilities for teams and can be used for group sessions for PI preparation. Remote participants can be asked to keep their cameras on so they can be seen.

Conclusion

Within the grand scale of today's development environment, teams are often divided across geographies. Team members who are going to be on-the-spot can attend the PI meeting in person, but entire groups might not be ready to participate from the same location. Remote teams should be able to collaborate and give their feedback, in order for SAFe to develop.

In such cases, RTEs and company owners need to think outside the box as online technologies evolve. They must prepare to organize and train teams to use these technology resources for effective collaboration.  

The more frequently the teams use the tools, the simpler it'll be to use them for major events like PI Preparation and alternative iteration conferences and ceremonies. For answers to questions, often teams operating within the same building will profit from providing a remote source of knowledge and a common source of truth within the organization. It can also help to encourage team members to know their stakeholders and product managers, so that at the right time the right people can answer the right questions.

Teams who are able to meet this challenge will benefit from the largest pool of skills and expertise, and can get set to reap the highest chance of success in this fast-paced industry.

KnowledgeHut

KnowledgeHut

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KnowledgeHut is an outcome-focused global ed-tech company. We help organizations and professionals unlock excellence through skills development. We offer training solutions under the people and process, data science, full-stack development, cybersecurity, future technologies and digital transformation verticals.
Website : https://www.knowledgehut.com

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Maybe sleep on time, exercise, have a balanced diet, meditate and more such activities. These are “practices” which align with the mindset.What is a framework?Different people may choose a different set of practices with varying degrees of commitment e.g. It may be ok for me if I sleep on time 6 days a week while someone may be ok with good sleep for just 4 days of the week; with varying order Again, I may prefer to exercise at 5 AM followed by a healthy breakfast while someone may prefer to exercise in the evening. Different routines, different activities, different ways of performing these activities-each one has something different that works for an individual. Now, imagine that I have tried the following way of staying healthy – Eating  3 meals a day with no fats along with 3 portions of fruit, cardio exercises for 30 minutes everyday, ensuring a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per day and 30 minutes of meditation in the evening. Also, I completely avoid eating out except on festivals and I give up on taking the elevator completely.Let’s say this has worked wonders for me. Now I share this successful template with others. What have I done? I have effectively created a framework. It is a set of activities, done in a specific way and order which might be helpful for others.Agile FrameworksIt is not very different when it comes to agility. We saw the agile mindset and values a little earlier. There are different ways of implementing the values and principles associated with the agile mindset.  Each of these “ways” has its own set of practices, patterns and personas and are classified as agile frameworks. Some of the most popular agile frameworks are Scrum, Scaled Agile Framework®, Nexus, Large Scale Scrum(LeSS). Now the question is which framework is the best? This is similar to asking which is the best way of being healthy? If the focus is on the mindset and values, one would easily figure out that there is no one or “best” way. Each individual is different and a different “way” of staying healthy may work for each individual. The guiding principles may still be the same- they would be some combination of eating well, getting good sleep, work-life balance, exercise and a relaxed mind.So, what are your options? Let’s start with Scrum, which is the most popular agile framework. Scrum is a simple framework which is very well suited for small teams which are trying to develop a new product or improve an existing product. Scrum is based on the principle of building incrementally with fast feedback loops, typically every 2 weeks- a period generally referred to as a sprint.There are three roles-Product Owner, who represents the customer to the team and hence helps them prioritize “user stories” or slices of value that the team intends to create. The Scrum Master is the facilitator and coach for the team and guides them to get better every day and every sprint. The team creates a product increment every sprint and demonstrates (a thin slice of) the working system that it developed in the sprint to the stakeholders. Based on the feedback they improve the existing slice or start implementing the next most valuable thing.Extreme Programming, also known as XP is another framework which focusses on technical practices. Very rarely does scrum succeed without the focus on technical excellence that XP champions. Extreme programming promotes techniques like pair programming, behavior driven development, test driven development, etc. Scrum and XP are powerful together. In fact, XP started the concept of User Stories which were later adopted by Scrum.If your work is more flow based and your intention is, to improve the lead time for your work items, then Kanban is a great choice. Kanban is suitable for teams who do not need to reset their work every two weeks through the mechanism of sprints. Kanban helps bring in the discipline of limiting work in progress. This helps us  “stop starting” and “start finishing” work.One of the typical challenges that organizations face is that agile manifesto values and principles as implemented by scrum are hard to apply in the context of large organizations where no one team delivers value to a customer directly. In such a scenario, one needs to think about personas, practices and patterns which can be applied in a scaled organization. It is here that scaling frameworks come into the picture. Some of the most popular scaling frameworks are Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe), Large Scale Scrum(LeSS) and Nexus.What is SAFe? An important thing to note is that a framework would work only if its underlying principles and values are well understood. Let us take a deeper look into Scaled Agile Framework®(SAFe®) in this context. SAFe is the most widely used framework when it comes to the topic of scaling. SAFe is a rich body of knowledge with proven practices, patterns and workflows for Business Agility. SAFe is in fact more than just a scaling framework and provides guidance on how enterprises can achieve business agility through lean agile portfolio management practices and agile practices at team and program levels.Image SourceSAFe can be thought of as an “operating system” for enterprise agility that works in parallel to the hierarchical organization but with a different objective. While the hierarchical structure of organizations is optimized for stability, the second operating system i.e. SAFe is optimized for customer centricity and innovation. SAFe is built heavily on principles of Lean in addition to Agile. The origin of Lean Manufacturing was the Toyota Production System developed by Taichi Ohno in the middle of the 20th century. Lean thinking relies heavily on concepts like working in small batches and applying work in progress limits.SAFe has refined the principles of the agile manifesto and by bringing in Lean thinking into the mix, it has developed its own Lean Agile Principles. These principles are powerful and applicable to every part of the organization including portfolio and programs. The guiding philosophy of SAFe is to orchestrate the organization along value streams- which is a sequence of steps describing customer journey. What is more powerful than a cross functional team that plans, develops and demonstrates value creation in short cycles? The answer is a team of teams. SAFe introduces the construct of an Agile Release Train(ART) which is a team of teams organized along a value stream.The Reasons behind SAFe’s successWhat makes SAFe so powerful? It is the acknowledgement of the problem that having agile teams is not sufficient. An agile enterprise needs to be lean and nimble in the way it strategises, hypothesizes, builds and learns from it. SAFe promotes an organization-wide lean agile and systems thinking with lean economics and flow built in. If you are looking for a way to transform an enterprise’s way of collaborating and organizing with customer centricity in mind, SAFe is an excellent choice.SAFe’s overarching guidance at the enterprise level makes it a great de facto choice for all enterprises. If you have prior experience with a framework like Scrum, SAFe makes the transition to business agility smoother. If you do not have any past experience with any agile framework, it helps you understand that every part of the organization needs to come together and collaborate in a fashion that customer success and centricity become our central focus. It is for this very reason that SAFe is the market leader when it comes to agility at scale. If you have tried SAFe and it doesn’t work, it is quite likely that the foundation is weak and its principles and values have not been well understood. This is true for any other framework as well. Do not fall into the trap of adopting the roles and ceremonies of a framework like SAFe without getting the basics right. For example, the starting point of SAFe is getting all leaders through a “Leading SAFe” course so that leaders can unlearn some of the traditional ways of organizational design, responsibilities and measures of success.Generally, no framework is a silver bullet for any problem. The first step is to identify the real problem and take inspiration from a framework or multiple frameworks to solve them. In most cases, a framework cannot be applied directly and in its entirety to an organization. The first step should always be to start with the guidance provided there and gradually evolve parts of it depending on your context. Just as we weigh the options of “build vs buy” when developing a solution, we need to take a similar pragmatic approach when it comes to frameworks. Building one’s own framework from scratch is likely to be costly and time consuming, Instead, buy or reuse an existing framework and improve it through principles of empiricism. This is the secret to succeeding with frameworks. 
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A Brief Guide to the Agile Frameworks List

What does it mean to ‘be agile’? We all want... Read More

Why you should consider a SAFe Agile certification

The comparative analysis published in the 14th state of Agile report in mid-2020 represents a very crystal-clear image of Scale Agile Framework® winning the race. With approximate 35% of the total share and the graph still rising, there are many concrete reasons to be a part of the Agile revolution. The Covid pandemic has catalyzed change across forward-thinking organizations, and enterprises have realized the importance of agile and scaling it up to all layers.Many organizations have already moved to scale their Agile processes and ways of working, and  SAFe® is proven to be the most trusted and promising framework that serves the need of the enterprise and the client. The concept of customer satisfaction has been replaced with customer delight; hence it is not just about satisfying the needs of the customer but also making sure of nurturing long-term engagements and healthy relationships.Courtesy: 14th State of Agile ReportWith the increasing popularity of the scaled agile framework and its adoption across various organizations, there's a growing need for people who understand the framework and can lead the transformation. This opens a lot of opportunities for professionals who were earlier working with scrum or with any agile team. Even if someone is new to agile, they can go through SAFe certification and enhance their skills. Before moving forward with the reasons to get certified, let me first quickly give you the gist of what scaled agile is all about.While working with scrum teams, you might have noticed that the development team, the product owner and the scrum master work in sprints and deliver at certain intervals. Individual teams work in a localized, small fashion. But when we talk about large organizations, getting each layer to focus and work towards a common goal becomes the priority. Scaling is about expanding the agile practices at the organization level. When multiple teams are involved across all the layers namely – Team, Portfolio, Program, etc., a scaled agile framework binds everyone together to serve the highest common purpose.As per Scaled Agile,Inc, “Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) empowers complex organizations to achieve the benefits of Lean-Agile software and systems development at scale.”. Coming back to our topic of the day, let's catch up on some reasons to get SAFe certified: Mastering the Challenges – SAFE certification helps to understand the challenges of large organizations. A SAFe training helps to understand the entire organization and its end-to-end flow. By understanding the various value streams, one can easily master the blockages and help the organizations move forward in the journey with the client. It helps in learning different aspects of an organization and gaining in-depth understanding of processes. Earlier, a person just knew the people he or she was interacting with, but with SAFe, they can now have insight at all layers both in terms of delivery and roles and responsibilities. Worldwide Recognized Accreditation - Scaled agile certification has a globally recognized value, and is something that each IT organization in every country understands and treats as a niche skill. With a SAFe certification in hand, you can look out for your dream job in your dream country/organization. This certification is accepted worldwide and is much in demand. Scaled Agile credentials are among the most sought-after certifications with more and more organizations adopting SAFe. To meet the market needs and stay on top of the market, Scaled Agile constantly upgrades their content, making it more robust and adaptable.  Big money pockets - As scaling Agile is considered a niche skill in the industry, Scaled Agilists are paid rewarding salaries. If you are SAFe certified, you can expect a good hike in your new job or a good hike in the next appraisal. The credential also enhances your profile and makes it market-ready, increasing your employability. The market statistics show that SAFe certified professionals are paid at least 25% above their non-certified peers.  You can begin your journey with SAFe with the ‘SAFe Agilist’ certification, which is a foundational certification.  Increase in SAFe Adoption at Organization Level - With an upward trend of organizations adopting agile,  job descriptions have started including SAFe as one of the parameters that employers are looking out for. This certification makes you ready for the opportunity and the organizations’ expectations. In the current scenario, the numbers of SAFe certified professionals are low, which gives you an extra edge over others. With this certification, you can not only grow in your area intellectually but also can increase your visibility across industries. All about Growth Mindset – Lean-Agile principles in scaled framework focus on the growth mindset, which is different from the traditional way of working. Every individual wants to work in an environment that helps them grow, and SAFe organizations help them to expand their horizons. Working in a SAFe setup helps you to get aligned with bigger goals and gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills. You can get to see a 360-degree change in the way organizations work and deliver, after implementing SAFe.  Better Time-To-Market - Planned release cycles with shorter timelines reduce time to market and enhance customer satisfaction.  There is cutting-edge competition in the market, and as a SAFe certified professional, you will be much in demand for your capabilities of supporting the business to realize their objectives. The training and certification prepare you for the challenging task upfront, providing you with tools and processes, concepts of agile release train and value streams, etc, that can help you get aligned with the organizational needs. Lean-Agile Leadership- Lean and agile principles are very finely embedded in the SAFe framework which incorporates beliefs, standards, and processes that form the foundation of any organization at scale. With this certification, you can learn in detail about each parameter, each pillar, or each basic principle of scaling Agile. You will learn that SAFe is not just about delivery, coding, or the pipelines but it is also about its people - the individuals, and the teams who work relentlessly to achieve on-time releases. This is one of the reasons why SAFe is so popular. Makes your profile shine - Adding a SAFe certification to your profile is like adding a feather in your cap which sets you apart from the crowd. It adds a lot of weight to your resume and is much in demand across the globe. SAFe certification empowers you with an in-depth understanding of terminology and processes, and you get to know various aspects of working in a scaled agile organization which will not be possible without a certification. This is one of the reasons why employers actively seek people who already have SAFe certifications, rather than getting someone in house or someone without a SAFe credential. With the certification, your profile automatically gets selected for discussions at the initial stage itself, as you will be fulfilling their primary needs. Sets the Growth Path – With an understanding of the complete end to end defined framework, you can very easily look for growth options. Be it moving into the program or the portfolio layer depending on your skills and your expertise. it gives you a break from working in a monotonous manner, and helps you to communicate with various layers and get to know the big picture. The certification authenticates your capability to work across varied project management tools and methods. Continuous Delivery Pipeline- SAFe training and certification empowers you with the knowledge required to create a continuous delivery pipeline. You can learn how to incorporate DevOps tools, and get an understanding of various other tools and practices required to handle continuous delivery. It will not just help you with SAFe, but you can get exposure to the new market trends in terms of tools and processes.These were just a few of the benefits you can accrue with this certification. With more organizations adopting the Scaled Agile Framework, the opportunities are only bound to increase. And trust me, this is the best time to opt for a SAFe certification.  Looking at the job descriptions we usually see nowadays, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that in the time to come, this certification will become one of the mandates for any organization looking to scale Agile. If you still have any queries, please drop in a comment! We wish you good luck in your SAFe career!  
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Why you should consider a SAFe Agile certification

The comparative analysis published in the 14th sta... Read More

Scaled Agile Framework: Understand Safe and Its Core Values

According to the Agile Alliance, Agile is the “ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment. Ultimately, Agile is a mindset informed by the Agile Manifesto’s values and principles.” We can think of it as a way of getting work done.However, Agile was initially developed for small teams. As Agile – or its most popular variant Scrum - grew to the enterprise, companies began to adopt Scrum of Scrums which is a technique to scale Scrum consisting of dividing the groups into Agile teams of 5-10 people.But over time, more formalized methods of scaling Agile began to develop. In 2011, Scaled Agile Framework, Inc. was co-founded by entrepreneur and software development methodologist Dean Leffingwell. Starting at its first release in 2011, five major versions have been released, the latest edition, version 5.0, being released in January 2020. According to SA Inc., no major releases are planned as of this writing.This article will attempt to explain what the Scaled Agile Framework is, why it is important and what its core values are.What Is the Scaled Agile Framework®?  SAFe® for Lean Enterprises is a knowledge base of proven, integrated principles, practices, and competencies for achieving business agility using Lean, Agile, and DevOps.We’ve discussed Agile above. According to the Lean Enterprise Institute, a lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide value to the customer through a value creation process that has zero waste.*And DevOps is a set of practices that combines software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops). It aims to shorten the systems development life cycle and provide continuous delivery with high software quality. Image sourceSAFe® FoundationThe SAFe® Foundation refers to the supporting principles, values, mindset, implementation guidance, and leadership roles needed to deliver value successfully at scale.  What is the Importance of Scaled Agile Framework®?It allows organizations to scale Agile to the enterprise and enables Business Agility. Business Agility is the ability to compete and thrive in the digital age by quickly responding to market changes and emerging opportunities with innovative, digitally enabled business solutions. Key terms in SAFe® The first is Value Stream. Value Streams represent the series of steps that an organization uses to implement Solutions that provide a continuous flow of value to a customer. They can be measured using Key Performance Indicators. The next term is the Agile Release Train (ART). The ART is a long-lived team of Agile teams, which, along with other stakeholders, incrementally develops, delivers, and where applicable operates, one or more solutions in a value stream. A Program Increment (PI) is a timebox during which an Agile Release Train (ART) delivers incremental value in the form of working, tested software and systems. PIs are typically 8 – 12 weeks long. The most common pattern for a PI is four development Iterations, followed by one Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration. Lastly is Program Increment Planning (PI). It is a cadence-based, face-to-face event that serves as the heartbeat of the Agile Release Train (ART), aligning all the teams on the ART to a shared mission and vision. Typically, this is a two-day event bringing together all the Agile teams. Note that that there are four possible SAFe® configurations depending on the increasing complexity of the environment.  SAFe® configurationsEssential SAFe®- contains the minimal set of roles, events, and artifacts required to continuously deliver business solutions via an Agile Release Train (ART) as a Team of Agile Teams. It is the simplest starting point for implementation. Large Solution SAFe® - for developing the largest and most complex solutions that typically require multiple Agile release trains and suppliers but not necessarily portfolio considerations. Portfolio SAFe® - helps align portfolio execution to enterprise strategy by organizing Agile development around the flow of value, through one or more value streams.  Full SAFe® - supports enterprises that build and maintain large integrated solutions which require hundreds of people or more. Multiple instances of various SAFe® configurations may be required.  The SAFe® Core ValuesThere are four core values of SAFe®. They are alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution. It is crucial to understand these.Alignment Scaled Agile uses the example of a car not functioning correctly if it is misaligned. Alignment occurs when everyone is working toward a common direction. It enables empowerment, autonomy, and decentralized decision-making, allowing those who implement value to make better local decisions. Alignment starts with the strategy and investment decisions at the Portfolio level which in turn inform the vision, roadmap, and backlogs. Built-in Quality  Ensures that every element and every increment of the solution reflects quality standards throughout the development lifecycle. Quality is not added later, it is built-in or planned in. (This is a tenet of modern quality thinking, not just SAFe®.) SAFe® Built-in Quality organizes quality thinking around five specific aspects—Flow, Architecture and Design Quality, Code Quality, System Quality and Release Quality. Transparency Transparency – along with inspection and adaptation – is one of the three pillars of Agile. It means that an organization provides open access to the unbiased information and adaptation.  It inspects its work and adjusts it based on empirical evidence. Stakeholders have visibility into the program backlogs, and they have a clear understanding of the PI Objectives for each Agile Release Train. ARTs also have visibility into the team’s backlogs, as well as other Program Backlogs.Program Execution SAFe® places an intense focus on working systems and business outcomes. With alignment, transparency, and built-in quality on the team’s side, the teams can focus on execution.Key areas of competencyAs of this writing, the current version of SAFe® is 5.0. It is comprised of seven areas of competency, all under the heading of Business AgilityEnterprise Solution Delivery Describes how to apply Lean-Agile principles and practices to the specification, development, deployment, operation, and evolution of the world’s largest and most sophisticated software applications, networks, and cyber-physical systems. Large enterprise-wide systems require the full understanding of the system from requirements analysis to deployment.Agile Product Delivery A customer-centric approach to defining, building, and releasing a continuous flow of valuable products and services to customers and users. The key here is customer-centricity. The organization must have the ability to understand the customer’s needs and release on demand.Team and Technical Agility The Team and Technical Agility competency describes the critical skills and Lean-Agile principles and practices that high-performing Agile teams and Teams of Agile teams use to create high-quality solutions for their customers. Lean-Agile Leadership The Lean-Agile Leadership competency describes how Lean-Agile Leaders drive and sustain organizational change and operational excellence by empowering individuals and teams to reach their highest potential. Leaders must lead by example, lead change, and embrace the Lean-Agile mindset. Continuous Learning Culture The Continuous Learning Culture competency describes a set of values and practices that encourage individuals—and the enterprise as a whole—to continually increase knowledge, competence, performance, and innovation. This is achieved by becoming a learning organization, committing to relentless improvement, and promoting a culture of innovation.Organizational Agility The Organizational Agility competency describes how Lean-thinking people and Agile teams optimize their business processes, evolve strategy with clear and decisive new commitments, and quickly adapt the organization as needed to capitalize on new opportunities. Key to this is the ‘dual operating system.’ This is not a computer model but a business model, leveraging the traditional management hierarchy with a Lean/Agile leadership approach.Image SourceLean Portfolio Management The Lean Portfolio Management competency aligns strategy and execution by applying Lean and systems thinking approaches to strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and governance.Achieving the Core Values of SAFe® Achieving Alignment   Alignment can be achieved by providing the relevant briefings and participating in PI planning, helping with backlog visibility and value stream organization and coordination. Also, by communicating the mission, vision, and strategy at every opportunity.  Achieving Transparency Transparency can be achieved by openness and visualizing all relevant work, taking ownership for errors, and supporting others who acknowledge and learn from their mistakes. Achieving Built-in Quality Built-in quality is achieved by refusing to accept or ship low-quality work, by supporting investments in capacity planning and by ensuring that architecture, operations, security, and compliance are part of the flow of work.  Achieving Program Execution Program execution is achieved by participating as an active business owner in PI execution, celebrating high quality and predictably delivered program increments and by aggressively removing impediments.ConclusionBusiness Agility is the ability to compete and thrive in the digital age by quickly responding to market changes and emerging opportunities with innovative, digitally enabled business solutions In today’s world, organizations must be customer-centric and must adopt a Lean-Agile mindset to provide continuous integration and continuous delivery. The Scaled Agile Framework establishes a way not only of doing so, but also the flexibility of scaling up to whatever level of adoption (basic to full, complex solution) is required.Lean waste types are Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Unused Talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Extra Processing. 
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Scaled Agile Framework: Understand Safe and Its Co...

According to the Agile Alliance, Agile is the “a... Read More