Necessity is the mother of invention – Plato
This quotation even applies to our software development where things are changing fast and it’s not just an elephant that you have to deal with, it’s the “Titanosaur Argentinosaurus huinculensis” – the massive dinosaur.
The software industry has grown by leaps and bounds which implies that the challenges have even multiplied too. For large programs and organizations, the challenges can come from any of the corners, it can be around monitoring or control, communication, stakeholders onboarding, change management, governance structure, the list is pretty long, and any imbalance can impact any of the three sides of the project management triangle – time, cost and scope.
With a volatile industry, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️) came in as a big rescue for the teams working on the different sizes of solutions. It is an ability to help the teams in maintaining an alignment with the business goals. Also, helping the organizations that need to work across the teams, is totally praiseworthy. Being deep-rooted in Agile and Lean principles, scaled agile remains more effectual than traditional styles to software delivery.
Before the Agile era, we used to build the large and complex systems and the effects were outraging. Most of the times, the teams were missing the deadlines and minimal focus was given on a quality. Due to this, businesses faced bad days and I feel the software industry regrets that now.
SAFe®️ tries to address these issues and companies who have adopted the framework have shown amazing results. With the need of delivering quality, time-to-market, faster ROI, our leaders in the industry shaped in a lot models and frameworks to support software development like Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) etc.
The flexibility these frameworks provide may valued by those with a good understanding of agile, but it might not offer sufficient track for those who are transitioning from traditional models. The usual reason we get to see for agile failure lies in the mindset of cultural change, none of the framework apart from SAFe®️, takes care of this fact.
Back in 2011, Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo, together came up with the framework which has helped a wide variety of organizations, so far, they stay strong with their framework by introducing new features and making it more compatible with the needs of the organization.
The advantages of Scaled Agile Framework, if taken into account, the ‘Full SAFe®️’ takes care of all the levels in the organization and provides end-to end solution at the organisation level. Scaled Agile Framework was designed to sustain the big picture view of software development, it can effortlessly handle a synchronized plan for large-scale and complex projects with teams that can go beyond hundreds.
Organizations can opt the benefits of Scaled Agile Framework, if their focus is on scaling the agile processes up to enterprise level, aligning business and technical goals for the company, utilizing the employee skills effectively, defining effective organizational structures around agility, scheduling for on-time delivery and improving the quality of solutions.
It is the framework which not only aligns at the team and program level but also helps us stay aligned with organization strategy. It provides different level of configurations, that organizations can pull as per their needs. Scaled agile framework highlights predominant fears, like architecture, security, performance, and the resolution of dependencies and inconsistencies across the projects.
In this framework we talk about releases, trains, value stream, product increment, the reasons to consider SAFe®️, and each and every entity in the whole system is connected to deliver the best solution.
I have been a part of the transformation, where our organization moved into scaled framework, it is actually a big change, a big shift from what we were earlier. Now, there was a proper alignment in terms of product, teams and the work assignment. Teams actually understood why we are building it, they got to know what value it is going to add as a whole.
As a culture shift, everyone was talking a foreign language but surprisingly they could easily comprehend the whole shift. You can feel the excitement, the lows and highs, the overall chaos in the initial phase and a smooth runway in a longer run.
But it takes time, I just mentioned complete 2 years journey in a paragraph!!
So far, I have been just talking about ‘what’ and ‘why’ for scaled agile framework, now let’s look into the ‘how’ part of it relating to the business. Trust me, this framework is really huge and the more you dive into it, the more you will be astonished by its beauty and effectiveness.
Talking about the business, the organization's main focus is usually on the productivity (output), quality, time-to-market and the engagement. These are the basic reasons for any businesses for adopting SAFe®️ in the organizations.
As per the survey, the productivity of your teams increase in the range of 20% to 50%, this owes to the fact that the teams have to be aligned with the product, the continuously collaborate and interact which gives them a high level of transparency on the expectations, they understand the deliverables and in turn set the expectation of the stakeholder too.
This framework takes care of the dependencies and complexity which helps in building more. This helps in aligning the right work to the agile teams, even the customer knows what to expect at the end of the release, hence the balance in work assigned and the work delivered greatly increases, and it comes back as an increase in the productivity.
Quality is one of the foundations when we talk about SAFe®️, organizations using SAFe®️ reported an increase in quality ranging from 20% to 75%, ‘wow’ factor for any company.
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. Built-in quality is also a core principle of the Lean-Agile Mindset, helping to avoid the cost of delays (CoDs) associated with recalls, rework, and fixing defects. SAFe®️’s built-in quality philosophy applies systems thinking to optimize the whole system, ensuring a fast flow across the entire Value Stream, and makes quality everyone’s job. – Scaledagileframework.com.
Quality is embedded at every stage/level in SAFe®️, it can be dev tests, QA tests (scale, security, UAT), environment tests or prod config. A continuous delivery pipeline ensures quality before delivery into production. The scale agile framework also helped in getting happier teams with their satisfied stakeholders.
Now, the teams have more visibility into what is building in and why is it building. Constant collaboration at all levels increases the confidence and raises the commitment. Most of the times, the teams actually get to interact with the real customers which helps them own the product and its deliverables, they tend to feel elated about showcasing what they have developed.
Let’s move on to see the real examples that we have from the organizations which adopted SAFe®️, and yes, it was not a smooth drive for them initially.
In this article, we will cover the case study from LEGO - It is a line of plastic construction toys that are manufactured by The Lego Group – the company we all love so dearly!
When LEGO adopted its scaled agile journey in 2015, they started their journey with moving 5 teams out of 20 to get into self-organizing mode. And later on the other teams followed the journey, but there was a challenge on coordination and collaboration. To make that happen, LEGO followed the SAFe®️ framework pattern and added another level of abstraction- the program level. They followed few practices such as meeting in every 8 weeks for a planning session which lasted for one and a half days.
During this meeting, teams showcased their work, worked out the dependencies, estimated risks, and planned for the next release period. With their adoption on scaling, they found the following benefits of Scaled Agile Framework-
Other success stories are from FitBit, Accenture, Bank of Canada, TomTom, Capital One, Sony, Cisco. The list is pretty long and has been increasing continuously. Every organization has a story to tell from their transformation journey. Being agile is not a destination, but it is a continuous journey. So, be a part of the scaled journey and enjoy the Scaled Agile Framework pros.
Summarizing all the aspects that we have been discussing so far, the crux of adopting the scaled agile framework could be, better predictability, higher productivity, increased quality, greater employee happiness, faster time to market.
This framework can be adopted by the larger organizations, we have already witnessed awesome feedbacks from companies implementing SAFe®️, though it has got its own set of prescription, it really helps if the values and principles suggested by the framework are applied at its best. Scaled framework supports the organization at all the levels ensuring they deliver excellence at every stage.