Scaling Agile

by Sysco LABS Articles 25 July 2016

A common practice among teams in IT companies adopting the latest trends, Agile can be scaled to enterprise level once applied properly. In this Innovation Session, Maduri Senadheera from the Project Management team talks about the Agile project management mindset, the need for scaling and the benefits of a Scaled Agile Framework for better aligning business processes.

The Agile Paradigm Shift

During the days of the waterfall era, it took considerable time to deliver results to the customer. This involves going through all the phases of software development, which includes a comprehensive requirements gathering phase, design, implementation, verification and finally delivering the product to the end user. This process takes months, sometimes years to yield the return on investment for the end user. The value of the delivery of the project can only be seen once it has been completed. Due to this, incremental delivery methods were introduced. In an incremental delivery system, a part of the system is built and then delivered chunk by chunk. This ensures that the customer receives the benefits of the product offering via early usage of features, and the company receives revenue and customer feedback while developing the software incrementally. The number of Agile users and practitioners have been growing over the past few years, and out of all the practices, Scrum has become the most popular. However, switching to Agile has its own bottlenecks. To implement agile methodologies in place of existing business processes, there should be someone experienced enough to guide the teams to adapt to the change. If the company culture and philosophy does not fit into the Agile way, it will not be effective. The implementation of Agile also requires support of the management to be passed down effectively between teams.

The Need for Scaling

Agile needs to be scaled in an organization from team level to enterprise level so that everyone in the organization is aligned with the process. Among different scaling mechanisms proposed and practiced over time, the scaled Agile framework (SAFe) has gained popularity recently. This was a framework designed by Dean Leffingwell and a team at Scaled Agile, Inc. out of Boulder, Colorado. SAFe can be defined as “A proven publicly available framework for applying Lean/Agile practices at enterprise scale template for scaling Agile principles and tools for larger organizations”. As Scrum is to the Agile teams, SAFe is to the enterprise level. SAFe also follows lean principles based on a solid foundation and an objective held up by four pillars. The foundation is formed by the Lean-Agile leadership, where management applies and teaches lean thinking, and bases decisions on this long term philosophy. The goal is to create value, which is achieved by the shortest lead time, the best quality and value to people and society, while maintaining high morale, safety and customer delight. This goal is supported by four pillars; the respect for people and the culture of the organization, the continuous flow of delivery, innovation, and relentless improvement by reflecting on key milestones and addressing shortcomings.

SAFe 4.0

SAFe has reached version 4.0, which consists of four levels; portfolio, value stream, program, and team. The presentation also defined the roles which hold responsible tasks at each level as well as the necessary tasks which happen within the level. Each level has a thorough information flow consisting of backlogs. The innovation session also explained the importance of release/pi planning with regard to how the agendas are executed and work is planned as a result. In the modern business scope, following Scaled Agile Framework can bring many advantages as it is publicly available and free to use, forming a guideline for process improvement. It also offers a complete picture of software development and execution, allowing for faster identification of bottlenecks and drawbacks, and overall, aiding in the aligning of the whole organization to deliver high quality software.


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