Similar to the scenario above, SAFe® Scaled Agile Framework is a modern IT storm that is sweeping the industry. When SAFe launched in 2011, not everyone was ready for their ultimate moment, but as more versions emerged and the flexibility to implement them on different layers was introduced with increased business agility at its core (eyes), many organizations began to see the benefits.
In 2005, the US government declared an emergency in the state of Florida and several adjacent coastal areas. They are preparing one of the most powerful forces of nature in modern history – Hurricane Katrina. The situation is full of panic, with millions of people being evacuated from homes, emergency shelters running low and weather forecasts reaching the next level of uncertainty.
Scaled Agile Framework
However, there were two people who tried to do the unthinkable. A reporter from a major TV company and a scientist from the NWS plan to better understand the phenomenon. They prepare to capture footage and data by getting into the ‘eye’ of the storm; something unthinkable considering the dangers of being at the centre of such a huge storm. However, the benefits are very important because the data collected is used for analysis and scientific research is important to better prepare for such storms. But the big question is, will they survive?
The big question in this situation is, however, how many of us are able to look into the eye of the storm. Can we use SAFe to realize the potential of business agility? In this article, we will examine that, along with the pros and cons of implementing the SAFe Agile framework in your organization.
SAFe is a way to scale repetitive agile ways of working (usually limited to a few teams) to different levels of the organization while adopting a lean manufacturing mindset. SAFe is based on the fact that there is a great need for adaptability in the industry, especially for large companies that are stuck in legacy processes and ancient technological hierarchies but must somehow remain relevant in the market and cannot adapt quickly to respond to changing customers. When properly implemented, SAFe will enable organizations to compete in today’s marketplace and help them thrive in an already chaotic era of digital transformation.
It should be noted that SAFe has had many versions since its inception, most recently SAFe 5.0, which is a significant update in terms of the framework itself. This release addresses key guidelines for some of the core competencies that will ultimately transform organizations into lean companies and achieve business agility.
As an Agilist it is often asked when and why we should start using SAFe. Will it really work? etc. Therefore, the main purpose of this article is to highlight some of the general pros and cons (thoughts of pros and cons) that exist among the general public. This article focuses only on SAFe and is not intended to be compared with other scaling frameworks.
5 Scaled Agile Framework Benefits
SAFe is highly relevant and designed to thrive in scenarios where there are significant dependencies of cross-functional in between agile teams and support/functional teams. While there are many benefits of properly executing SAFe, below are some of the key benefits that we will highlight in this article.
- Scalability at Multiple Levels – From Essential SAFe to Full SAFe, this framework caters to all levels of organizations seeking to scale flexibly. By doing so, it extends the core idea of agile thinking beyond projects/development teams to executives/CXOs who have to adapt to uncertainty across the enterprise. As such, it offers valuable insights into enterprise-level scaling that executives find useful in managing this uncertainty/risk.
2. Planning and Dependency Management – Planning is the most important aspect of implementing this framework. This is where all the miracles happen. It is sometimes called the core of the framework because it provides a clear picture of what program enhancements should look like, what dependencies exist between teams, and it brings together much-needed cultural resilience in the release chain. This is so important that if done incorrectly it can lead to a lot of ambiguity, development challenges, and most importantly, catastrophic product scaling. However, when going well, the iterative cycle serves to clarify key elements of the plan and process to ensure stakeholder support. Normal PI planning is a two-day activity that is a face-to-face cultural meeting of the various ART teams. However, a new 3-day distributed PI plan has been introduced to help teams that are geographically dispersed (in different time zones), which is perfect for the current situation.
“There is no magic in SAFe®, except maybe for PI planning”. – Author of the SAFe framework.
In large organizations with multiple teams distributed across multiple vendors, workflows, etc. The team must work independently while providing additional programming. SAFe, via the PI planning exercise discussed above, helps solve this problem by anticipating dependencies between teams and constantly negotiating and visualizing them. Not only does it stop at PI planning, but the framework also provides a rhythmic way to continue this through skirmishes. Program boards are an ideal opportunity to show dependencies between teams.
3. Increasing Time for Values – The great philosopher Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Imagine a parade of republic day where various regiments of the Army, Navy and Air Force including their bands march in unison. Whether you are an infantryman, squadron commander, or the President of a country, or somewhere in between, all follow the same process, protocol, and create one common event. Similarly, at SAFe, almost all parts of the organization, from the Scrum team, ART, portfolio team, and C-level executives, work together at the enterprise level and march towards a single set of goals at the same rhythm. This helps plan and execute consistently, iteratively, while incorporating timely feedback at all levels, delivering value faster.
4. End-user-centred ideology – An empathetic mindset towards product design, execution and delivery is critical to the success of any product. SAFe offers research-based and customer-centric companies focused on creating an empathy map prior to the design phase to understand exactly how end users will be affected by every decision made by the company. It also helps companies better know market rhythms and stay ahead of the advertising cycle by leveraging key unexplored areas and providing much-needed profits.
5. Alignment with Business Goals – What SAFe does (and is doing exceptionally well) is breaking down the multiple silos between business and technology. He actively encourages stakeholders to brainstorm and communicate with relevant teams of IT product delivery. Stakeholders also help to prioritize initiatives/work items quantitatively by assigning a business value to each item, thereby aligning business and technology with goals, values, and ultimate vision at the enterprise level. The interaction is mainly carried out through various events built into the framework itself, such as: PI planning, system demos, scrums, etc. Well, the last thing we want to avoid in an enterprise-wide transformation is a total mismatch between business strategy and IT delivery.
Enterprise Business Agility – Ultimately, any framework an organization uses to measure agility is useless unless it helps organizations thrive in this chaotic digital age where the key is the time it takes to respond to changing market forces and deal with ambiguous but challenging opportunities. appear. As noted in the point above, SAFe helps align business and IT strategies by ensuring that there is a developing hierarchical structure alongside the corporate network. This type of customer-centric framework helps provide efficiency and stability with a touch of innovation.
Scaled Agile Framework ( SAFe ) Disadvantages
Too much jargon/terminology to remember – SAFe uses a lot of terminology. To understand a few, they sound like this – train clearance, program elevation, track, collision barrier, activator, spikes, etc. let’s take a breath, okay?! It also has its own way of doing things in terms of Agile terminology. SAFe is able to modify some common Agile terms and processes to fit the “frame” they define. For example sprints are called iterations, milestones are defined and jumps are estimated. Why would anyone judge and measure nails?
This can seem more like a push than a pull (a top-down approach) – This is another seemingly unintentional weakness of the SAFe framework, mainly due to the multiple layers of management and coordination. At each level there are specific roles that (as opposed to Scrum) tend to take soe developers freedom and limit the experiment’s flexibility. This not only takes away the limelight of self-organized teams, but also makes them nearly dead in decision-making.
The Hardening Sprint – A notoriously misused word in SAFe is the Innovation or IP Sprint. Despite having a good name, teams or companies often use it as an upgrade healing phase, mainly to fix bugs, stabilize pipeline issues, etc. we’ve often seen hardcore agile talk about it and the true purpose of this phase in the questions asked. According to some, where additional capabilities are at the core of Agile and Scrum, this framework ignores them completely. This can happen in organizations that do not have a strong DoD (Definition of Done) at either the team or enterprise level and are often overlooked behind in the name of meeting deadlines.
Not for start-ups – Since SAFe is essentially a scalable framework for large enterprise agility, it may not be suitable for start-up situations, especially if the entire organization is less than say 30-40 people – typical for any startup of a company. Applying the SAFe methodology in such a situation can lower down the flexibility to react rapidly to a volatile market.
Can it work anti-agile? – Ken Schwaber himself has discussed this and questioned several SAFe strategies such as: Several other agile practitioners believe that the SAFe framework is too “complete” to support an organization’s agile culture, regardless of its size; unlike Scrum, which adheres to the true values and principles of agility and deliberately remains “unfinished” to create opportunities for new values to be embraced. On the one hand, SAFe can hinder the “individual and interaction” aspect.
If your head is spinning right now, don’t worry, it’s okay to linger in this mood for a moment because implementing Scaled Agile Framework is an important decision for any organization and should not be taken lightly. This involves a lot of effort, training time and, of course, cost. Understanding SAFe can be a daunting task, but having the right framework is a must. Our advice is simple. If you want to implement SAFe, go ahead, but don’t rush. Follow step by step and follow the SAFe implementation roadmap. This roadmap is a very useful strategy and outlines some of the key steps needed to achieve organizational change.
Any important decisions, such as whether to implement Scaled Agile Framework or not, are likely very context dependent. We believe SAFe adoption will only increase when companies move to something available for adoption, and SAFe and its partners will definitely open their checkbooks. However, the key is to try to understand and measure what impact it has. Measuring several key aspects and business outcomes (such as cycle time, frequency of issues, NPS, key business metrics like customer retention, etc.) will become important as SAFe is implemented. Remember that like the effects of a hurricane, SAFe is a hurricane in today’s industrial climate and is sure to take us all on a whirlwind journey. The trick is to be smart and look into the eye of the storm to reap the benefits and lay a solid foundation for the future of agile scaling at enterprise scale.
Well, if you are aiming to go ahead with Safe Agile Certification Training then we at Vinsys will provide end-to-end assistance and training that will help you in getting an edge in your career. Sign up to book your seat now.
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