SAFe is currently the leading framework for implementation of large scale agile approach. What is it about?
I recently took a course and certification exam for one of the SAFe framework roles. I took me a while to decide if I want to go this way, I’ve heard both good and bad feedback and I was not sure if it’s worth it. So I did some research, connected with experts coming from practical experience and asked questions here on the discussion forum to hear your opinions. At the end I’m very happy that I decided to go for it.
These are my main, personal learning points:
- Enterprise-wide agile transformation can’t be solved with Scrum
As much as agile approach suggests lean, lightweight methods, you can’t avoid dealing with high level complexity on enterprise-wide level. Even the most skilled and empowered team need to know what direction to follow to create a customer value. Such direction should come from the company strategy. But here comes the real life, it takes a long way to translate strategic vision into specific projects that are sized to fit small agile teams. The virtue of large scale agile approach is not about mastering Kanban, XP or Scrum, it is about maintaining the two-way flow of communication between corporate strategic decisions and IT projects.
- Don’t expect new methods, SAFe is more of a puzzle put together
SAFe framework does not really provide revolutionary ideas. After digging into the detail you would probably realize that you’ve heard a bit about most of its aspects. But that’s totally fine with me. SAFe combines several methods together and provides comprehensive view from the top to the team level. Some of the applied methods are adjusted and it’s all connected together to enable strategic alignment with IT projects execution in a way, that supports fast and frequent deliveries of a software product.
- IT architecture and infrastructure are enablers or a stop sign
I don’t really see a way around IT architecture and infrastructure when aiming at agile software delivery. Principles that are the heart of SAFe, such as continuous integration, automated testing or deployment decoupled from release, relies heavily on software tools and characteristics of information systems you are dealing with. It makes a difference if you’re developing a modular product such as web application, if the goal is to automate processes executed in legacy ERP systems or if the company aims to build a competence in IoT where physical products are involved.
- Implementing large scale agile approach is about years, not months
I asked and this was the answer, at least 3 years. I’m not surprised because to put this whole model in a large company requires a lot of discipline, long-term commitments and ability to deliver cross functional changes that involves large number of people (hundreds to thousands), technology and company culture.
I believe there will be more and more discussions about large scale agile transformations. At the end we have to treat it as any other organizational transformation with all of its aspects and complexity. There is never a single method that would solve it all and the key is to cover the organization head to toe.