Scaled Agile Framework

Optimizing operations and workflow are at the top of every business owner's or project manager's mind. Companies all over the world are looking for solutions, approaches, and schemes that can streamline the development process.

Agile frameworks help achieve company goals while maximizing cost efficiency. If you are used to agile principles, you know that they may not always work on an enterprise scale as efficiently as they are for separate units. That’s where Scale Agile Frameworks (SAFe) come in.

Let’s take a closer look at scaled agile frameworks and what they can do for your business.

What Is Scaled Agile Framework?

A scaled agile framework is a collection of workflow and organizational elements for implementing agile principles on an enterprise scale. The framework is a significant knowledge base that contains all the necessary information on planning and managing the work, giving out responsibilities, determining company values, and more.

With a Scaled Agile Framework, you can ensure smooth collaboration and fast work results across several agile teams. On an enterprise scale, the number of these teams can be significant. The knowledge base at their fingertips allows these teams to communicate and collaborate seamlessly.

While several other agile frameworks exist, SAFe is the most popular one. It combines Agile, DevOps, and Lean practices to ensure agility.

As the company begins to grow, scaling agile can become a problem. SAFe allows organizations to scale organically. The approach provides options for different levels of scaling:

  • Essential SAFe
  • Large SAFe
  • Portfolio SAFe
  • Full SAFe

SAFe agile practices have been around for over a decade. It helps companies all over the world design better systems and programs that suit clients.

SAFe is one of the most popular scaled agile delivery frameworks in the world. It continues to evolve to cater to the rapidly changing market conditions and technological advances.

What is Adopting Agile at Scale?

When you are scaling agile, you are adapting to new challenges by responding to the customer’s needs quickly and providing top-notch products without incurring organizational delays. This drives client satisfaction and puts you on the road to becoming an industry leader.

In other words, adopting agile at scale is implementing the agile approach to all teams in the organization, including sales, marketing, development, and top management. This reduces bulky coordination and streamlines communication between all employees.

The key contributors to adapting agile are autonomy, transparency, accountability, and alignment.  

Meanwhile, spreading agile across the organization with multiple teams has its challenges. While software engineers usually have experience with the agile approach, other team members may have a hard time adjusting to the new normal.

The big choice of scaled agile frameworks makes it easy to choose the suitable one for your business. The one you choose can depend on the stage of your agile process, your objectives, and the readiness of your team to battle the new structure.

Main Issues with Scaling Agile

A reliable scaled agile framework is a major assistance on your journey to scaling agile. It provides the much-needed structure and instructions for becoming agile without making common mistakes or trying to do something that someone else has already done many times.

While the framework simplifies the process, scaling agile still comes with certain challenges. You need to be ready to transform your entire way of thinking and operating to another level. While some of your team members already have experience with agile, others can have a hard time adapting to it.

The main challenge behind the agile transformation is releasing some control over the way your team works. Agile means autonomy. Each team does exactly what you expect from it, and you have to trust them to do so. With agile, you can’t control every aspect of the process without delaying the project and eliminating the positive effects of scaling.

Scaling agile means:

  • Going away from centralized decision
  • Beefing up transparency around key project goals
  • Align company goals and values with the goals and values of team members.
  • Discovering the delicate balance between autonomous function and cross-department collaborations
  • Adjust the way you organized operations (for some organization it means changing the process entirely).
  • Fixing or changing the product after delivery

For many organizations, scaling agile, even when they have scaled agile frameworks at hand can be challenging. The toughest part about the process is getting through the first steps and leaving your mind open to changes. You need to remain flexible.

Once the first results come in, you can experience the substantial ROI of your decision, and start overcoming the existing challenges much faster.

Benefits of SAFe

Scaling with SAF can have numerous benefits for different companies regardless of the size and number of their teams. Some of these advantages include:

Speed

Since SAFe allows your departments to improve collaboration and communication efforts, the time-to-market increases immediately. SAFe eliminates common delays that have to do with communication between the development and marketing teams and streamlines the entire process on the spot.

SAFe helps department heads make quicker decisions while setting clear goals and considering the requirements of all team members. This framework keeps the focus on the customer while improving the work environment for the organization.

Higher Quality

A well-arranged work process is a driving force behind the project’s quality. Quality lies at the foundation of the SAFe-built approach. High quality integrates itself into each step of the development process.

If you are scaling agile with SAFe, the entire organization benefits. Quality drives speed, success, and customer loyalty. When each team member knows their responsibilities, it becomes much easier to achieve project goals.

Boost in Productivity

A comprehensive scaled agile framework initiates a boost in productivity. Since teams are empowered with the right tools to ensure the success of the projects, they readily improve their work without spending time on complex communication.

The ability to do the job they are directly responsible for without constantly looking back at other departments drives a significant improvement in each team’s productivity.

The best part about the SAFe framework is that it helps team members become better and better at their jobs, thus constantly improving quality over time and delivering early.

Improved Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is the key driving force behind productivity. In fact, highly engaged teams can improve the company’s profitability by 21%. Besides improving the way your team works, you are also increasing employee satisfaction rates.

Amidst The Great Resignation, engaging and retaining your top talent is integral to the continued success of your company and its project.

When you implement SAFe tools, you are empowering your workers to engage, produce, and improve.

Downsides of Scaled Agile Framework

While highly useful, a scaled agile framework comes with certain downsides. Keeping them in mind can help you make the right decision for your company.

Technical Terms

Scale agile frameworks use a variety of technical jargon, such as agile release trains, guardrails, runways, and more. Your team will not see such familiar terms as sprint. In SAFe, they will encounter iterations.

The jargon confusion increased the learning curve of SAFe for software development teams. However, other teams that aren’t familiar with agile won’t see a difference. However, they would still need to learn agile concepts, new processes, and terms.

Size Matters

SAFe was designed to cater to large organizations that have multiple departments and a big number of team members. If your company has less than 40 employees, this framework won’t help it.

If a small company decides to use SAFe, it could have issues running parallel in highly volatile markets.

Different Hierarchy

While departments have impressive autonomy with SAFe, the top-down principle still works. When the top management makes decisions, project managers have too much work cut out for them. Eventually, this may cause frustration for all team members.

Core Values of Scaled Agile Framework

Before implementing SAF for your business, you may want to take a deeper look at its values. This can help you determine whether SAFe is the right way for the company to go.

Alignment

The first core value of the SAFe framework is alignment. It means that the entire organization has a centralized understanding of what it's doing to achieve the company’s goals. All departments work toward achieving the same objectives, complementing each other and eliminating any interference.

One of the main issues with misalignment is the lack of business agility. When changes need to be implemented quickly, team members can’t adjust. When everyone is moving in the same direction, flexibility thrives.

The lack of alignment usually causes delays, misunderstandings, errors, and low employee satisfaction. Agile practices address all of these issues to ensure seamlessly aligned collaboration regardless of the organization’s size.

Quality

SAFe doesn’t just contribute to quality, it has built-in quality inside the framework. When the entire team is trying to achieve specific quality standards, the final product is highly likely to ensure customer satisfaction.

Many organizations boast quality as their core value. However, achieving it requires a complex set of measures and tools that aren’t always available. Organizations that opt for SEFe can exceed quality expectations.

Transparency

Transparency is an integral contributor to engagement, quality, and flexibility. When organizations implement transparency, they become more resistant to errors and less likely to encounter project delays.

Without transparency, larger organizations can’t achieve their goals according to set deadlines. It keeps employees from understanding what their role in the company is. This reduces engagement significantly and affects productivity.

With SAFe, you can make sure that all your cross-functional teams are working toward the same goal. This doesn’t just boost productivity but also drives loyalty.

Execution

Program execution lies at the very core of the scaled agile framework. When numerous teams work to develop, adjust, and integrate one product, the focus is on optimization and business outcomes.

Tests and continuous delivery pipeline helps companies achieve their goals. Teams start testing the product at its earliest stages. This helps speed up operations, ensure faster delivery, and improve the entire process for everyone involved.

Eventually, the release can happen faster, keeping clients and shareholders happy.

The Takeaway: Scaled Agile Network At Its Best

Initially, agile was something created by developers to help themselves streamline the development process and speed up project execution. The main reason why agile became so popular is the decentralization of decision-making. Developers finally had more control of the development process, and it turned out to be a highly useful approach.

SAFe is designed to transfer developer experience to a large scale of operations for enterprise organizations. It allows you to implement agile for project optimization coordination, and management. The key element that SAFe provides is a full understanding of the project's value. This streamlines engagement for all team members involved.

SAFe can become an excellent scaling solution for many organizations. However, it doesn’t help smaller companies. Scaling agile is a process that requires excellent dedication, full involvement, team support, and much more. Without these, the scaled agile framework can’t help the company achieve its goals.

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