The tech world is often at the forefront of new business practices and ways of working. Its fast-paced environment is a great place to test new techniques or processes.
A popular approach to product development is the Scaled Agile Framework, also known as SAFe. The first version of the Scaled Agile Framework debuted in 2011. The most recent version is 5.0, dating to January 2020.
So even the framework itself undergoes the iterations of the development process. It just goes to prove how valuable it is.
So, what is the Scaled Agile Framework and what does it involve? Read on to learn more.
Understanding the Scaled Agile Framework
SAFe works at three main levels:
There is an extra iteration of SAFe that also focuses on the Value Stream. We’ll cover these three levels for now.
At the Portfolio level, the managers break the project down into Epics. This makes the project easier to tackle.
These Epics break apart into sub-epics at the Program level. Product managers and system architects work at the Program level to keep the teams on track.
They pass these sub-epics to the Teams. They might be a software feature. It’s much more specific than the Epic at the Portfolio level.
This helps teams to plan how they’re going to tackle their assignment. They can break the sub-epic into tasks, to help distribute the work among its members.
Now you know the way an organization is divided up in an Agile way. What are the four stages of the SAFe framework?
The company chooses a value stream to focus on. This refers to the value customers get from the business. Think of this using the benefits of the products you sell, rather than the specific products.
Say you’re a software company. You might specialize in productivity and project management solutions.
For your first implementation of SAFe, you might choose your project management platform. You want to introduce new features, and you want to do this in a SAFe way.
This stage of the framework also involves pulling together the team. You might train your chosen personnel and set deadlines.
At this point, encourage staff to become a SAFe practitioner. You can put staff through a Scaled Agile certification. This improves their awareness of the framework.
Next, you plan your objectives for your first iteration. These usually last for 8-12 weeks, and they’re often called increments.
Now everything has been planned, the teams can get on with the work.
In traditional Agile frameworks, developers get on with their individual tasks. Daily standups help you to see where they’re up to.
You can use these meetings to redistribute work if necessary. Others might use the opportunity to troubleshoot or problem-solve.
By working in this way, everyone in the team takes ownership of the task. The work to be done is a collaborative effort, not a series of individual ‘missions’.
This means staff don’t become overwhelmed if something takes longer than planned. It also means no one sits idle if other members finish earlier than expected.
The work truly becomes a group effort.
3. Review and Retro
At the end of the increment, each team presents the work they’ve done. This results in a system demo so everyone can review the work so far.
Next, the team looks for problems and devises solutions or improvements.
These move forward for the next planning stage as the cycle begins again. Solving these issues becomes the focus of the next iteration and its objectives.
This is also where the benefits of the Scaled Agile Framework become clear. Before SAFe, the product development team might have used Scrum to run projects.
Yet it’s likely other departments, like marketing or quality control, didn’t. This led to delays as these other teams needed to fit projects into their own timelines.
With a SAFe approach, the review period includes these other teams. Marketing can figure out their campaign while watching the development of the product.
You can now run these first three stages again on another Value Stream.
Review vs. Retro
It’s important to note two different approaches to this part of the process. They’re equally important, but Review tends to get more attention than Retro.
Reviews focus on the product. Stakeholders give feedback on the work done during the increment. This is how the team works out where they are in the process.
Retros are retrospectives and they focus on the team. They examine how the team works, and how they can improve.
These retros are also important. Without them, you can’t fix any problems in how your team approaches each increment.
If you’ve followed these stages so far, you have run your first iteration of SAFe Agile Certification. You’ve only done this at the Team and Program levels, with the teams working through their tasks.
To roll the framework out across the company, you need to apply the same steps to the Portfolio level. Here, you’ll focus on the performance of the whole company.
You’ll need to change the business culture and switch everyone’s mindset to match your new goals.
What Makes the Scaled Agile Framework Different?
One of the exciting parts of the framework is its focus on collaboration. It’s open access so there’s a Scaled Agile community online. Other users can provide support or advice.
Agile focuses on specific teams. Yet Scaled Agile helps you to roll the framework out across a whole business. Bringing all your teams into alignment bakes quality into the work you do.
This helps you to bring products to market faster. The framework also increases job satisfaction and SAFe can improve productivity by 20-50 percent.
If you want a new way of working that helps employees feel more valued, and that boosts the quality of what you do? Choose the SAFe framework.
What Are You Waiting For?
Now you know the four stages of the Scaled Agile Framework. It can require extra training or certification to make sure you roll it out properly.
Once you do, you can expect better work done more efficiently. This will keep your stakeholders and users happy, meaning you can keep doing what you do best.
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