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Will Scaled Agile (SAFe) help Businesses adapt to compete?

These are unprecedented times and in the Covid-19 economy customers have significantly increased their consumption of products and services via Digital channels which presents Businesses with new competitive threats.

It is widely accepted that every Business is now a Software Business enabled by technology.

In addition, Technology Consultants and Software Vendors have been championing all things Digital – “Digital Transformation / Digital Disruption / Digital First / Digital by Default etc.”

So, will applying Scaled Agile practices enable a Business to adapt to the “new” environment they are operating in and rapidly deliver new digital products and services?

It is important to understand that Business Agility will be required to aggressively compete in the Market. Business Agility makes it possible to adapt by managing changing Business priorities, improving project visibility and enabling changes to be made mid-stream.

This SAFe 5.0 Overview sets out an explanation of the 7 scaled agile core competencies that make true Business Agility possible through a shared portfolio vision, agile delivery of value streams and organisational agility.

Business Agility with SAFe 5.0: PepsiCo, British Airways, Discover Financial

Businesses that master Business Agility are the ones that will be better placed to compete—not just survive—in the Market.

Business Agility happens when the entire organisation uses Lean and Agile practices to deliver compelling Customer facing solutions faster than their competition.

The Product Owner is the key Business Representative responsible for setting priorities, defining and building viable adaptive products that both meet Customer needs and add Business value (MVP). The 6 key skills required to become a good Product Owner are:

  • A flawless representative
  • Immensely Knowledgeable about the Product
  • An Awesome Storyteller
  • Extremely Communicative
  • A great Issue Solver
  • An Agile Individual

The Business Value of Program Increment Planning

The Program Increment Planning event is typically 1 to 2 days of focused planning attended by Product Owners, all the teams within the same Agile Release Train (ART) to understand business priorities, the features that will be delivered in the next 12 week increment and highlight cross-team dependencies.

Scaled Agile practices and Agile Transformation are already being applied by many Businesses, however the immediate challenge is to deliver Business Agility by increasing the velocity of Product delivery, the productivity of the Cross Functional teams and increased use of Automation.

In order to shorten Lead times and time to market Businesses should consider delivering little and often by managing the number and size of features so that they can be deployed independently which makes it easier to detect any failures faster “fail fast” and notify the responsible software engineer.

Here are a few example questions that you should consider:

Do the Cross Functional Teams have everyone needed to deliver the product features? 

Are the most skilled Software Engineers working in the Business Critical teams?

How effectively are your agile distributed teams collaborating across regions in the stand ups and retrospectives?

How successful is your Hybrid staffing model which is comprised of onshore remote workers and ‘landed’ resources (offshore resources who are based onshore)?

Are Solutions rapidly released to Customers and deployed to the Production environment on Demand?

To what extent are you using machine learning to analyse current Product Delivery data and make predictions about future program Increments?

Is Automation used to drive Flow through the Continuous Integration / Delivery Pipelines?

I see a gap in the SAFe 5.0 guidance regarding security requirements. Scaled Agile Product Owners, Security Solution Architect and the Security team should consider security requirements as part of the Program Increment event and not in the later stages of delivery. This approach will enable early identification of any risks with the Solution and define security specific user stories. This is essential to maintain the Trust of the Customer.

Finally what is a practical approach to Remote Program Increment planning?

  • Design for Remote Interactions
  • Preparation – Program, Team and Individual
  • Calendars / Diaries synchronised
  • Collaborative Tools
  • Budgets agreed upfront



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