Top 10 Key Elements for Successful SAFe Implementation
SAFe is based on 10 key elements that have evolved from Agile principles and methods, systems thinking, lean product development, and successful enterprises' observation.
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The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) came into being to help modern enterprises implement Lean-Agile development at scale more effectively and smoothly. So, if an enterprise wants to implement this framework to reap the maximum benefits of the Lean-Agile Development at scale, it is essential for it to absorb Lean-Agile culture, Lean-Agile mindset, and Lean-Agile principles at the personal, intellectual, and leadership levels. This thorough absorption at all these levels forms the base on which SAFe can be implemented effectively.
The successful SAFe implementation consists of these factors:
- Clarity of Lean-Agile Principles.
- Clarity of 10 key elements for its implementation.
- Clarity of SAFe implementation roadmap.
As we all are in the know of the Lean-Agile principles, it would be quite interesting to understand 10 key elements required for successful SAFe implementation. The four major configurations of SAFe are: Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe, and Full SAFe. In the era of SAFe 5, it is important to know at which point successful implementation of SAFe begins.
Well, Essential SAFe is a starting point for the successful implementation of SAFe. It provides the building block to the enterprise for effective and consumer-centric solution development. It is within this configuration that we present the top 10 key elements for successful SAFe implementation. A clear understanding of these elements is critical to leverage the maximum benefits of this constantly evolving framework.
Top 10 Elements for Successful SAFe Implementation
1. Lean-Agile Principles
Implementation of Lean-Agile Development at scale is a mammoth task. This task becomes easier with this framework as it is quite flexible and offers ways to adapt to every evolving technological trends. However, every enterprise comes with its own share of challenges and strengths. It is in this backdrop that the framework with principles serves as the anchor against a framework that only has practical actions. The underlying logic of Lean-Agile principles makes sure that the enterprise is going in the right direction even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. The 10 principles set forward by the Scaled Agile Framework are:
- Take an economic view.
- Apply systems thinking.
- Assume variability; preserve options.
- Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles.
- Base milestones on an objective evaluation of working systems.
- Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths.
- Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning.
- Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers.
- Decentralize decision-making.
- Organize around value.
2. Real Agile Teams and Trains
The second element in implementing SAFe successfully is the function of real agile teams and the Agile Release Trains (ARTs). An Agile team consists of 5 to 11 skilled individuals who know exactly what it takes to produce a functional, testable solution via valuable incrementation. These teams can be technology-focused or business-focused. The Agile teams are cross-functional, self-organizing, and self-managing. The Scrum Master and the product call the shots in the functioning of these teams. These teams are put into alignment by ARTs, which are a long-lived group of Agile teams. ARTs are virtual organizations that are made up of 50 to 125 people. ARTs are formed around an enterprise’s major Development Value Streams. Their sole purpose is to achieve that promised development value by building solutions that make a positive difference in the lives of the end-users. Whether the ARTs are working on software, hardware, firmware, or any other type of solutions, they are well-equipped to determine, execute, test, deploy, and release them. Sometimes, ARTs are so well-trained that they can even operate the solutions if required.
3. Cadence and Synchronization
Cadence and synchronization provide mechanisms for the systems to iterate in spite of the uncertainty inherent in a development environment. Cadence is a rhythmic pattern that routinizes those processes in the development process that can be indeed made routines. Cadence serves as the heartbeat for the entire development process, creating predictability, and focusing constantly on the evolution and objective evaluation of the full system, rather than its components. The cadence can be up to two weeks for the team, while for the ARTs it can stretch up to eight, ten, or twelve weeks. Synchronization, as the name suggests, gathers together various assets of a system to evaluate the viability of the solution. Synchronization gives all the teams on the ART an opportunity to begin and end their iteration together. It induces a sense of belonging and togetherness in the team. This then gives space for the understanding of multiple perspectives and their resolution too. In a nutshell, the main purpose of applying cadence and synchronization is to eliminate any kind of late discovery issues and problems in the development of the solutions, assuring that not the teams, but the system as a whole are indeed iterating.
4. PI Planning
Program Increment (PI) Planning enjoys the highest stature in SAFe. It is said that if enterprises are not doing PI Planning, they are not doing SAFe. PI Planning is essentially a cadence-based event in which all the teams of ART get together with a shared sense of mission and vision. It is a heartbeat of the Agile Release Train (ART) that consists of an organized and planned 2-day event of high energy. The main goal of PI Planning is to provide the teams a platform on which they can share, collaborate, plan, discover, and resolve issues instantly that could have taken months to resolve. The importance of organizing PI Planning is felt even more in the times of COVID-19 where there are so many restrictions of getting together physically. During these times, this is organized via virtual means, which too can be as effective as physical collaboration. Simply put, if essential SAFe is the heart of SAFe, PI Planning is the heart of essential SAFe and the ART, lining up each and every team on the ART to a shared sense of purpose and goal.
5. Customer Centricity, DevOps, and Release on Demand
Two words – Development and Operations – make one of the most important words in tech, DevOps. As the name suggests, the main purpose of DevOps is to effectively link development and operations teams in the enterprise. Almost all enterprises face some sort of friction between development teams, technical team, and product support teams. In order to reduce the inherent stress between the teams, SAFe introduces DevOps as an intellectual and cultural approach that sets forth practical, technical practices. SAFe prompts enterprises to develop a Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP) to deliver consumer-oriented solutions more frequently and at business speed. This approach makes individuals in the team communicate and co-operate more effectively. It also facilitates better integration and automation of the system, which ultimately validates the premises on which the solution was developed. When the premises are validated, it naturally brings home more profits, better employee participation, and satisfied end-users.
6. System Demo
System Demo is a major event that happens every two weeks or so in an enterprise development setting. During a System Demo, the integrated work of all the teams on the train is demonstrated to all the stakeholders who provide the feedback needed for the train to stay on track and also take corrective action, if required. The demonstration is made in a set-up that replicates the production environment. This working solution is objective evidence of the ART’s progress. In the framework, such objective evidence empowers the enterprise to evaluate ART’s growth. In more experienced ARTs too, working software is regularly released without the usual trauma of the release process. System Demo aims to replace all other forms of governance that unnecessarily burdens and slows down the workflow.
7. Inspect and Adapt
Inspect and Adapt is yet another important gathering of the framework. Each Program Increment Planning meeting makes provisions for this segment. This event serves as a kind of a special environment wherein all the individuals responsible for developing consumer-centric solutions share, reflect, and introspect. They also decide to take specific actions to increase the velocity, quality, and reliability of the next PI Planning event.
8. IP Iteration
IP Iteration stands for the Innovation and Planning Iteration. This is a very significant segment of each Program Increment (PI) Planning phase. It has many purposes, including charging the batteries of all the individuals who are relentlessly focused on consumer-centric delivery of the solution. There is an intense and constant focus on customer value delivery in the Scaled Agile Framework. Every hand and every mind is busy working on their commitments made during the PI Planning. So, there is a probability of losing focus on innovation as the constant focus is on delivery. It is to deal with this probability that the IP Iteration was introduced, intending to give individuals time and space for innovation, continuing education, PI Planning, and Inspection and Adaption. It also acts as an estimating buffer that gives the teams some more time to deliver the solution on time. The activities undertaken during IP Iteration realize many Lean-Agile principles that enable business agility and contribute immensely in the Lean Enterprise’s broader innovation culture.
9. Architectural Runway
A robust Architectural Runway is a must to execute the framework’s Agile Architecture strategy. It is often designed with present code, elements, and other technical resources that the enterprise already has. Its main intention is to empower the organization to implement new features by developing business initiatives. It also helps enterprises avoid unnecessary redesigns and delays by giving them the strong technical foundation necessary for the successful implementation of new features and competencies. There is a strong emphasis in SAFe on building out the Architectural Runway and investing in it continuously so that the train remains on the track, making the ART’s delivery more predictable.
10. Lean-Agile Leadership
Lean-Agile leadership is all about, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, being the change you want to see in the world. SAFe unequivocally calls for all the individuals of the Agile enterprise to become Lean-Agile leaders who are well-trained in the ways of lean thinking and operations. It goes one step ahead in demanding all these well-trained leaders to also become expert trainers who have it in them to bring about the best in other individuals and teams. The framework considers this as the most effective way for any organization to inspire and sustain change, and achieve operational excellence. In SAFe, accountable leadership that leads by example is imperative for its successful implementation as well as for achieving the full benefits of the framework.
These are the top 10 key elements for successful SAFe implementation. The best part of the Scaled Agile Framework is its ability to stay relevant with new and emerging business and technology trends. These ten elements serve as guiding principles in these uncertain times of COVID-19, which forced many enterprises to change the way the Agile teams and ARTs function and collaborate.
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