Scaling Agile Across the Enterprise
Planview’s scaling Agile software enables organizations to scale Agile beyond the teams to the teams of teams or Agile Release Train(s) level by providing a solution for teams to plan, coordinate, and collaborate together on the work that matters most.
Scaling Agile Delivery Demo
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Building High-Performing Agile Teams and Release Trains
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Why Scaling Agile Matters
Most organizations start scaling Agile because they have big, complex problems that need to be solved. They need to take big chunks of work, break them down, and deliver them faster and more efficiently. They need to spur innovation, deliver customer value faster, beat the competition, disrupt the market, and seize opportunities as quickly as they arise.
Scaling Agile is the act of taking what skilled, smaller teams of individuals are using to successfully drive product development and expanding the process, the methodologies – and the benefits – across the organization.
This is achieved by connecting teams and teams of teams, and then breaking down multi-faceted initiatives into smaller pieces of work to be worked on simultaneously. This allows Agile teams to deliver value iteratively, in a way that constantly tests value delivery to ensure alignment to what the customer wants.
Scaling Agile supports the “fail fast” mentality: To learn from and improve the development process with each release. As Agile teams deliver, they gather internal and external feedback that is used to continuously evaluate delivery processes and ensure they’re streamlined and maximized.
If an organization’s initiatives are failing, either the teams aren’t aligned to achieve them, leadership has no visibility into roadblocks, or they can’t effectively remove them when they arise. Scaling Agile will align teams, and by way of Agile ceremonies, provide cadences, suggested alignment meetings, and offer deep visibility into progress and dependencies so leaders can identify roadblocks early, evaluate options to address them and act accordingly – before the initiative(s) is negatively impacted. Scaling Agile across an organization will shine a light on and eliminate many of the obstacles preventing the achievement of key strategic objectives.
Key Benefits of Scaling Agile
There are many benefits associated with scaling Agile:
Strategic alignment across the enterprise
Scaling Agile vertically and horizontally across the organization makes strategic objectives a focal point for everyone. By organizing around value streams, teams are aligned to what produces value for customers and by definition, the organization. This alignment, combined with transparency and cross-team coordination, helps everyone stay focused, resulting in faster delivery times and the ability to quickly pivot if priorities change.
Funding the value streams that matter most
Value streams are built around products, processes, and solutions for customers. By tying funding directly to value streams, organizations financially support the areas of the business with the most persistent demand, as well as those with the most potential to improve value delivery. Future funding decisions are made by evaluating associated KPIs, rather than the completion of deliverables.
The result is more effective funding, delivery, and value across the organization and assurance that product roadmaps and execution align with funding and business objectives.
Managing capacity and people more effectively
Scaling Agile makes managing capacity and people easier. Capacity planning is the act of assessing a team’s time and bandwidth during the prioritization process so you can manage work and investments at the right time, with the right people and teams.
Capacity management is easier when teams are aligned to value streams, all with clear success metrics guiding the work underway. The balance of capacity by value stream is revisited as feedback comes in and priorities evolve. Many organizations reevaluate capacity and people quarterly, so they can rebalance with minimal disruption.
Challenges of Scaling Agile
Implementing Agile at the individual team level is easy and the results are compelling. But extending it across multiple teams in large organizations is more challenging. There are a few pitfalls to be aware of:
Resistance from within
Scaling Agile requires significant change, and some people will resist. They may not understand why it’s required. They may be worried about having to master a new way of doing things or losing power, responsibility, or their jobs. Strong Agile leaders address this by:
- Explaining the problems with the current approach by emphasizing how the status quo puts unnecessary stress on teams and fosters adversity.
- Sharing a clear vision of the future that shows how an aligned and outcome-driven work environment will improve lives and help the company succeed.
- Scaling in stages and communicating successes along the way so employees see a better way.
- Leveraging enthusiastic Agile champions that recruit supporters to drive a grassroots transition.
Scaling Agile too quickly
You’re probably under pressure to reap the benefits of scaling Agile as soon as possible, but there’s a danger in doing so too quickly. Think of the Agile transformation much like it were an Agile initiative. Break it down into pieces; identify dependencies; assign tasks. Execute accordingly, taking the time after every “release” to evaluate the process and the results, and consider how it could be better implemented with the next team.
Only scaling Agile horizontally
Scaling Agile horizontally will result in more Agile teams delivering more projects faster. But no matter how many teams are practicing Agile, scaling wide without scaling up will leave you without the collaboration, alignment and transparency required to deliver the full benefits of Agile at scale.
That’s because the true value of scaled Agile happens when organization-wide synchronicity is reached – when teams are connected vertically, coordinating and planning their work and mapping dependencies together. Practicing and adopting key practices like Quarterly Planning are essential to driving alignment from the team level to the strategic objectives and portfolio level.
Overcome the Challenges of Scaling Agile with Quarterly Planning
One method of creating empowered, connected teams and ensuring synchronicity between them is quarterly planning (“PI Planning” in SAFe® terminology). Quarterly planning helps ensure alignment, synchronization and coordination. It connects Agile delivery teams to corporate strategy and helps everyone understand what each team is working on, how they’re dependent on each other, and how their work will contribute to the company’s overall objectives.
Quarterly Planning acts as the foundation for the Agile Release Train. This two-day event assembles all teams and stakeholders to review the program backlog and break down the initiatives put forth by executive management into features and stories. Teams then collectively determine which can be completed within the planning increment and which will be “stretch objectives.”
Meeting every eight to 12 weeks is a challenge for large, geographically diverse teams, but it’s critical to scaling Agile: It facilitates cross-functional team collaboration, alignment on priorities, identification of dependencies, and allocation of work based on capacity and velocity. Quarterly planning involves:
- Corporate strategy alignment: Teams take their direction from the strategic plan, based on the objectives and goals of the organization. This information signals to Agile teams what they’re going to deliver against those goals, and they plan their work accordingly.
- Feature prioritization: Teams prioritize features based on size, capacity, velocity and customer value metrics. Visual boards and reports balance priorities and communicate realistic delivery.
- Mapping cross-team priorities and capacity: Capacity is mapped and modeled to understand how prioritized work is broken down between teams and when it will be delivered.
- Iteration planning: Teams visualize the iteration and its relationship to epics and features with enterprise Kanban boards. Work is broken down into smaller delivery cycles and dependencies are identified.
Overcome the Challenges of Scaling Agile with Enterprise Kanban
Kanban is a comprehensive but brief visual representation that illustrates workflow, status, and context, allowing teams to comprehend the work that needs to be done and communicate about it – both important for scaling Agile. Through standardization of cues and refinement of processes, Kanban optimizes workflow, improves velocity, and unifies teams for continuous improvement of delivery. In scaling Agile environments, Kanban:
Increases flexibility: Enterprise Kanban allows organizations to respond to change with flexibility. Kanban implementations use tools like Planview AgilePlace to plan, manage, track, and deliver work in a shared, evolving space. Teams and teams of teams customize Kanban boards to reflect workflows.
When situations change, Kanban tools make it easy to adapt plans and inform invested parties. Teams adjust their Kanban portfolios as the Agile initiative evolves, and leaders see progress at a glance.
Arms leaders with valuable insights: Enterprise Kanban empowers leaders with valuable insights into what’s happening across the company. When executives need to understand the status of an initiative, the Kanban board illustrates:
- What projects are ongoing
- How long projects have been underway
- Roadblocks preventing progress
- Team capacity
- Team productivity
- Upcoming projects
Enterprise Kanban arms Agile leaders with the insights required to create better, more informed plans based on the true realities of the organization. And it enables more productive, meaningful, and informed conversations.
Exposes inefficiencies: Kanban helps teams manage their work, improve their methods and identify inefficiencies. The simple process of defining your team’s basic workflow – a key step in customizing your Kanban board – often uncovers many systemic and localized inefficiencies.
Provides visualization: As work flows through the system, teams can see impediments, bottlenecks and queues, signaling the need for new efforts to boost flow.
Limits work-in-process: Work moves through the system faster when it’s not overloaded or suffering from constant reprioritization. Limiting work in progress unlocks the full potential of scaling Agile and enables faster, higher quality delivery.
Supports continuous improvement: Teams track and measure workflow, quality, throughput, lead times and other data. Experiments and analysis improve effectiveness. Identifying and exploiting opportunities for improvement saves time and money.
A Kanban roadmap is essential to help your organization transition from basic visualization to a comprehensive approach to team workflow and coordination.
Overcome the Challenges of Scaling Agile with the Right Framework
Large organizations extend the benefits of Agile by scaling its methodologies across larger teams of teams, while maintaining coordination and oversight. Multiple frameworks are available to assist, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) guides enterprises in scaling Agile practices beyond individual teams. SAFe takes a prescriptive approach, showing organizations exactly what to do and when to achieve alignment, collaboration, and delivery across multiple Agile teams.
SAFe addresses the enterprise at three levels: Team, program and portfolio. At the team level, SAFe shares many traits with Scrum, though not every sprint must end with a shippable increment. At the program level, the Agile teams’ work is aligned to enterprise objectives. At the Portfolio Level, product and objectives are aligned with investment and operational goals.
SAFe leverages three primary bodies of knowledge: Agile software development, Lean product development, and systems thinking. It promotes alignment, collaboration and delivery across large numbers of Agile teams. Key applications include enterprise architecture, enterprise integrations, global governance, scalability, and funding.
Pros: SAFe maintains focus on the release at hand, promotes collaboration, involves all levels of the organization and is freely available. Due to its popularity, articles, tutorials, consultants and videos are ubiquitous and an academy and accreditation scheme is available.
Cons: Some find SAFe too top-down, overly prescriptive, and lacking in flexibility. Adopting SAFe in its entirety rather than individual components can add complexity without significant benefit – exactly what businesses are trying to avoid.
Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)
LeSS is a lightweight framework designed to scale Scrum across multiple teams by taking the activities associated with it and applying them at the team-of-teams level. LeSS is based on the idea that providing too many rules, roles, and artifacts is a flawed approach – scaling frameworks should be minimal and organizations should be allowed to fill them in as needed. This avoids unnecessary complexity through single-function groups, handoffs, and weak or slow feedback.
Pros: LeSS is often identified as the most Agile of the various scaling methods and the most familiar for teams already doing Scrum.
Cons: LeSS is the least prescriptive method which means organizations will be responsible for filling in the gaps.
Disciplined Agile (DA)
DA, previously referred to as Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), is a hybrid Agile approach to scaling Agile that enables teams to choose and evolve their way of working overtime. Guided continuous improvement (GCI) enables teams to improve faster by adopting the specific techniques most likely to work in the context of their situation. DA reduces technical risk by placing significantly more emphasis on architecture. Unlike Scrum, DA allows the team to decide on the platform, build the tools, and schedule project.
Pros: Focus on architecture and design can result in a better product.
Cons: Lesser market share means fewer options for assistance. Required expertise may not exist in your organization and may prove hard to find.
Scaling Agile will be a game changer for your organization. But it’s not a simple undertaking. It will (and should) transform the way your entire business operates. Agile-driven evolution will be required at every level.
Decisions on when and where to implement, which frameworks to use and how to instill Agile processes and methodologies are important. Missteps will happen and should not only be anticipated, but celebrated as evidence of courage, determination and progress.