Happy PIPping – Vodafone’s Road to Business Agility with SAFe® and Agile Hive

Those three words many become anxious to hear. No, not those three words, these three; “Agile At Scale”.

The first iteration of Scaled Agile Framework® or SAFe® was released in 2011. The focus became the transformation of organizations and their processes into “lean” practices. Properly planned, SAFe® allows each organization its own unique implementation and configuration of the combined benefits of Agile, Lean, and DevOps frameworks.

Similar to the romantic endeavor you may have first assumed we were speaking of, the transition to effectively implementing key elements of SAFe® such as the Agile Release Train (ART) and most especially Program Implement Planning (PIP), can have its ups and downs, highs and lows.

“There Is No ‘Us and Them’ Mentality Anymore”

Working for Vodafone since 1993, Ingo Schneider, a Release Train Engineer, has seen it all. Recently Ingo sat with Seibert Media for an informative, and at times humorous, recounting of his personal experiences with ARTs at Vodafone.

His transition there from a variety of positions including Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, to Scrum Master to his current role, provides an honest assessment of the many challenges of the journey to achieving a smooth - and if possible to say - “happy” PIPing experience.

In Vodaphone’s own words, “...we are known for our technology, but the truth is, it is humanity that drives our business forward. With the global pandemic raising so many questions for tech brands, it has highlighted the leading role that we need to play. We believe that, when working together, humanity and technology can find the answers and create a better future for all”.

As Vodafone embarked back in 2017 to build a new business support system for their millions of customers and internal users, replacing their existing, highly customized twenty-year-old solution, they knew they wanted to do it Agile. Testing the waters with a number of Agile at Scale solutions, they settled on SAFe®. Like many organizations forced to work fully or at least partially remote since early in 2020, this endeavor involved over a thousand individuals spread over 18 companies and 11 countries.

The challenges confronted under such circumstances when face to face, let alone under pandemic circumstances, were substantial. As Ingo explains, “there is no ‘us and them’ mentality anymore”, events that used to be specific to PIP attendees who were left behind in their own respective parts of the world now become everyone’s consciousness as part of this real-time, distributed yet connected world we’ve been thrust into since the start of the global pandemic.

Happy PIPping - Vodafone's Road to Business Agility with SAFe® and Agile Hive - ingo schneider

Ingo walks us through how Vodafone embraced Agile Hive and how while managing 6 ARTs, team events including PI Planning, Scrum of Scrums, etc. are made not just possible, but highly successful.

“All the decisions we made, and the things resulting from this, were not easy…but we as an ART […] chose to have impact and make a change.” - Ingo Schneider

The YouTube video below (English subtitles available) presents a thorough, however condensed overview of Ingo’s journey, along with that of the Agile teams at Vodafone. You’ll get a clear sense of not only the frustration and concerns he and the teams faced but also the enthusiasm and pride as elements of the process began to fall into place.


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