Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but markets, of all types, have never been more competitive. There are newcomers into every sector, almost daily. The incumbents remain, but their market share might be decreasing. Their revenue growth might have plateaued. Their hiring goals might have dwindled.
Why is this? Why are the long-standing, successful businesses, slowly losing value and therefore market share? Why can they not attract the best and brightest talent? Why are startups able to exist in markets where big brands have led the way for decades?
One word; agility. That is the short answer. The longer, more in-depth answer, has to do with their longer release cycles, inability to react quickly to market conditions, and fierce competition.
Agile teams have existed for decades. These teams can quickly pivot and adapt to market conditions. However, the larger the team is, the more difficult it has become to stay agile.
SAFe® is an acronym for the Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Enterprises. It does as its name sounds, help teams embrace the characteristics of agility, but doing it at an enterprise level. While startups often gain a competitive advantage with their agility, enterprise businesses need to keep up in order to compete, or else they will lose business.
So how can enterprise teams use SAFe® and our favorite SAFe® tool, Agile Hive, in order to keep up with their fast-paced, smaller competitors? How can large organizations use this framework to stay one step ahead and reach their full potential?
Long Release Cycles
For startups and enterprise organizations alike, releasing software is a big deal. All the time spent building, testing, rebuilding, and deploying has finally come to fruition. All the hard work is finally paying off, and the team is releasing its value to the customer.
That is generally where the parallels end, though. Startup releases tend to be much simpler. They could be just building an MVP or experimenting with a segment of customers. For larger organizations releasing is sensitive and requires dozens if not hundreds of moving parts to work in conjecture. DevOps in an enterprise organization is not a part-time job, it is a full-time job with a full team of engineers.
So how can we shorten the release cycles for larger organizations? How can we get the release cycles to match their more nimble startup competitors?
The enterprise’s complexities in release cycles introduce dependencies between teams within the organizations. More often than not, teams need to collaborate across departments and often locations. Day-to-day casual conversation occurs less frequently with distributed teams and it has become harder to identify when work needs to get done. Agile Hive helps to visualize these team dependencies with the Team Breakouts board and soon will offer the same ability on Program boards.
Seeing the dependencies visually helps to reduce the length of release cycles by alerting teams when something needs to get done.
In the screenshot above, the Animation team needs to get some tasks done before the 3D artists can start their work. Without SAFe® and Agile Hive, would the teams know that they need to get this work done first? It’s hard to say, but with SAFe® and Agile Hive the dependencies are clear and the team can properly plan the PI.
If you are familiar with Agile you know about timeboxing your team’s and your own work to deliver product increments regularly to the customer. In larger organizations, these iterations tend to get dragged out, especially at the program and portfolio level. The longer these iterations take, the longer the release cycles are.
SAFe® maintains the agility and timeboxing at the team level that the organization might have experienced in its smaller days. This agility is the same as what is common in startups and smaller organizations today. With shorter iterations at the team and program level, it’s easy to maintain a shorter release cadence.
In Agile Hive, teams can quickly see when they are over or under-committed at the team level or program level. This is visualized in the Team Breakouts board where we can see the capacity for each upcoming iteration.
By visualizing dependencies and capacity, it’s easier to plan and make adjustments to those plans if market conditions change.
How do we know if we are on track during an iteration? In a small team, this is easy. Jira comes with great reports at the board level which help gauge the team’s progress during a sprint. When we go beyond a single board though, this becomes much more difficult because there are now program increments on top of those sprints. In Jira, we could just create a board with the program increment, but an issue cannot be in a sprint and program increment at the same time if both are active.
Agile Hive remedies this with built-in solution and program-level reports. Take for example this program report.
It can quickly tell us if we are near the ideal line or if we have some catching up to do. This report spans across iterations to give us an overview of the entire program progress.
Adjust and Improve
We can’t say this enough: market conditions are constantly changing. You could make a plan one day and then something changes so you have to throw that plan out entirely and start from scratch. This is just the nature of the way the world works these days.
In SAFe® we have this very important ceremony called PI Planning. In this event, the business conveys the vision and goals for the next iteration. Then, the teams individually break out and start developing their plan for accomplishing those business goals during the next Program Increment.
This all works very well, but as we know, things change. So this one meeting doesn’t set the next 3-4 months completely in stone, the teams must maintain their agility if something changes. In Agile Hive, the program managers and team leads can easily adapt to the dynamic market changes by using their Team Breakouts board to drag and drop issues from one iteration to the next. They can also quickly add issues inline if something comes up during an iteration that needs to get done.
Speed to Adoption
In the end, SAFe® is a fantastic way to scale agile and help your organization stay on top of the competition. It’s also great to have a tool that supports your framework. What’s really beneficial, though, is having a tool that can quickly allow you to adopt SAFe®. Agile Hive provides this in spades. The pre-configuration settings for SAFe come out of the box and allow you to start using the framework from day one.
On top of this, the framework and tool provide a larger cultural impact within your organization. With SAFe® and Agile Hive, the added transparency that your team members get from knowing how their work adds value to the customer is enlightening. Every single task that a team member works on directly correlates to a bigger initiative.
The best journeys are taken together. Let us accompany you on your SAFe journey, every step of the way
We know that a SAFe® implementation can seem daunting, but with the right tools and the right partner, it doesn't have to be. Whether you're about to take your first steps or are ready to scale up, we will be there to help you evaluate and guide you through the process. With KEGON - Germany's leading SAFe partner & SAFe first mover in Europe - we will use our expertise in Agile Hive, Jira, and Jira Align to help you find the right methods and tools to fit your needs wherever you are on your SAFe journey.
Get in touch with us today so we can help get you started the best way possible for your organization.
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