What does it mean to scale agile? 

rg - 5 min read
12. May. 22

Teams worldwide use Agile, which is a well-known development methodology to create an environment of continuous delivery. Agile has become synonymous with high levels of collaboration, the ability to adapt quickly to change without disruption, and the rapid delivery of new features and innovations. 

It’s no small wonder that enterprise-level companies want to roll out the Agile methodology across their entire organization. This need has led to the development of the Scaled Agile Framework (known as SAFe). A system for implementing Agile practices at scale. 

The definition of scaled agile

The SAFe framework is a set of guiding workflow patterns and best practices used to implement Agile practices on an enterprise scale. This includes sets of structured guides for implementing different roles and responsibilities, how to plan work, how to manage work, and the values to be upheld across teams.

Scaled Agile encourages alignment, cross-functional collaboration, and transparency across many agile teams.

About SAFe 

Technology changes rapidly, which is why building market-ready and innovative software solutions at great speed is critical. However, as companies grow and become multinational, the harder it gets to coordinate projects and take advantage of cost savings. Especially when teams are distributed across continents. 

Agile was developed to help teams fluidly deliver new features and optimize productivity so that users can enjoy benefits more quickly. The development team can receive feedback and change direction if required instead of launching a complete, flawed product to the market. SAFe takes principles used at the team level and expands them so that the entire organization can adopt and benefit from an Agile approach. In practice, Scaled Agile Framework happens at three different levels. Individual teams operate as they would normally, with specific goals and areas of responsibility.

After every sprint they release iterations which a Scrum Master oversees . However, with SAFe, these teams roll up into programs. 

Program level in Jira Align
Image Credit: Atlassian

At the program level, the various outputs from each team are stitched together into cohesive, complementary outputs under the guidance of a Release Train Engineer. After several sprints, you can test increments thoroughly and code ships much more frequently than it would be when using a more traditional Agile model. 

The next level is the portfolio level. Here you can define multiple programs according to the long-term plan and business goals of the organization. You can define and set budgeting and epic-level milestones as well. 

This way, SAFe allows for greater transparency, flexibility, and cooperation across the entire organization. 

Why you need to scale agile

Agile wasn’t originally planned with scale in mind but was intended to allow developers and engineers to tackle implementation quickly and implement learnings from one iteration to the next. However, the newfound independence didn’t always have the desired result. Teams lacked visibility across the work of other teams, creating dependencies and underutilization of resources. Even when their individual projects shared a common interface or relied on a shared architecture. 

Companies found that they needed to leverage the benefits of Agile but also implement more structure, oversight, and organization to ensure that teams could work together seamlessly to bring all sub-components together as efficiently as possible. 

Scaled Agile adds a layer of management, transparency, and coordination to the Agile process to build complex solutions that single Scrum teams can’t tackle on their own. This creates a predictable release schedule and allows enterprise organizations to make better strategic decisions to support their products and customers. 

How Jira Align works with SAFe

Jira Align is the only Enterprise Agile planning platform built with SAFe in mind. It connects the product/team, program, and portfolio levels. SAFe brings together all of the data to initiate real-time, comprehensive reports across the entire organization. That way, the business strategy is connected to the technical execution. Making work visible to all so that the scope, roadmaps, and dependencies can be viewed across teams and portfolios. 

The agile transformation journey

Achieving Agile transformation and implementing SAFe isn’t easy, but building the right framework and laying the right foundation is the only way of reaping its benefits. 

1. Choose the right configuration

SAFe has four configurations or themes that centralize and define different levels of scale: Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe and Full SAFe. It’s important to choose the theme that fits your business goals and what you would like to achieve. 

2. Utilize your leadership

To successfully implement change across your business, you will need support from the top. Train Lean-Agile change agents, executives, managers, and other leaders to support your implementation and charter a Lean-Agile center of excellence that will continue to inspire change and adoption. 

3. Build a transformation roadmap

This document will determine which team, capability or group should be transformed first, what will be done, how long it will take and what will be achieved. 

4. Maintain a rolling 90-day plan and checkpoints

The Transformation team will meet to plan and assess progress and make necessary adjustments, similar to an Agile release plan. There should also be periodic, 30-day assessments of progress so that adjustments can be made if necessary. 

Jira-Align-Live-Roadmap
Image Credit: Atlassian

5. Connect to outcomes and revert

Improvements should be traced back to assess business benefits and progress against business metrics demonstrated to executives. Use Town Hall meetings or executive roundtables to communicate about progress and impediments in implementation. 

Finding the right transformation partner

Scaling Agile isn’t as easy as plugging into Jira Align. A company can only achieve true transformation if it works with the right partner that understands the complexity of enterprise-level organizations, their challenges, and the various software options available to meet their needs. 

venITure is an Atlassian Platinum and Enterprise Solution partner that will act as your transformation partner, no matter where you are in terms of your Agile journey. Agile scaling methods require the entire organization to act and process work differently. Failing to plan for change and shifts within the company culture can easily lead to disruption and even failures in Agile adoption. We will help you implement Agile at scale, creating the right cultural and technological foundation for success from the start. 

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