The Scaled Agile Framework (or SAFe) is a popular framework for implementing Agile transformation at scale. It is a set of simple workflow patterns that guide lean and agile practices across three segments, including Team, Program, and Portfolio.
Adopting a Scaled Agile framework and aligning operations across functions without disrupting operations can be tricky, especially across departments having varying processes and goals. Scaling agile is impossible without scaled agile framework tools that centralize all agile workflows.
The right tools allow enterprise-level organizations to leverage their Scrum and Kanban with a scalable approach, managing projects with greater speed and offering a means for stakeholders to receive feedback and grant permissions across multiple groups.
There are typically three methodologies scaled using SAFe: Lean, Kanban and Scrum. Scaling agile methodologies without software tools is highly cumbersome.
Kanban requires ongoing collaboration, continuous learning, and visual representation of data that allow teams to view tasks holistically. To implement Kanban at scale, an organization would require tools to collate and display all data and dependencies while connecting all teams, including software development teams and business departments.
Lean Development focuses on reducing waste, increasing stakeholder value, and maximizing output. Without the ability to view capacity and dependencies or share knowledge across functions, teams cannot deploy a lean execution, and business agility becomes compromised.
Scrum uses interactive sessions and sprints to determine prioritized tasks. Small teams focus on setting tasks independently, reviewing progress, and prioritizing backlogged tasks with the Scrum Masters. In enterprise environments where teams are often widely dispersed and remote, the right tools are needed to bridge the geographic gap while adopting an agile framework.
A selection of the most common tools for implementing SAFe in teams
There are dozens of tools that support the Scaled Agile Framework for continuous improvement, but not they may not all suit your business needs. Here are the most common SAFe tools:
Digital.ai (formerly VersionOne) supports SAFe with three levels of scale (Portfolio, Program, and Team). At each scale, team members have visibility and access to information across the entire development cycle. Like Jira Align and many other tools, Digital.ai supports Scrum and Kanban style development methodologies and integrates with over 70 tools for scaled agile development.
While Digital.ai is a good tool, it doesn’t support hybrid methodologies or Waterfall. It can be complex to set up and is much less flexible than Jira or SpiraPlan.
Rally Software connects teams, increases collaboration, and maximizes productivity by expanding agile practices through a single, central hub. Rally principally focuses on automation and time-saving. Like Jira Align, it offers numerous visualization tools and comprehensive roll-ups of progress, dependencies, and plans. It also provides real business insight into delivery and how it connects to an organization’s overall strategy.
However, Rally is less versatile than other SAFe tools. It does not have a roadmapping feature, workflows are fixed, and plugins are limited. It is best suited for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees.
SpiraPlan provides a single environment to manage all programs, portfolios, and tasks through integrated dashboards. Users can access and contribute to a knowledge repository and can manage dependencies against a schedule. It also allows teams to define resourcing levels, offering reusable templates that help speed up delivery.
Its major drawback is that the UI isn’t very intuitive or customizable. Navigation can also be slower than desired in some instances.
Jira Align is the only platform purpose-built for SAFe and the Agile methodology. Atlassian has prioritized SAFe principles in Jira Align, with full native support for SAFe 5.0. Several configurations are available, including Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe, and Full SAFe. All levels, including the program level, team level and portfolio levels have access to data.
Jira Align provides a built-in Enablement Framework for knowledge sharing, including SAFe checklists, video uploads, and native coaching cards. Align supports multiple instances to customize SAFe configuration across portfolios without purchasing numerous licenses. It contains various, highly configurable visual planning tools used to maintain business agility and agile development practices.
Jira Align connects delivery to product, program, and portfolio management at scale so that all teams and levels have real-time visibility into product roadmaps, portfolio plans, and dependencies in a single view.
How to implement the SAFe Framework with Jira Align
With its many addons, Jira Software is designed to implement scaled Agile with minimal disruption—from roadmaps to maintenance and alignment. However, while companies can use Jira and its many plugins to implement scaled Agile, Jira Align can handle every aspect of scaled Agile implementation from the ground up, ensuring value delivery. It increases visibility throughout the entire organization for continuous improvement, even for complex projects using large teams.
Jira Align supports scaled Agile through:
Support for allocation of investment across each strategic theme
A Why Button that forms a digital connection between strategy and execution
Backlog functionality at every SAFe level
Visual management of Dependencies
High-quality software collaboration tool for multiple agile teams
Ability to attach SAFe Framework Maps and create Roadmaps and Kanban boards
Support for Big Room Planning
Dependency and Risk Management and Tracking
Agile coaches can share knowledge in a single repository
Portfolio and team level views to actively manage tasks and strategic initiatives while adopting agile
Organizations can use Jira Align nearly immediately for:
Program Increment Planning
Jira Align offers a single, centralized platform in which large organizations can manage and coordinate all PI planning activities. It provides a holistic view of program objectives, dependency maps, and an interactive digital Program Board that product owners can use for tracking and planning. The software includes the capability to maintain a prioritized backlog of features for the entire program and a program room for Release Train Engineers to view and review PI as a whole.
Lean Portfolio Management
One of the core competencies of SAFe is Lean Portfolio Management. Jira Align provides the ability to create Value Streams, set up process steps based on value, and then allocate the Value Stream to Programs for execution.
Enterprise executives can set up Strategic Themes connected to the Enterprise Strategy via the Portfolio Vision and access and allocate budgets to Programs and Trains. Like the Program Backlog, Jira Align allows teams in large enterprises to create, maintain and prioritize portfolio epics.
Jira Align allows for the creation of over 150 reports in various formats across all SAFe levels with real-time data, including Program Predictability, Program Velocity, Allocations, Budget Tracking, Strategy Tree, and other reporting methodologies.
Find out which SAFe migration is right for your business
Jira Align fully supports implementing a Scaled Agile Framework and offers a strategic business advantage to your organization. Speak to your Atlassian partner to determine your precise requirements and get started with a SAFe methodology tailored for your business.