A deep dive into the Scaled Agile Framework

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) was designed to help large organizations successfully adopt agile methodologies. In this article Jeff Keyes, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at Plutora, discusses the four core values of this approach, and how and why businesses are using the SAFe framework to improve agility in software development.
The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) was designed to help large organizations successfully adopt agile methodologies. In this article Jeff Keyes, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at Plutora, discusses the four core values of this approach, and how and why businesses are using the SAFe framework to improve agility in software development.

Many businesses have used agile methodologies to improve their software development processes in recent times. For some though, particularly large enterprise businesses, it has been a struggle to transform legacy approaches into a more progressive, agile mindset.

In an attempt to mitigate the many obstacles that larger businesses face when trying to implement agile methodologies, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) was developed and has been used by enterprise companies to realize the benefits of agile in an increasingly virtual working landscape.

After a group of experienced software consultants created the manifesto for agile software development in 2001, the SAFe framework was formally established in 2011, and built around core values that guide each stakeholder in the software development process.

With a central focus on business value, the framework includes tactics to improve the quality of your software development, drive better transparency across your organization and create predictable costs and schedules. With core values of alignment, built-in quality, transparency and program execution, the SAFe framework can support businesses in driving the culture, processes and team mindset required to embrace agile methodologies.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four core values in more detail.

Alignment

According to the SAFe framework, alignment simply means your organization has a vision of where it’s going and how to get there. Alignment is essential for businesses that want to retain an edge over the competition. Whether your organization faces challenges such as rapidly changing markets or navigating workloads with disparate teams, better alignment can help teams cope with diverse, mission-critical issues. 

SAFe alignment dictates key strategic decisions should begin at the portfolio level, then progress through to production and solution management to the product owner roles. Key tasks and commitments are communicated via Product Iteration Objectives and Iteration Goals and are rolled out via an agile release train to ensure that successful alignment will continue.

Built-in quality

In essence, built-in quality is the quality-control pillar of the framework, meaning every aspect of development at every stage should be centered around delivering the highest possible standards of quality. Where many organizations might review the product after each development phase or iteration, there is a risk around this as it is much more difficult to troubleshoot quality after a product is complete. As a result of this approach to quality control, businesses have had to release poor quality products to the market, affecting their brand perception with customers and competitors. Built-in quality means you eradicate the risks by assessing, reviewing and tweaking quality at every stage of the process.

Paying close attention to development aspects such as flow, architecture and design, as well as code, system and release quality, built-in quality processes mean there is no room for errors at any stage of the development process.

Transparency

Transparency is a crucial aspect for any organization wanting to build stronger working relationships and a culture of trust. It’s this mutual trust and general openness that enables business teams to better identify, mitigate and address problems as they arise. It’s fair to say businesses with transparency and honesty at the core of their company culture often nurture more robust, resilient teams and talent that accepts feedback well.

Another key aspect in driving this transparent culture is implementing high visibility throughout each development phase. That means, as part of the SAFe development process, each team will commit to visible short-term objectives and then meet these goals with all measurement analytics and performance reports available to the wider organization. Keeping the wider team fully up-to-date against development objectives also helps teams to stay focused, accept feedback and troubleshoot any issues along the way.

Program execution

SAFe’s program execution pillar focuses on the reliability and consistency of delivering systems that work. The program execution aspect of the framework stems from the original agile manifesto and states that working software bears more importance than comprehensive documentation.

Put simply; the SAFe framework values efficient working systems and consistency above all else. Underpinning the other core values, program execution implies that when reliable, quality mechanisms have been built, it is much easier to identify and troubleshoot issues before they become critical. This prioritization of functional software also focuses on the idea that organizations must first generate value streams in order to drive better longevity.

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Businesses that implement agile software delivery using SAFe commit to a continual learning curve and embracing a dedication to quality, openness and value to drive better business outcomes. Adopting SAFe means organizations can empower their teams and arm them with the resilience and mindset to face modern business challenges head-on. A better understanding of the SAFe framework and using it could help your business to thrive in the volatile world of software development. 

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Author

  • Scaled Agile Framework, News, A deep dive into the Scaled Agile Framework

    Jeff is currently the VP of Product at Plutora. Jeff has spent his career writing code, designing software features and UI, running dev and test teams, consulting and evangelizing product messaging. Outside of 6 years at Microsoft, he has been primarily focused on growing startup companies.

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