One size does not always fit all. A strategy that works with T-shirts and other types of clothing may not be what is best for your organization. This is true for Agile Methodology. Whereas, the basic Agile principles may always apply to your development business needs, how you specifically apply these principles to your day-to-day activities may require some adjustments to get the correct fit.
That is where Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) comes into play. SAFe works with Agile to provide a consistent framework designed to be scalable, allowing organizations to apply it as needed. For example, if a company makes the decision to have multiple Scrum Teams work on a single product, SAFe provides the framework for managing those multiple Scrum Teams.
So, there’s a major difference between Agile and SAFe as to how Agile Teams are managed. In a strict Agile environment each Scrum Team works independently to deliver value to customers on behalf of the company. However, in SAFe, Agile Teams are synchronized to deliver that value to customers as part of a release train. This ensures that a regular cadence of important events takes place.
Imagine this framework of events taking place around the regular meetings of an individual Agile Scrum Team:
- Program Increment (PI) Planning: This event, usually planned in advance, generally takes place every eight weeks. This is timed to occur near the end of a PI, which is usually four sprints (or eight weeks).
- Scrum of Scrums: This meeting is useful to coordinate the efforts of multiple Scrum Teams working on a single product. Weekly meetings (or more often if required) help keep Scrum Masters appraised of the progress and needs of the separate Scrum Teams.
- Product Owner Sync: Designed to track the progress of a PI, Product Owners and Product Managers meet to discuss any issues concerning the development of features.
- Release Management Meetings: This event facilitates communication of planned releases to executive management. Often, the decision to “go or not go” is left to management, based upon the confidence of the Agile Teams around the quality of the release.
- System Demo: Similar to a Sprint Demo, the System Demo gives the Scrum Teams the opportunity to demonstrate the features completed during the PI.
- Inspect and Adapt: Somewhat similar to the Sprint Retro, the PI Inspect and Adapt event is a much more in-depth analysis of the completed PI. This can include exercises such as a Root Cause Analysis or a Problem Solving Workshop.
Here are some things to consider when deciding to adopt SAFe in addition to a strict Agile Methodology:
- Are your Agile Teams distributed (entire team in one location) or dispersed (team members in different locations)?
- How are your Agile Teams organized to work on product features?
- What technology is available to the teams to coordinate their efforts?
Whether your final implementation strategy is pure Agile or the addition of SAFe, it’s up to you and your Agile Teams to make the best decision for your organization’s needs.