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Agile at Enterprise Scale: Leading with SAFe
Written by Marc Alringer
Seamgen’s development team becomes SAFe® certified to better serve large organizations
Working on a multi-team project with ActiveHealth Management, the Seamgen team set out to gain expertise in the Scaled Agile Framework, better known as SAFe®, a system that applies agile practices at an enterprise scale.
SAFe is based on a combination of agile and lean principles. While these methodologies are easily adapted by smaller teams, challenges arise in large organizations that tend to move more slowly, and may not be naturally suited to seize the benefits of agile development.
That’s where SAFe comes in.
First released in 2011, SAFe calls for a high level of collaboration and alignment across teams, while decentralizing the decision-making process. Today, SAFe is one of the most popular scaled agile delivery frameworks.
“It’s not just an agile methodology, it’s a framework for aligning stakeholders across the entire business, it’s a business process essentially,” says Seamgen engineering manager Shaheen Georgee, who became Leading Agile SAFe certified earlier this year.
SAFe makes it possible for large organizations to engage in big-picture planning by clearly defining roles and responsibilities. This helps align the delivery teams with business objectives, and in doing so, it can improve workflows.
The 10 SAFe principles are based on “the best values and quality for people and society in the shortest sustainable lead time.”
SAFe’s 10 Principles
1. Take an economic view to allow for optimal lead time while providing the best quality and value.
2. Implement systems thinking into all facets of development.
3. Assume market and technical variability by preserving choices and encouraging innovation.
4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles that allow customer feedback and reduce risks.
5. Base milestones on objective estimation and evaluation of working systems to ensure there is an economic benefit.
6. Limit the amount of work in progress, decrease batch sizes, and manage queue lengths to enable continuous flow.
7. Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain formation to recognize business opportunities and allow for corrective action as needed.
8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers to reach their unseen potential.
9. Decentralize decision-making to become more agile and effective.
10. Organize around value to deliver more quickly.
Working across multiple teams to add new functionality to ActiveHealth Management’s platform requires more coordination compared to smaller scrum projects that are often easier to roll to production.
Seamgen’s Director of Project Management Ann McFay says the SAFe training she received helped her integrate more smoothly within ActiveHealth Management, and the release trains. “We have a better understanding of the organization, the different roles and processes,” she says. After becoming SAFe certified she says Seamgen is in a great position to work with large enterprises. “Having this experience certainly helps us align better with enterprise organizations that practice SAFe or another scaled agile framework.”
Familiarity with the various SAFe ceremonies is a valuable skill set that can bring high quality software to market faster, says Georgee.
“It helps you create an organizational structure that is well-defined. It gives you a playbook that all product practitioners can work off of and know what to expect from one another.”