If you have been here before, you know I’m a huge fan of Dean Leffingwell and his work on Agile. It seems that the mainstream business community is finally catching up. This is a great article by Jason Bloomberg for Forbes.
Scaling Agile Software Development for Digital Transformation9/08/2014 @ 2:18PM | http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonbloomberg/2014/09/08/scaling-agile-software-development-for-digital-transformation/
True digital transformation initiatives require change at multiple levels of the organization. Revamping the customer experience with digital technologies is never a superficial change, as it requires better, more flexible software as well as a dynamic, agile organization to drive innovation and to respond to marketplace changes.
Agile software methodologies like Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP) are now established approaches for building software in dynamic environments. Agile approaches don’t solve every software problem, however, as they typically work best with relatively small, self-organizing teams.
Scaling Agile to the enterprise level is a challenge that The Scaled Agile Framework® (also known as SAFe™) means to address, as it combines Agile approaches with more enterprise-centric organizational practices. Yet, while SAFe has led to several dramatic successes, challenges still remain, especially as enterprises undergo the broader organizational change necessary for digital transformation success.
Success with SAFe™
SAFe is an interactive knowledge base for implementing Agile practices at enterprise scale, according to its Web site. This enterprise-driven approach is largely the brainchild of Dean Leffingwell, Director and Chief Methodologist at Scaled Agile, Inc. Leffingwell has been a leader in the software development industry for decades, having founded Requisite, Inc., the makers of the RequisitePro requirements management tool, now part of IBMs Rational division.
According to Leffingwell, Agile methodologies alone do not address top-down questions of business strategy, as Agile teams work bottom-up. “You can’t add up opinions of people to come up with the business strategy,” explains Leffingwell. “Some things require centralized decision making.”
SAFE, therefore, provides the organizational structure for top-down, centralized decision making that works in conjunction with self-organizing Agile teams. “SAFe promotes the core values of empowerment and decentralization of control, but not the decentralization of everything,” says Leffingwell. “Cascading centralization and decentralization leaves empowerment to the troops.”
In fact, neither top-down nor bottom-up adequately describe SAFe, according to Leffingwell. “Program execution happens at the program and team levels,” he explains. “The traditional models of centralized program planning and micro-technical-management are a thing of the past with SAFe. That is empowering.”
This balance of top-down control and bottom-up empowerment has shown notable success at several enterprises. “We’ve seen extraordinary work,” Leffingwell says. “30-50% improvement in productivity and quality, as well as a 2X – 3X improvement in time to market.” Furthermore, many SAFe success stories had little or no Agile to begin with. “BMC Software, John Deere & Co, Discount Tire – none had real Agile at the start, or maybe just a few Scrum teams.”
John Deere, in fact, is one of SAFe’s most notable success stories. “We knew we needed to increase our speed to market while keeping our budget and resources static,” said Steve Harty, former Agile Release Train Manager at John Deere. “Moving our team to Scrum was scary, challenging, and liberating, all at the same time. Scrum was ‘our little secret’ that helped move our delivery time timeframe from 12-18 months to 2-4 weeks. Plus, our engineering teams were happier and customer satisfaction went up.”