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Embracing Agile - From Agile Teams to Corporate Agility

Ivanka Vranješ, Program Manager

Many of the world’s largest companies have introduced Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) into their business model. What prompted such large companies to introduce a new framework into their business at all, and why did they choose SAFe?

Before we find out the reasons and answers to these questions, let us look at the general environment in which companies operate today.

When talking to our customers, we see that most of them invest heavily in agile and digital transformations, i.e. in IT modernization. However, large organizations in this case, often have trouble evaluating the results of this modernization and linking them to the achievement of corporate goals.

By introducing an agile way of working in the field of software development, teams really are better and faster in delivery, i.e. they are more productive at the team level. However, company management teams often do not see progress at the level of the entire organization. They are primarily interested in answers to the following questions: Did our agile way of working help us deliver the right product to the market before our competition? Have we increased profitability? Are we more competitive in the market?

Digital Age

Software has nowadays become a key part of every large organization. It can be said that every industry depends on technology and every big company is (at least in part) a software company. For example, banks increase profits not only by introducing new financial products but also by focusing on user experience with their mobile applications. Insurance companies compete in request processing speed for which a software solution is key. Airlines are positioned in the market based on the simplicity, security and speed of reservation processing and flight management systems. For example, the CEO of the BMW Group expects that in the future, more than half of their R&D staff will be developers (Mik Kersten, Project to Product).

Agile development has provided many organizations with significant improvements. However, agile software development alone is not enough. What started in software development should be extended to the entire company. Put simply, companies need Business Agility.

Therefore, the agile way of working, which was proven to be excellent in the field of software development, should be meaningfully extended to the entire organization.

The Way from Agile Teams to Corporate Agility

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As we have seen, Agile and Lean principles have been used long enough and practice has shown that teams are truly more efficient when working like this.

In an environment with multiple SCRUM teams, how do we know whether an agile team within our organization is working on the most important task – or ‘Story’, as it’s called in Scrum – business-wise.

We can hardly know for sure unless we do the following:

  1. Ensure that all work performed is transparent (“Make all work visible”)
  2. Establish a direct link between the strategy and each delivery and the work performed (“Connect strategy to execution”)
  3. We can see progress in relation to the desired outcomes and goals at any given point in time (“See progress against outcomes”)
  4. Enable real-time decisions. (“Make real-time decisions”)

Large companies have another problem, and that is the focus on the client. Smaller companies are already naturally focused on the client, but as they grow, they slowly build a hierarchical structure to be more efficient internally. However, along the way, they often stop focusing on what the client needs.

If we want to keep focusing on the client in a large organization environment, the solution is not to discard what we have and what has been introduced for better efficiency. The solution is to introduce a new framework that connects these two seemingly opposite ways of working. We need a link between the stability of a hierarchical organization on the one hand and focusing on the customer and prompt response to his needs with innovative solutions on the other.

SAFe is a framework that enables this.

Many of the world's largest companies have already implemented SAFe because of these three proven reasons:

  • SAFe enables faster time to market,
  • SAFe dramatically increases quality and productivity,
  • SAFe increases employee engagement.

What is SAFe?

SAFe stands for Scaled Agile Framework and was created in 2011. It is intended for companies that want to work according to Lean and Agile principles and need to plan, synchronize, and coordinate the development of solutions at the Program and Portfolio level.

SAFe encompasses an open knowledge base, principles and practices, and competencies for Lean, Agile, and DevOps.

What SAFe is not?

Although this could be concluded from what was said above, SAFe is by no means a method that strictly prescribes what to do and how to do it, nor is it an organizational structure. It actually offers tools to apply an agile way of working and becomes an intersystem that connects the right people to solve problems and allows them to focus on problem-solving with all the necessary support for delivering a solution that gives added value to the user.

How SAFe is organized?

SAFe is organized on multiple levels:

  1. Agile Team
  2. Teams of Agile Teams
  3. Program
  4. Enterprise Solution Delivery
  5. Portfolio

In our next blog post, find out how to know if a company is ready for SAFe, how to introduce SAFe into the company, and how it is organized.

To find out more about how we can help you with Agile Methodology check our Proof of expertise.

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