This is the second blog in the DevOps – Scaled Agile series. In the first blog, Scaling Lean and Agile for the enterprise: All hands on keyboard!!!, we discussed the characteristics of a successful enterprise agile transformation and described why engagement and commitment across all disciplines in the organization is not just optional, but required, to ensure you deliver differentiated value. Business and IT must be in sync because, as we have learned through experience, successful agile team-based development does not by itself guarantee organizational success.
What does it mean to “be in sync”? How do we do it? Well, you Steer SAFely, of course. I know, a cute play on words, but just think about it for a moment. Consider a typical “day in your life”. From the time you wake up, you navigate through your day crossing paths with others along the way and continually adjusting in response. Your husband beats you to the shower, so you go get another cup of coffee. A guy crosses three lanes of freeway traffic (in front of you!) to get off at an exit he’s nearly missed, so you slow down a bit. You get a last-minute request to do something by the end of the day, so you engage with a colleague to get it done. Some of this is more reaction than collaboration, but nonetheless it is a simple analogy for Steer SAFely: Steer, which implies a series of continual adjustments to enable you to maintain course, and SAFely, which applies guidance and best practices as you Steer. The notion mirrors some of the basic concepts embraced by the IBM DevOps framework:
- Being aware of your surroundings (understanding dependencies)
- Recognizing and avoiding risks and roadblocks (monitoring and adjusting based on feedback)
- Working with others (collaborating)
Clear as mud? In a nutshell, to Steer SAFely means, as an enterprise, you are applying lean and agile principles to accelerate value delivery. To be successful requires collaboration of multiple disciplines across business and IT, continuously, from planning to development to deployment to delivery and then back to planning in response to feedback.
Let’s explore how you do this.
Step 1: Shift how you act and make decisions:
- Focus on delighting the customer instead of making money. Making money is the result, it should not be the goal. This notion is specifically enforced in the SAFe Portfolio layer, which requires the organization to take an economic view to help guide business priorities based on an understanding of the value of something versus its cost.
- Reconsider the role of bosses. Management’s role is to enable those doing the real work to be as efficient as possible by recognizing and removing impediments quickly, end-to-end. Agile used to mean “no management”, but enterprise agile is not the same. You need managers but their role is different. The SAFe tiered approach clearly describes the responsibilities and activities of managers at each level so that there is no confusion.
- Avoid steering top-down or bottom-up. Neither of these methods leads to success. Instead, drive collaboration horizontally across the organization and involve all disciplines early and often in the decision-making process. SAFe explicitly addresses this notion through a set of well-defined events and activities that are designed to engage the entire multi-disciplinary team.
Step 2: Ensure the transformation completely addresses all aspects of the environment:
- People: Establish an organization-wide culture with the right set of skills to embrace lean and agile values – everywhere, across all teams, every day
- Process: Apply lean and agile principles in the planning, development, deployment and delivery of value and then monitoring feedback to improve – continuously
- Tools: Provide a framework that enables the implementation of lean and agile practices – easily
The trick is to balance efficiency and effectiveness so that you can answer these questions in a positive way:
- Are we moving as fast as possible? Efficiency in execution is achieved through lean practices to minimize waste and maximize time in value added work.
- Are we driving in the right direction? Effectiveness in execution is the result of smarter steering by quantifying value and cost tradeoffs through continuous feedback and better delivery analytics.
Step 3: Adopt (at least) these three SAFe concepts:
Kanban System: Kanban embraces lean principles to ensure that you invest just enough at the appropriate phase of your lifecycle within your capacity to do so. SAFe describes a phased analysis approach bounded by Work in Progress (WIP) limits and grounded in economic thinking to quickly rank work based on not only value but also cost.
WSJF: Weighted-Shortest-Job-First is a value assigned to each of the key SAFe artifacts: Portfolio Epic, Program Epic and Feature. This value essentially defines an estimated return on investment and enables your team to consistently and relatively rank work across the Portfolio to drive priorities down to the Teams. Use of WSJF enforces the economic view in planning because it ensures that both value and cost are considered as you prioritize work.
PI Objective: SAFe describes a Program Increment (PI) Objective artifact at both the Program and Team levels as a way to document expected and realized value in a relative way. Here, as with WSJF, consistency and relativity are most important, not precision. PI Objectives are also a way to capture the notion of acceptance criteria, which could guide solution-level validation.
To learn more about our thoughts on SAFe and DevOps, try this: SAFe® with the Power of IBM DevOps.
And please join IBM at AgileDC, October 26, 2015, Washington D.C. Submit a proposal through August 15, 2015. URL: http://agiledc.org/2015-call-for-proposals/
About the Author/ Amy Silberbauer
Amy is a Solution Architect charged with the definition and delivery of the Enterprise Scaled Agile and IBM DevOps Plan solutions and strategy for the IBM Systems – Application Platform line of business. She is a recognized subject matter expert on scaled agile and software development lifecycle solutions, including enterprise modernization, SOA and collaborative DevOps. She has been with IBM for 28 years and has two decades of software development experience as an engineer, architect and manager. She is a certified SAFe® Program Consultant experienced in leading and consulting on multiple internal and external SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework®) transformations.