SAFe® lifts agile a level higher

No doubt you have heard of Agile, Scrum, Kanban,... but the latest trend in development land is SAFe®, the Scaled Agile Framework. Tim Vanolst, Icasian (employee of ICASA) who works as a Java Software Developer at one of our customers immerses us in the development methods that are coming on.

Quick anticipation thanks to the Agile approach
Agile Development transp‘Agile software development is a collection of development methods such as Scrum, Kanban and Extreme Programming. It works with short blocks of a number of weeks in which each time a piece of working software is delivered. This way of working brings a lot of advantages to the work floor. For example, valuable software is constantly delivered in comparison to the classic waterfall methodology. Moreover, the testing phase is not postponed till the end of the project. The customer can give feedback after every interval delivery which gives us the opportunity to anticipate quickly. It gives a clearer perspective on the status of the project. As a company, you can easily anticipate on the changes of the market.


‘With SAFe, we take it to the next level’, Tim explains. ‘With the Scaled Agile Framework or in short SAFe®, we intend to let the entire business (instead of only the development department) work with agile and to launch project continually. Every couple of months, a great project which consists of several smaller projects that go live every two weeks is delivered. SAFe synchronizes the adjustment, the cooperation and the delivery of several Agile teams.’

Planning of capacity
‘The starting signal is given during a two-day conference where all of the IT-departments meet’, Tim continues. ‘The projects are explained by the management and consequently the different teams (that consist of maximum 5 to 9 people) start working separately on the high level planning, start defining scope changes and try to get an overview of the dependencies on other teams. The eventual target is to draw up a capacity planning. The release train is divided in several sprints on the basis of this planning. The product owner manages the teams. The scrum master takes care of potential problems which allows the developers to focus on the programming work.’

Agile sprints transp
‘We always work along established lines. The functional analysis is followed by a technical analysis. Subsequently, the analysis is thrown in the group (refinement) and we make a poker planning in which we attribute a complexity (a number of points) to every task. X number of points corresponds to a particular number of working days. In this way, we can determine the workload a team can handle during a specific amount of time.’

Delivery every two weeks
‘Every day, a short stand-up of 5 minutes is inserted to discuss the status. Every two weeks, a piece of software is delivered and we are able to give a demonstration of what we have accomplished within that time frame. This way of working is much more efficient for the customer because they can see results in the short run and what we deliver is of a high level of quality. In the classical pattern, the delivery is much later which means you can only adjust at the end of the ride and while doing so, you lose a lot of time.’

‘After every delivery, each individual team does a ‘retrospective’. This means that we put our heads together for an hour and we evaluate the past two weeks. We discuss both the project as well as the personal experience. What went well? What could have gone better? When did I feel less comfortable? What are the points of interest? On the basis of this feedback, we adjust immediately wherever necessary.

‘It is clear that Agile and SAFe focus on people and their mutual interaction, on working software, on the cooperation with the customer and on the anticipation of changes’, Tim concludes. ‘Characteristic are the self-managing teams, which only increases the engagement. Processes, documents, contract negotiations and the following of a plan play a secondary role.’

SAFe in a nutshel
SAFe has blossomed into a clearly evident method for the development of complex systems and software in a Lean-Agile method way. It helps companies to answer the following types of questions:
- How do we improve the quality of our solutions?
- How can we make better decisions to improve our economic results?
- How do we incorporate Agile working methods of the team into the program, into the company unit and into the whole enterprise to reach better results? 
- How can we avoid those delays and bureaucracy that we are intrinsic to of a traditional hierarchical structure?
- How can we control and minimize the dependencies between teams and programs?
- How can we change our culture so that it allows us to fail and so that is rewards the taking of risks and the life-long learning?
- How can we help our teams improve themselves without getting in the way?
- How do we know what our Agile teams do and how they measure how well they perform?
- ...

By adapting SAFe – and by applying the well described set of values, principles and ways of working – companies can answer questions and generate profits. SAFe supports the full spectrum of development environments with 4 configurations: essential SAFe, large solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe and Full SAFe.

Safe Essential SafeThe Essential SAFe-configuration forms the center of the framework and is the most simple starting point for implementation. It is the basic building stone for all of the other SAFe-configuations and it describes the most essential elements that are necessary. Essential SAFe consists of both the team level as well as the program level.

Safe Large SolutionThe Large Solution SAFe-configuration is meant for the development of the largest and most complex solutions which usually ask for several Agile release trains and suppliers. This is habitual for industries such as aviation and space travel, defense, the automobile industry and the government, where big solutions – and not the governance of the wallet – is the primary care.

Safe PortfolioThe Portfolio SAFe-configuration helps with the coordination of executing a portfolio on the company strategy by organizing the Agile development around the stream of values via one or more means of one or more streams of values. By means of principles and applications for portfolio strategy and investing finances, portfolio activities and Lean governance, this configuration takes care of business agility.

The Full SAFe-configuration is the most extensive version of the framework. It supports companies that build and maintain big integrated solutions that enclose all levels of SAFe: team, program, great solutions and portfolio. In the largest companies, several samples of different SAFe-configurations can be necessary.

Are you looking for Scrum Masters, Product Managers, Enterprise or System Architects to bring into your Scaled Agile Framework? Please do let us know by e-mailing us or give us a call at 011/85.80.80