Is The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) Right For Me?

At McKenna Consultants, we have been busy helping clients scale their agile software development principles and practices across the entire organisation. Some clients have a good idea what they want to do, others come to us for guidance. We have helped multiple clients work out the answer to the question “Is The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) Right For Me?”.

We have intentionally decided not to be contained to a single methodology (such as SAFe®, LeSS or DAD) and instead work out what fits best for each individual client. Some of our clients say “We love the look of SAFe®, we want to do it!”. Now this may be music to some agile practitioners’ ears, but for McKenna Consultants this is an opportunity for us to quiz the client some more and find out whether SAFe® is actually right for them.

We use 3 key questions to decide whether SAFe® is the right approach for our clients, or whether we should look at other options. The 3 questions are:

Do I have (or could I create) a value stream that needs 30 people or more to get working software in a reasonable time frame?

SAFe® organises its Agile Release Trains (ARTs) around value. In order to implement SAFe®, an organisation should be able to identify its value streams. According to the Scaled Agile Framework website, a value stream is a “long-lived series of system definition, development and deployment process steps used to build and deploy systems that provide a continuous flow of value of a type to the business, customer or end user”. We have a variety of exercises that we use with clients to help to clearly identify their value streams.

How long does it take you to get working software? Are you happy with this? Are you increasing the team in order to (eventually) get working software out of the door quicker?

Do I have a product (or similar product family) that needs 30 people or more to get working software in a reasonable time frame?

SAFe® is for large software development operations. If you don’t have at least 30 people working on your product or solution, then SAFe® (or any other scaled agile approach) is unlikely to be right for you. You could have identified one value stream that is your company product, or may have a series of smaller value streams making up a larger value stream in the form of a product family.

Am I willing to organise teams around value rather than projects?

Most clients that we meet are not ready for SAFe® in the way in which they are currently structured. Implementation of SAFe® requires management/executive buy in, reorganisation of people and roles and a readiness and willingness for change.

Some organisations that we work with are focusing on trying to do too many projects, without taking a step back and thinking about the value that they are working on. This is the final and hardest step for an organisation to take when considering using SAFe®. The organisation needs to be ready to forget about the old way of managing projects and adopt a new way of looking at software development.

Ready to start with SAFe?

It is important to know that you do not need to have all these things in place to start with  SAFe®, but you do need to have willing to achieve them!

If you are considering scaling, having trouble scaling or just want to have a sanity check of how and why you are scaling, then McKenna Consultants can help you tackle these big questions. Check out our range of Agile services.