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5 proven techniques for scaling agile in the enterprise

Hamesh Chawla VP of Engineering, Zephyr
Petronas Towers

Agile methodology is the climbing framework for large-scale enterprises. But how can you transition your company into an agile framework?

Here are five simple and effective techniques for scaling agile methodology to your specific project, team—and enterprise.

1. Start with an MVP

Continuous Delivery (CD) is a software development strategy that provides high-quality, accessible software to customers. The process of releasing a minimum viable product (MVP) is important for earning early feedback and tracking usage patterns to test hypotheses. An MVP will save wasted engineering time and preserve features such as gold plating among large software teams.

2. Create a single product backlog

An agile product backlog is the set of tasks to complete before you release code. Product managers should maintain one group backlog for all teams. Having one backlog lets you focus on high priority tasks while providing access to all contributors at all times. This prevents miscommunication and creates a collaborative project environment.

3. Build a collaborative culture

To enhance agile teamwork, consider hosting "three amigos" meetings that include the product owner, a developer and a tester to review requirements and test feature requests on the backlog. The product owner expresses the business need, the programmer explains implementation, and the tester considers potential problems. This encourages different viewpoints while providing group consensus on project status.

4. Use a large-scale agile framework

The three major frameworks used in large enterprises are the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS). With guided, multi-level training and certifications, these are ideal for small, expanding practices.Scrum of Scrums (SoS) is another popular approach due to its embrace of informal training. (See Richard Dolman and Steve Spearman's comparative matrix for different agile scaling approaches.)

One disadvantage is that these frameworks can lead to a rethinking of a hierarchical organization, which can be challenging for larger enterprises.     

The Scrum Process: All three scaled agile frameworks build upon techniques used in scrum and agile, team-oriented frameworks. Image source: SAFe

All three agile frameworks are based on ideas originating in scrum testing. The SAFe framework consists of between five and nine people and uses team, program and portfolio levels with two-week scrum processes in extreme programming (XP) methods. At the program level, each team’s scrum has between five and 10 SAFe teams as part of an “agile release train.” The portfolio level defines how executives and agile leaders can use processes like value streams to prioritize features.       

This SAFe “Big Picture” graphic shows the three levels of SAFe and the roles involved in SAFe. Image source: Scaled Agile Framework

DAD, created by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines, is built on existing agile techniques, and uses inception, construction, and transition phases. It helps in areas of architecture and design in the inception phase, and is ideal for deployment in the transition phase.

LeSS, by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde, consists of Framework-1 and Framework-2. Framework-1 is for smaller companies (10 Scrum teams with seven members each), while Framework-2 is for larger ones. LeSS puts several feature teams on a single product owner, expanding on the basic Scrum framework. LeSS is more flexible, non-proscriptive, and most effective in smaller projects.

5. Pursue training courses and certifications

The Scaled Agile Academy trains on team, program and portfolio phases of SAFe, with certifications for managers, executives, developers, testers, and consultants. For DAD, the Disciplined Agile Consortium trains and certifies people to become a Disciplined Agilist,Certified Disciplined Agilist or Certified Disciplined Agile Coach.

For training on LeSS, available certifications include Certified LeSS Practitioner, and Certified LeSS for Executives. Programs such as Certified ScrumMaster and Professional ScrumMaster help students review basic Scrum knowledge.


Image credit: Flickr

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