An Introduction to SAFe and Why You Really Should Care

by on January 17, 2014

The Scaled Agile Framework, abbreviated as “SAFe”, is a framework for implementing lean and agile methods at scale. It was pioneered by Dean Leffingwell and fully described in his book Agile Software Requirements. SAFe provides prescriptive guidance for the individual roles, teams, activities, and artifacts necessary to scale agile from the team to program to enterprise level.

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SAFe’s guidance is divided into three layers, each aligned to a level of abstraction matched to project scope within an enterprise. Actionable work is driven top down through cascading backlog queues and a simple, well defined taxonomy.

The Portfolio layer defines a framework for managing an enterprise project portfolio. The portfolio is implemented as a backlog of business and architectural “epics”, high level narratives aligned to strategic investment themes. Approved epics are delivered to the Program layer for further exposition and scheduling for implementation. 

The Program layer defines procedures for turning approved epics into proper product plans and is responsible for delivering a value stream to the organization. Activities include developing product visions, a backlog of high level “features” to be implemented, product roadmaps, and iterative release plans. Project features are batched up and delivered to the Team layer for implementation.

The Team layer prescribes a combination of Scrum management practices and XP technical practices to empower agile development teams to turn features into “user stories” and deliver working, valuable software in two weeks sprints.

 

Why You Really Should Care

So why am I raving about this? Agile has become the first choice for development teams building software, but true enterprise agile transformations are still rare. Adoption inside many enterprises has stalled due conflict with traditional waterfall business planning and budgeting processes. Here’s why I think SAFe can succeed at driving full scale enterprise agile adoption:

Simple. The epicfeatureuser story taxonomy is the heart of this framework and the key to tracing efforts through these layers to achieve synchronization, collaboration and business value delivery. Its simple to learn and easy to teach – a key ingredient to cultural transformation.

Comprehensive. The layered abstractions chosen for SAFe provide the just the right amount of focus at the executive, product management, and development team levels. The roles and procedures are well defined and cover the complete set of activities needed to manage a portfolio of enterprise IT projects. SAFe will educate and push agile up into the very heart of the enterprise.

Actionable. SAFe provides concrete procedures and detailed steps on how to get each layer up and running. It’s very real, very approachable, and very doable.

Well Documented. Leffingwell’s Agile Software Requirements book is in truth a playbook for enterprise agile transformation. It describes every detail of the SAFe framework and is one of the best written technical books I’ve read in years. Dean and his associates have also done an outstanding job documenting and “open sourcing” the framework through it’s public website – scaledagileframework.com.

Proven in the Field. The framework has been through numerous iterations, and has evolved through a number of large scale adoptions at real world enterprises, large and small. The latest version published on the web site (v2.5 as of this blog post) has been validated by these field implementations and all the major ALM software vendors have either adopted it directly or facilitate an implementation of SAFe within their product.

I honestly haven’t been this excited about a SDLC methodology in years (I read Dean’s book cover to cover in two days – a rarity for a technical book). I see SAFe as a natural and necessary evolution of Agile upwards into the enterprise to fill a missing void. I believe it will quickly become the foundation for many of our client engagements.

Note: Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are trademarks of Leffingwell, LLC.



Slides from St. Louis Day of .NET 2013

by on November 18, 2013

Another amazing year for the St. Louis Day of .NET. We set a new attendance record this weekend with over 1000 attendees. I want to give a big shout out to the organizers, speakers, and sponsors for the world class experience they delivered and a HUGE thank you to the attendees, especially those who attended my sessions and dropped by the booth to meet me and the Polaris team.

Here are the slides and downloads from my sessions:

Application Architecture Jumpstart

Document download: Patterns & Practices Application Architecture Guide 2.0.

 

Advanced OOP – Laws, Principles, Idioms

Source code download: Advanced OOP Samples.

I also wanted to thank my awesome team at Polaris Solutions (Josh Gillespie, Brian Yuan, Angela Dugan, Landan Rotter, Dave Seng, and Chris Kadel) for their hard work at the conference as well. Great job everyone!



Windows 8 App Spotlight: I Want My Mummy

by on August 28, 2013

I wanted to shine a spotlight on one of our local development studios this week and share some of their story. Pig Out Productions has released the first of their many games to the Windows 8 store.

I Want My Mummy is a 70 levels of rock breaking, TNT exploding physics puzzle fun. You tap on rocks to destroy them and try to get your mummy on the black landing platforms. Along the way, exploding bombs will launch your mummy through the air, knocking over walls and triggering more explosives and mayhem. You'll also have to deal with rocks that defy the laws of gravity and float away.

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Pig Out Productions is a game studio based in Rolla, Missouri founded by William Garrett. Not your typical software developer, William’s preferred tools of choice are GameSalad and Photoshop. He’s completely self taught and specializes in casual, family oriented games with broad appeal. He works with a local artists and musicians to develop and refine his game concepts. As each game crystalizes, his children become his test audience. If sees them picking them up and playing over and over again, he knows has hit on his hands.

Over the last few years, Pig Out Productions has published a solid collection of great games for the iOS and Android platforms. William and his talented team are working feverishly to bring them to Windows 8 for us to enjoy. Look for them in the Windows 8 store in the coming weeks.

As always, stay tuned to my twitter feed for Windows 8, Windows Azure and other Microsoft developer announcements, updates, and links: @clinted