A Quick Revisit of SAFe®

The first iteration of the Scaled Agile Framework® or SAFe® was released in 2011. Its creators, Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo worked to develop a methodology that differed from the project management practices of the day.

The focus became transforming organizations and their processes into “lean” practices; “Lean enterprises strive to achieve a state of continuous flow, where new system capabilities move quickly and visibly from concept to cash.” (1)

Developing and maintaining a “team-centric environment” is at the core of SAFe®. Communication and a high level of transparency throughout the organization encourage collaborative efforts which drive productivity, drive down time-to-market, and help ensure a quality solution.

SAFe® uses well-documented, specific, and repeatable processes. Agile and lean practices ensure all teams are focused on a common set of goals. Every individual understands what the deliverables should be and as a result, the client has a clear set of expectations. Additionally, Enterprises transitioning to SAFe® have collectively reported some astonishing results:

Data Source: https://scaledagile.com/insights-customer-stories
Image: “PI Planning Made Easy with Agile Hive”, September 2021, Seibert Media

SAFe® is built around the Seven Core Competencies (2);

  • Lean-Agile Leadership
  • Team and Technical Agility
  • Agile Product Delivery
  • Enterprise Solution Delivery
  • Lean Portfolio Management
  • Organizational Agility
  • Continuous Learning Culture

Properly planned, SAFe® allows each organization to uniquely implement and configure a combination of Agile, Lean and DevOps framework benefits. An organization-wide “team of teams”, known as the Agile Release Train, or ART sets and keeps the wheels in motion throughout the following process: define, build, validate, release - repeated as needed. This closely resembles the iterative design process of the PDCA methodology (plan-do-check-act or adjust). Specifically from the source, the Agile Release Train (ART) “is a long-lived team of Agile teams, which, along with other stakeholders, incrementally develops, delivers, and where applicable operates, one or more solutions in a value stream." (3)

SAFe®, Jira and Confluence - Can They Play Well Together?

There are a myriad of companies, large and small, all over the globe and across almost all industries, that have made SAFe® their standard; FedEx, Chevron, Nokia Software, American Express, Allianz, TV Globo, MetLife, Lockheed Martin, Bosch.

Embedding SAFe® methodologies with Jira allows teams to make use of Scrum and Agile techniques at scale. Teams can then plan and track their work with Scrum and Kanban boards within Jira itself. In this instance, these boards are highly customizable within Jira..

Jira is one of the best-known and widely used tools for process management as well as issue tracking. Used for everything from assigning and tracking tasks, bug fixes, stories, and epics, it is a leading tool embraced by Agile teams.

When it comes to scaling Agile at the team level, Jira is a top performer. However, moving to large organizations and enterprise-scale where SAFe® has been successfully implemented - where robust structures must be in place and adhered to to ensure alignment from start to finish at all levels - Jira alone is lacking. Its inherent structures are not enough when it comes to stories, epics, and projects. Also, hierarchical as well as cross-team dependencies are missing within Jira. Agile Hive steps in to fill this void.

Agile Hive, a product of the developers at Seibert Media in collaboration with Germany’s leading SAFe® expert KEGON, is the easiest way to implement and fully integrate SAFe® into your Jira environment.

We know you like to think of yourself as a cutting-edge rebel, but Agile Hive ensures your implementation is “SAFe® by the book”. It’s easy to use thanks to an intuitive set of features and functionality. All of the SAFe® structural artifacts at each level, whether it be portfolios, large solutions, ARTs, or teams are unique Jira projects within Agile Hive.

Agile Hive Complements, Extends and Enhances

Although Agile Hive is built within your Jira environment and Confluence is technically optional, it is highly recommended to implement SAFe® in terms of content, such as Lean Business Cases or PI Planning Overviews.

Jira at the team level is certainly a great experience. However, when moving to the large organizational scale, enterprises that use SAFe® depend upon a defined hierarchical context to ensure alignment throughout the organization from start to finish. Agile Hive solves this issue all while ensuring SAFe® compliance.

All SAFe® criteria, regardless of level - portfolio, large solutions, ARTs, and teams - come as Jira projects within Agile Hive. Admins can then choose unique names for these projects and adjust workflows and schemes if necessary, making it highly flexible while not affecting Jira projects outside of the SAFe® environment.

Confluence As Part of The Mix? Here’s Why

There are a number of reasons for integrating Confluence into your Jira instance;

  • The ability to keep all your documentation in one place (e.g. no need to rely on Word or PowerPoint)
  • Confluence is truly a collaborative, real-time environment
  • There is transparency for all team members
  • It is well integrated with Jira

Confluence, again although optional, extends the functionality of Agile Hive. It not only provides the documentation portion of the application but can also be used for preparing the PI planning. Program Increment (PI) planning must be in place to truly implement and practice SAFe®. Traditionally, these face-to-face events serve as the basis for the Agile Release Train (ART), aligning teams on the vision and goals and the steps to get there. However, as the last two years have shown and demanded, much of our work must now allow the flexibility to be completed remotely. This includes processes such as PI planning.

PI Planning In Agile Hive Has Become A Wonderful Experience

There is some real magic that takes place behind the scenes in Agile Hive when supporting your PI from start to finish. Remote planning within Confluence - spaces, pages, and templates are integrated to help support you in the process. Everything from checklists, overviews, calendars, registration management, and agendas - all the steps needed to ensure your PI is a success, have the capability to be combined and integrated for a complete PI Planning experience.

Team Context and Team Breakouts are also made available. Help your colleagues help themselves by giving them the tools and documentation necessary to get them up to speed and to feel part of the PI. Information is real-time and can be developed collaboratively.

The Team Breakout view has been designed to coordinate the back and forth conversations between team members and between teams. The Breakout Board has many features and helps to simplify breakout sessions in the PI Planning. Each team estimates its capacity, plans its iterations, and breaks down features into individual stories or uses the team backlog.

Tying it all together, the Program Board provides a visual representational overview of all cross-team dependencies of the ART, as well as external dependencies to shared services or development teams in other ARTs. If changes are made in your team’s Breakout Board, those adjustments are then reflected automatically in the Program Board. This process follows SAFe® practices while providing real-time updates.

Additionally, Agile Hive gives you a report for each team as well as each SAFe® configuration layer. Agile Hive provides reports for:

  • Agile Teams
  • ARTs
  • Large Solutions
  • Portfolios

In short, with Agile Hive, you’ll now have the tools to create, manage & visualize PIs, iterations, work items, capacities, and dependencies and keep track of value delivery – all that with maximum simplicity.

Interested In Learning More?

Intrigued? Let us walk you through the hand-in-hand relationship between SAFe®, Atlassian, and Agile Hive. If you are interested in learning more about Agile Hive, contact us. We’ll be happy to get you started!

(1) © Scaled Agile, Inc., “SAFe Lean-Agile Principles
(2) https://www.scaledagileframework.com/about/, © Scaled Agile, Inc.

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