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What SAFe 4.5 can do for you? Getting the most out of SAFe 4.5

Posted by Steve Elliott on Dec 12, 2017 11:46:41 AM

The release of SAFe® 4.5 couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve spent most of my career in startups and Lean startups, and UX has truly become my passion. Fortunately, 4.5 brings Lean startup and UX concepts to the enterprise, while driving a clearer and deeper integration with SAFe. So, whether you are just starting to implement the SAFe framework or are in the process of updating to 4.5, I wanted to share some tips and tricks to make the move more successful.

1: Set the vision 

Setting the vision is extremely important for providing an overview and a purpose of the work in development. By setting a vision that cascades down into release trains, roadmaps, and backlog, you are providing the WHY and the big picture that is needed for focus and eventual success.  Keep the vision as clear and simple as possible so you can replicate it every time. The vision should include a tease of the future state and the expected business outcomes, linked to real-time customer and stakeholder needs. Using tools such as lean/business model canvases can be an effective way to document and create the vision. 

2: Take advantage of 4.5’s configurability

SAFe 4.5 supports development environments of all sizes, with four levels of configuration:  Full SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe, and Essential SAFe.  Once your configuration is identified, get early buy-in on the processes, roles, artifacts, and events that will be implemented across your teams, programs, and portfolios. Also decide on a set of terminology that will be used consistently throughout the organization.

Keep in mind, simple is better when pushing SAFe adoption throughout your organization. Get rid of unnecessary workflows and approval procedures that cause bottlenecks. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough. This common view of process will play an important role as you are preparing to scale Agile up through the organization. It might be painful upfront, but I promise it will be worth it in the long run.

3: Running a Lean startup--my favorite addition to 4.5 

As the competition and technology continue to move faster and faster, decisions about strategy and where to place bets needs to be even more nimble.  This requires the business to align more often and to frequently measure progress. You must keep everything in sync. But how do you do it? Try using the Lean startup cycle. First, you need to ensure you link the strategy and goals to the actual work being done.  After the enterprise is visible, run every effort as a lean experiment with a value hypothesis and be ruthless with changing direction when needed.

4: Don’t skimp on continuous exploration 

Devops is all the buzz right now, but it still comes back to regular working software that allows us to explore what is working while we can still affect change.  Devops is the infrastructure that makes this possible.  Continuous exploration should be a part of your process to truly capture the expected return of your Agile transformation. It allows you and your organization to learn faster, plain and simple. Drive the build/measure/learn cycle with vision maps, competitive analytics, customer visits, ideation and brainstorming, and innovation tournaments to become a learning organization with an advantage in the market.

5: Enable one end-to-end view of all work

SAFe 4.5 provides several mechanisms to visualize end-to-end flow. Lean flow with automatic stage advancement is powerful in terms of increasing throughput and making better decisions. Kanban with process steps and / or streamlets help make the entire pipeline visible. By rolling up visibility and quality across the programs, you open up insights that will be lost without a unified process for flow.  Avoid the bolt-on, spreadsheet, mix match of tools or you will not be able to have full visibility or even be able to compare apples to apples.  Instead, opt for one tool that can unify your team tools and devops toolchain for seamless flow and visibility.

These are just a few of the ways to help you get started with 4.5. To find out more, watch our webinar with Dean Leffingwell, What’s New in SAFe 4.5?



Topics: Agile, SAFe, lean agile, devops