Agile practices have dramatically shortened the time-to-value for software development teams around the world. As team-level agile practices have matured, organizations have come to realize that traditional processes and metrics for planning, budgeting and tracking software projects no longer meet their needs. Concepts such as value streams, lean budgets, continuous delivery and business agility have forced businesses to rethink their business models and organizational hierarchy to provide governance as they scale agile practices across their organization.
The SAFe framework by Scaled Agile Inc. has emerged as one of the leading frameworks for scaling agile practices. As organizations move to adopt SAFe principles, they often discover that there is a disconnect between the tools that business leaders use to plan, prioritize and track the status of work and the team-based agile tools that development teams use to track work. Let’s explore the root cause of this disconnect.
Today, many software development organizations have adopted tools such as Microsoft Azure DevOps or Atlassian’s Jira Software to manage and track progress of their team-level work. These tools make it easy for development teams to manage work items (Features and Stories) and include integrations with common DevOps tools for managing code, pipelines and builds.
However, non-technical business teams use completely different tools. They envision business objectives, plan portfolios and track lean budgets with spreadsheets, use business intelligence tools to build reports and deliver presentations using PowerPoint. They typically communicate their plans to development teams via documents or slide-based presentations.
The tactical execution teams then review these plans, break the work into manageable chunks, distribute it across Agile Release Trains, assign them to teams and schedule the work across sprints in their Program Increments. They track the progress of these Features and User Stories using their team-based tools (such as Azure DevOps or Jira Software). It is at this point where the disconnect takes place.
Business owners rarely use tools like Jira Software or Azure DevOps, and even if they were to adopt them, these tools were not designed for aggregating data across many teams or Release Trains in a SAFe-based environment. They were designed to be simple and intuitive for day-to-day team-level usage – not for large-scale SAFe-based planning across hundreds or thousands of teams in a large organization.
With no simple way to report on progress or steer a development teams' work, business owners rely on word-of-mouth progress updates or an array of disparate team-level status reports from each team. They then manually aggregate this data using spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations to provide high-level status updates to business leaders.
This disconnect causes a myriad of problems when organizations attempt to measure progress against milestones, track adherence to lean budgets or create organization-wide metrics.
In our next two articles in this series, we will dig deeper into how this challenge can be resolved by connecting team-based tools to Targetprocess in support of the SAFe framework. We will show how these integrations allow organizations to extend these tools to support business owners and portfolio managers with the real-time data they need to track progress against roadmaps, manage lean budgets and actively steer development work to verify that it remains aligned with rapidly evolving business objectives and priorities.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more, check out these links:
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