Key insights from the Global SAFe Summit 2020

Jump on board as we take you through some of the highlights of the Global SAFe Summit 2020! We are also inviting you to watch the recording of the Global SAFe Summit Key Insights and Learnings online meetup.

Topics we’ll discuss in the blog post

  • Agility matters. Now, more than ever
  • Is Business Agility working? (Yes, it is!)
  • The future of SAFe

"Agility matters. Now, more than ever."

6 words that sum up the main idea of the Global SAFe Summit. The world has changed since COVID-19 presented us all with unexpected challenges. In his welcome keynote address, Scaled Agile, Inc. CEO, Chris James, talked about the challenges we all face, both in business and in our private lives.

Chris showed that well-implemented agile practices work, with 93% of business units that had fully adopted an agile model before the current pandemic did better than business units that hadn’t:

The one area in which we all made a major transition this year is location. The shift to working remote promises to be a lasting one. We no longer talk about maintaining a good work life balance, we look at a good work life integration. “With SAFe we are working on a bridge to what is next. It all started from a simple framework, today it has given us proven practices and guidance on how to practice Lean, Agile and DevOps in the enterprise. All this together is what we call SAFe Enterprise, a digital platform to support business agility.”

"Is Business Agility working? (Yes, it is!)"

“Never did we imagine that Business Agility would be an absolute survival criterion.” It is a catchy quote from Dean Leffingwell, Co-founder and Chief Methodologist at Scaled Agile, and a bold statement backed up by impressive statistics.

In his keynote speech, Dean explained why we need a dual operating system to run our businesses. On the left we have a need for stability and efficiency, on the right a need for speed and innovation.

Structured organizational hierarchy is there for a reason: specialists are put together so that they can grow and learn together. There are legal and compliance requirements that can’t simply be replicated and distributed throughout an organization, hence the need for stability and efficiency. But value doesn’t flow through the hierarchy. For this, we need Agile teams, Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Solution Trains with a Design Thinking development process, centered exclusively on customers: here we need speed and innovation.

A pivotal question is: Is business agility working? The answer is simple: Yes, it is!

Let’s look at the numbers Dean provided. On the question ‘Has SAFe played a significant role in helping your organization navigate the challenges of COVID-19”, 20% of the respondents in their first year of employing SAFe answered with ‘agree’, or ‘strongly agree’. Hmmm, not so impressive yet? Look at what happens when this question is answered by respondents who have matured in their SAFe practices: 2-3 years in on the SAFe journey, we get a 45% ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’, after 4-7 years this percentage jumps to a whopping 75%.

One of the companies that would undoubtedly answer with a heartfelt ‘yes’ to whether SAFe helped them in COVID times, is FedEx. With 500,000 employees around the world, FedEx is by no means a small player. At the Summit, CIO Rob Carter explained how SAFe and business agility helped FedEx respond to the worldwide pandemic.

In 2013, FedEx felt a need for responsiveness and sought to increase their ability to keep up with changing marketplaces, particularly in the face of disruptive competitors. They started out with just a couple of ARTs and a few focused departments learning the business of SAFe and Agile. Today, they are a strong practitioner of SAFe.

COVID brought around the need to adapt very quickly to a new reality: over the first 2 months there was a significant shift in how freight was being positioned around the globe to meet really critical needs. SAFe and Agile were indispensable in matching the demand to the capacity. As FedEx defined the ARTs (+300 now!), it created a pull capacity that allows the company to identify the resources that could be applied to the problem and allocate them accordingly.

When asked for one tip he would give other companies, Rob's answer was very straightforward, “If you want to get this right, we need to bring our leaders together in a way that allows them to see these challenges the same way”. This means putting them through a training course that allows them to speak the same language, and manage in the same way.

So, yes, it is safe to say business agility is working, but the next question is: how can we accelerate? 

The answer is threefold:

  • We have to be able to measure business agility. We can accelerate by first measuring where we are, figuring out what we have to work hard on, and what we do not. For that, Scaled Agile developed Measure and Grow, an assessment framework that enables value stream portfolios to be evaluated in relation to their progress towards business agility and to determine improvement steps.
  • Lean Portfolio Management. In SAFe 5 Lean Portfolio Management was completely reworked. Start thinking about planning differently and aligning strategy better, match demand to capacity, use the Kanban system to manage flow, and, the newest entry to LPM, start using Participatory Budgeting.
  • Organizational Agility. Lean Agile practices are no longer restricted to tech departments. Companies have begun expanding their Lean Agile Practices to Sales and Marketing, growing to Organizational Agility, one of the core competencies of the Lean Enterprise

The future of SAFe

Andrew Sales, Framework Team Member at Scaled Agile, gave us a glimpse into the future of SAFe. 3 highlights we would like to share with you:

Value Stream Mapping 

Value streams focusing on the big picture will ensure it incorporates the entire enterprise.

Operational Value Streams describe the activities needed in order to deliver value to your customers. This is important for two reasons: it allows you to visualize the customer journey and gives you an opportunity to improve customer experience, and once you understand these operational value streams, they help you define your development value streams.

Scaled Agile is extending its guidance in this field by introducing new types of operational value streams:

  1. Fulfilment value streams represent the information flow, people and systems necessary to process a customer request, deliver value and receive monetary or equivalent value.
  2. Manufacturing value streams convert raw materials into products customers purchase.
  3. Supporting value streams include end-to-end workflows for things like hiring and retention, and executing a complete sales cycle.

It is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of good Visual Software Management. Gartner analysts estimate that by 2023 70% of organizations will use value stream management to improve flow in the DevOps pipeline, which is expected to lead to faster delivery of customer value. (Read the full Gartner report)

Lean budgets and Participatory Budgeting

We briefly mentioned it before: the newest entry to Lean Portfolio Management is Participatory Budgeting. Participatory Budgeting can be added to the big picture as a recommended method for allocating budget to the Value Streams.

The objective of this process is for a group of stakeholders to review all current and (potential) future work, and decide how to invest the Portfolio budget across solutions and epics.

Continuous Delivery and DevSecOps

Why add Sec to DevOps? Because security is not optional. Vulnerabilities may cause existential business threats, so security is now an explicit and critical element of DevOps. To address the complexity of new DevSecOps, a comprehensive domain model was developed:

Curious about how to define the right DevSecOps Metrics?  We invite you to watch the on demand webinar of Targetprocess and Icon Agility Services to learn how to define and collect the right metrics to see a full picture of your value streams, including DevSecOps.

We started our journey through the wonderful world of SAFe with a quote from Scaled Agile CEO, Chris James, and we also want to end with his wise words:

“Embrace the new reality”. 

COVID changed the landscape and accelerated the need to collaborate more. We cannot afford to stay in our own team silos any longer. Instead, we need to scale, and SAFe provides an excellent framework to do just that.

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