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How to Implement Scaled Agile Framework SAFe in just 3 steps

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

Implementing Scaled Agile Framework into an organization takes a lot of work, but here is how to simplify the implementation with 3 steps:

Step 1: Identify our Values Stream and Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and organizing around value.

When identifying the value stream, you need to align the organization around projects and product lines with the customer in mind. Don’t fall into the trap of organizing by silos or organizing by a traditional organizational chart.

Organizing around value means being customer and solution-focused, and most of the time, this means value flows across organizational boundaries.

A good example is Microsoft Office being a large value stream. Once the value stream is identified, we need to identify how many Agile Release Trains or ARTs we need to deliver our Value stream. If we use the example with Microsoft Office, we can have 3 ARTs, one for each product or service like Word, Powerpoint, Excel.

Step 2: Build our ART Team.

Each ART can be looked at as its own program that has additional program roles, its own product backlog and dedicated agile teams.

At the program level we will need someone that will lead the process and organize everyone. In SAFe this role is called the Release Train Engineer or RTE, which acts as a chief Scrum Master for the ART.

We will also need a Product Manager that owns and defines the ART product backlog and a System Architect that provides technical guidance for the overall solution. Usually each ART has its dedicated stakeholders.

Outside of these program roles, each ART will be composed of 5 to 12 cross-functional Agile teams, and each team has a Scrum Master, Product Owner and the development team.

Now that we have identified our teams, we want to provide them with the necessary Scaled Agile Training so they know how to work together as teams, but also what is expected of each role in this scaled agile way of working.

Step 3: Prepare for Launching an Agile Release Train

During this step we define our Product Backlog into Features, which are services that fulfill stakeholder needs.

We prioritize them based on value delivery. After we figure out our features and prioritize them, we should have high-level conversations with our team leads to understand dependencies for our top features. These dependencies could be on either other teams, vendors or technology in general. This is a critical step because without the necessary support, we will not be able to successfully deliver our features that have dependencies on others.

Next, we need to start preparing for the Product Increment or PI Planning Event. This is the event where each ART plans 3 months worth of work with all the agile teams from the ART, stakeholders and any other dependent teams.

One of the most important steps for preparing for the PI Planning is to create the schedule for the 3 days PI planning event and invite everyone ahead of time.

You also want to prepare any tools we might need to facilitate the PI Planning Event. Most of the teams today are hybrid teams with some people working from an office and others from home. This means you most likely need a digital white board for facilitating your PI Planning like Miro and any project management tools for managing the Agile delivery.

These are the main high level steps on how to implement scaled agile. Next we will dive in more details on what happens during the PI Planning Event and How to facilitate it.

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