Monday, November 19, 2012

Have you applied SAFe to large projects ?

Recently, wrote this article for Techwell, and am reproducing the same here.  Complete article can be access from this link

It is not uncommon to hear about software project failures., but it's the large-scale project failures that really capture our attention—especially when the problems not only affect a company but the company's customers as well. The recent software glitches and errors that hit the Royal Bank of Scotland and Knight Capital Group damaged both organizations’ reputations and resulted in multimillion dollar losses.  

Some of the problems plaguing large-scale projects include communication and coordination errors at multiple levels as well as technology integration and infrastructure issues. Several thought leaders have made attempts in the past to alleviate the impact of these problems on the customers. Craig Larman’s recent book Scaling Lean and Agile Development is a good example. However, no one has been able to identify a silver bullet to address the issues. I doubt there is one.

Recently I came across the idea of a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), created by Dean Leffingwell, which is another attempt to help steer large-scale agile projects in the right direction. Synchronization of multiple touch points and early integration testing form the two key ingredients in large-scale projects, and SAFe suggest ways to solve many issues that may arise during these stages.

This screen shot provides an overview of SAFe.


When you see the diagram for the first time, it might look very complex. However, it carries some simple concepts in it.  Leffingwell has divided the entire framework into three broad levels: portfolio, program, and team.

Each level has been tagged with clear-cut roles, responsibilities, and artefacts to be delivered. SAFe reuses not only the Scrum framework but also the Feature Driven Development framework in some ways. This reuse ensures that the learning curve is minimal when it comes to understanding the framework.    

Even though Scrum popularized the concept of Potentially Shippable Increments (PSI), many teams ignore it. They still continue delivering islands of partially-built products in each iteration. However, SAFe enforces the good behaviour of implementing PSIs through the Agile Release Train (ART).

The ART carries all the features to deliver a PSI, just like a train carrying a cargo. At the end of each PSI, you should be able to test the application end-to-end with limited features. This concept forces the release managers, portfolio managers, architects, and developers to think about integration right from the first Iteration

Read more … here

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