SAFe®, Scaled Agile Framework® and Agilefant

Bring Agilefant to the enterprise

The Scaled Agile Framework®, or SAFe®, is a framework for adopting Agile at enterprise scale.

And while there’s much more to scaling agile than tooling, having a tool which fits SAFe®’s model is an important part of the puzzle.

Although there are hundreds of tools out there, most do not come even close to the challenge. So, why should you choose Agilefant out of the five or so solutions which remain?

Why choose Agilefant?

  • Agilefant builds visibility on top of existing tools. Suppose that your engineers love Trello, or Jira – or some other solution which doesn’t address the higher levels of SAFe® that well? With Agilefant’s Trello and Jira integrations and API, you can let them keep using what they want, and still get the status updates through to program and portfolio levels.
  • Agilefant has the versatility and the needed levels of planning built in, as opposed to patched on top afterwards. As early as 2007, we had these in place.
  • Agilefant scales as SAFe® develops. As an example, SAFe® 4.0 added the value stream level in SAFe® 4.0, and an additional level of requirement abstraction between Epics and Features. Agilefant has supported infinite work breakdown since 2009.

There may be other reasons as well; suppose that some parts of your organization want to go for SAFe® at first, while others will stick to the old model for the time being? No problem, Agilefant supports both modes of operating. Or what if you or your stakeholders still (at least for the time being) need some metrics or views which are not in SAFe? No problem, as Agilefant allows flexible creation of views into the work.

To make it short, with Agilefant you can go SAFe® gradually, taking first the pieces – and parts of your organization and other stakeholders – which seem necessary to you.

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How to run SAFe® with Agilefant?

There is more than one way to implement the structures presented in the Scaled Agile Framework in Agilefant; here is what we’ve found out that works the best in most cases.

Below, we are using SAFe® 4.0 as the frame of reference. Below we describe how to map the concepts in Agilefant with those of SAFe, and discuss the implementation in detail in the following sections.

There is essentially nothing in SAFe® in particular to being suited for big only: a kanban for top level initiatives, another per program, and a third for the sprint(s). Even a very small company can benefit from understanding and separating the different levels of planning. That’s the position the chief methodlogist of SAFe, Dean Leffingwell himself takes, too.

The Portfolio Level – where it all comes together

According to SAFe® 4.0, there is an instance of SAFe® per Enterprise, and large corporations can have many instances of SAFe. As an enterprise may have from one to many value streams, a single value stream may have from one to many release trains.

The SAFe® Enterprise concept corresponds to an Agilefant Product. And if you need many SAFe® instances – just create multiple products.

Each SAFe® instance has its own set of Strategic themes, and Portfolio Epics, which are managed using the Portfolio Kanban. Portfolios and strategic themes can be created in the Portfolios section in the left menu – but first you must enable the functionality for your account. As an admin, log in to your account, go to Settings and then click on the Account settings tab and enable ‘Portfolio’.

left menu portfolios

In Agilefant’s terms, portfolio epics are stories on the product level, and their child stories, which also reside on the product level correspond to program epics. In Agilefant there’s no limit to the depth in story breakdown, so you can have hierarchy in epics (and features – as needed) as well. Hierarchical epics are even necessary should you wish to implement the value stream level which was introduced in SAFe® 4.0.

To populate the Portfolio Kanban view, create at least a single strategic theme, and choose which stories contribute to it. A story can also contribute to many strategic themes. Stories which contribute to a strategic theme are shown on the Portfolio Kanban.

By default, Agilefant’s portfolio Kanban has the example stages which are described in SAFe® 4.0. You can add, remove and rename these as you see fit.

For all the items on the Portfolio Kanban, you can open them to update their values, see their burn-up (in other words, velocity of getting story points done versus the total scope) and navigate to the child items.

The velocity versus scope and due date is also summarized as a traffic light color. In the above picture, Program epic 1.1 is highlighted in red. This means that predicting from its velocity so far, the scope planned for the program increment will not be met and de-scoping is suggested.

The Program Level – steer where your train is going

In the example below, there is a single Agilefant account governing a single Enterprise, called Delta. Enterprise Delta has a single release train.

foof

The program backlog contains those features which have not yet been planned to any program increment. Currently, Program increment 1 (PI1 in the screenshot) is ongoing, and there are two teams (Red and Blue) working on it.

To get a roadmap, which shows the features planned to the upcoming program increments on a timeline, create a custom board. Configure the columns to correspond to the upcoming program increments. In Agilefant’s terms, these are project backlogs, and you should set the checkbox in order to not include child backlogs.

pi planning with borders

Using the above board, program roadmapping – in other words, outlining which features should be done in which program increment, and in what order – can be done via simple drag & drop operations.

Just like on the program level, there are traffic lights which show whether the ongoing features are going to meet the desired scope during the portfolio increment, and you can drill down to the detailed feature burn-up as well as the included stories.

The Team Level – where the value gets added

To implement the team level, create parallel iterations, one for each sprint / team. If a team is using Kanban, just create a single iteration that has the end date far in the future.

The picture below shows how the teams’ backlogs and progress reflect to the story tree.

team level

The progress made by the teams then rolls automatically up all the way to the board concerning the ongoing product increment board, then to the program increment roadmap, and the Portfolio kanban:

 

Program increment planning in Agilefant

According to our experiences, a key concern in most organizations striving to implement SAFe® is how to support program increment planning.

Agilefant provides several ways to tackle this problem. Something which we have seen that works for many organizations is to create a custom board to support the planning as well as show the big picture. It looks as follows:

This custom board has been configured so that there is a column to show which features are to be included to the program increment, as well as one column per sprint to show the results of the splitting – that is, the stories.

The first row displays those stories which have not yet been assigned to any team, and the rows below are configured per team to display assignments, the stories which have resulted from splitting the features, and which stories are planned to be included in which sprints.

The above picture depicts the initial state of program increment planning. The program increment is planned to include two features. These have not yet been assigned to any team for splitting. Initially, they have been estimated to be 20 and 10 story points, respectively.

The next step is to assign the features to the teams and split them into stories:

pi planning result with borders

The picture above shows a possible end result of planning the program increment. Here, Feature 1 has been assigned to Team Red, and Feature 2 for Team Blue. Team Red has split Feature 1 into three stories, and has planned to do Story 11 in Sprint 1, and the rest of the stories in Sprint 2. The same goes for Team Blue regarding Feature 2.

Want to learn more?

Agilefant is the simplest and fastest tool out there which fits SAFe® out-of-the-box. However, we realize that for those new to SAFe® – or lean/agile tools which go beyond the team level – the explanation above may take some time to sink in. That is why we are offering a live session to help you get started. Just click the button below to book a time with one our experts.

Request SAFe® Demo

Alternatively just reach out in chat, or email us to support@agilefant.com!