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7 Tips for Scaling Agile

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Agile is a go-to framework for enterprises seeking to get ahead of the software game. It’s an integral part of the modern business lexicon, a tried-and-true vehicle for delivering value successfully. But like many things, there’s a challenge.

Small teams have pioneered and perfected Agile execution. Large enterprises struggle to move away from Waterfall and execute smoothly across many teams and business functions.

Still, recent years have shown us it’s possible. Giants like IBM had much success scaling Agile and become faster and more adaptive. So, the real question is not whether but how to scale the Agile to your organization. We’ve compiled surefire tips to help you carry out a company-wide transformation.

1. Establish Teams and Roles

Agile framework hinges on a simple and lightweight team structure.

Keeping the teams small and autonomous is associated with multiple benefits. First off, it enables software companies to set specialized roles and leveraging diverse skills. Secondly, team members easily absorb information.

As a result, they can self-organize and operate at peak efficiency.

Here, the vital role is the Product Owner. This person communicates the vision of the product and its features to other stakeholders. He/she does this by prioritizing the Product Backlog and setting requirements (user stories) for the Sprint.

Such structure leads to the integration of various teams into a single product delivery cycle. It improves iteration speed and turnaround. Thus, it’s a win-win for the whole organization.

2. Foster a Collaborative Culture

To empower Agile teams, the frameworks require solid foundations— corporate climate.

Here, transparency and visibility are paramount values. A culture that shuns them is at odds with the core Agile principles. It’s a great roadblock to smooth implantation.

To demolish it, embrace the right mindset. Open the lines of communication and eliminate residue of old vertical hierarchies.

Secure proper management support and sponsorship to maximize engagement and innovation. Nurture communities of practice (CoP). These informal units of individuals lead to better knowledge sharing and stronger bonds.

Furthermore, hold frequent stand-up meetings during Sprints. Discuss potential obstacles to Agile implementation and flesh out the backlog. Leave enough room for teams to organize themselves and improve work as they see fit.

This kind of open culture helps you maximize employee engagement and job satisfaction. It also alleviates the friction between teams and the rest of the organization.

3. Choose a Large-Scale Agile Model

There are three well-tested frameworks geared towards Agile enterprises:

  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

  • Scrum@Scale

  • Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)

They differ in two significant ways. These are the level of structural stringency and focus of particular activity (theme). In case of SAFe, the themes are a portfolio, program, and team. On the other hand, LeSS resembles one-team Scrum.

It gives you more flexibility in implementation.

As for Scrum@Scale, the model prescribes smaller teams of four to five people. It’s ambitious in scope as it promotes scaling across the whole organization. The model of linear scalability and minimum viable bureaucracy are essential to its implementation.

What all these approaches have in common are the underpinnings. We are talking about Agile, Lean and Scrum principles they build on. These guidelines map business and architectural requirements you need to meet in order to have an optimal workflow.

And should the aforementioned models fail to yield results, ponder alternative, less structured approaches? Remember, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

4. Have a Single Product Backlog

Product Backlog refers to a set of tasks you need complete before releasing the piece of code.

The fundamental rule in the software industry is one product, one backlog. This makes things easier in terms of describing and structuring the work to be done.

Indeed, Agile methodologies like LeSS prescribe having one backlog for all development teams. There is often one Product Owner for all employees as well. This streamlined setup makes it easier to identify and prioritize key features.

All employees are on the same page. Employees exchange information and work toward a market-ready product. The benefits soon spill over across the organization and optimize its economics. Incremental delivery can go in full swing.

Alas, this is all provided you define what makes up a product. If the product is large and multi-layered, this task gets tough. To nail it, draw lessons from examples like Microsoft Office.

These are intricate solutions that form a part of a larger suite (Microsoft Office).

5. Reduce Iteration Duration

Agile organizations aim at decreasing iteration duration.

The logic purpose behind shortening iterations is the facilitation of workflows across multiple teams. Namely, short incremental bursts are easy to execute and they pay dividends later down the road. This remains an elusive goal for many large enterprises, but don’t fret.

In case teams have to work with different iteration lengths, start with baby steps. Synchronize the endpoints of iterations. This practice is called Synchronized Cadence and it leads to occasional postpones in integration.

It may sound weird, but these postpones are a move in the right direction. They bring balance between iteration length and actual productivity. Lagging teams can catch up and work with more complete information.

Ultimately, this kind of pace is supposed to spur a chain of rework-driven cycles. It also sparks organization-wide synchronization and wards off negative cascade effect. You’re able to adapt to external factors and project environment on the fly.

6. Equip Yourself with the Right Tools

Tech tools and infrastructure lays the groundwork for scaling Agile.

For instance, investing in scaling software supports continuous and fast product delivery. It creates a steady stream of valuable features that form a minimum viable product (MVP). To make the most of technology, ditch the tools ill-suited for modern iterative deployment.

Note that workflow automation project management tools are integral to Agile transformation. They bolster project planning, execution, release management, retrospective analysis, and visual reporting. Some of the best solutions around are Agilean, Wrike, and Trello.

If you’re using Scrum, then you have a heap of other options. You can’t go wrong with Jira, Target Process, Vivify Scrum, and Yodiz.

Finally, you can employ error monitoring software to detect deficiencies. These tools are compatible with major languages and frameworks. They provide real-time status updates and generate automatic exception reports.

So, make sure to tool up properly. Plan for change and test for quality.

7. Knowledge Acquisition and Certification

Certified training and coaching programs facilitate adoption at scale. They teach Agile values and processes needed to overcome project management and scaling obstacles.

The good news is resources and educational opportunities abound. The decisions you make depend on your ambitions and the type of framework you commit to.

That being said, it’s a safe bet to attending Agile workshops. Likewise, you might want to check out certified, multi-level training programs.

Scrum Alliance offers some of the most widely acclaimed certifications. Certified Scrum Master is a great example. It’s an amalgam of basic Scrum infrastructure, roles, artifacts, happening and procedures.

On the other hand, Project Mangement Institute (PMI) champions Agile Certified Practitioner. This program is geared toward managers in leadership positions. To enroll, you need to have hundreds of hours of hands-on experience.

Those who want to get a hang of LeSS can choose between Certified LeSS Practitioner and Certified LeSS for Executives. Lastly, Scrum Inc. provides a two-day Scrum@Scale course by model’s creator Jef Sutherland.

The list goes on, so explore further and embark on a learning journey.

Deliver Value, Faster @Scale

Done right, scaled Agile is a real game-changer for the enterprise. But the road to becoming a true Agile organization and achieving Business Agility takes commitment and adaptability.

The are multitude of benefits to reap for the team, end customers, and the whole organization. It goes without saying that the bigger the organization to scale is, the bigger the challenges of scaling Agile are.

After all, you are not starting with a clean slate. You need to investigate your current processes and tech infrastructure. It’s a good idea to start the transformation with small tight teams and expand gradually. Wherever you’re starting from, realize that your effort to scale Agile needs to be agile itself.

There are practices to adopt and some are best made by you, as an expert in your own business. We help you sort out those decisions with minimal risk.

Our coaches at RESTRAT work with you to establish a repeatable pattern for integrating additional Agile teams, helping you grow and mature as an Agile organization. We offer a tailored Agile Transformation solution with training, workshops, consulting and organizational change management to provide the supporting structure that makes Agile at scale a reality.

Our experienced consultants make scaled Agile frameworks like SAFe, LeSS, Scrum@Scale work in the real world, helping you avoid the failure patterns we’ve seen repeatedly in scaled Agile adoptions.

If you are considering scaling Agile to additional product teams or even across the organization to other business functions, it is always a good practice to seek advice and referrals. Don’t wait till you encounter roadblocks in your implementation. Feel free to contact us and schedule a FREE consultation.

We are passionate about you succeeding with Agile!

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