Despite all the talk and buzz around Agile, there will always be a need to accomplish work under constraints of time, scope, and resources.  But many enterprises that adopted Agile frameworks such as Scrum or XP to manage their development pipeline find it challenging to merge project work with Agile workflows.  The two do not mesh very easily.  Many have given up entirely and gone back to using projects as a vehicle to deliver software changes.

At Trexin, we believe that to assure delivery of work under the constraints of a timeframe or budget does not mean an enterprise should abandon Agile.  There is a way to make projects and Agile work together.  In fact, we are confident that using an Agile framework reduces the risk of project failure and cost overrun.

We know that Agile can be difficult to merge with project work is because:

  • Agile teams are usually organized around systems or solutions, rather than end-to-end streams of activity that deliver value to a customer.  This situation makes it hard for a project manager to pull together and run interference between all the different silos of activity.
  • If there is more than one Agile team in an enterprise, they are usually working on different schedules (some run 2 week sprints, others 3) and very often do not plan work out more than one or two sprints at a time.  A project manager with large work packages to break down and plan would have great difficulty integrating teams organized this way.
  • The implementation of Agile is not designed in a way that can scale, allowing teams to be added or work redistributed as demand for their work increases.

Recently at Trexin, we have been working with our clients to implement a new framework called Scaled Agile Framework® that directly addresses these issues.

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a “freely revealed knowledge base of proven, integrated patterns for enterprise-scale Lean-Agile development…. SAFe synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for large numbers of Agile teams.”

Our experience, shared by many who have pursued a strategy to implement SAFe, is that it provides a framework for managing the most vexing problems growing enterprises have with Agile.  We also found that organizations moving from an SDLC-like project framework to an Agile framework will find in SAFe many ways to streamline their systems integrations efforts.

For example, if an enterprise values the need to plan and forecast demand over capacity, they will find many robust structures and processes to streamline and simplify these usually complex, data-intensive tasks.

Enterprises that struggle with the many silos of responsibility in their systems and processes will find that SAFe recommends organizing teams of teams around “value streams,” which are the sequence of activities and systems that deliver value to a customer.   People who need to collaborate are organized so that they do.

Enterprises that need to add resources to meet additional demand will find that SAFe provides a way to add teams to large programs without the risk of these teams being “orphaned” and left without oversight or accountability.  Teams don’t need to grow to unmanageable sizes; you add more of them.

And enterprises that struggle to integrate project scope into an Agile workflow will find that SAFe prescribes a point of entry, called a Funnel, where all work requests go to be sized, scored for value, prioritized, decomposed, and scheduled on a roadmap of change, and eventually assigned to one or more teams for completion in a 10 to 15-week Program Increment.

If you are experiencing some of the challenges with doing projects and Agile together, or if you just want to learn more, contact us at this link.   We are here to help.

References

“SAFe® 4.0 Introduction: Overview of the Scaled Agile Framework® for Lean Software and Systems Engineering”, Scaled Agile, Inc. White Paper, July 2016.

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