objectiF RPM and SAFe® – a good fit

In April 2020 microTOOL became a Platform Partner of Scaled Agile Inc. With our new template objectiF RPM für SAFe® we hope to boost the speed and quality of programs executed with SAFe. That is to say, of large projects with several synchronized agile teams. The new solution is available now and a trial version can be downloaded on our website.

What does objectiF RPM für SAFe® offer? How do objectiF RPM and SAFe® – the Scaled Agile Framework® – fit together? In order to answer these questions, let’s first take a look at the idea and purpose behind SAFe®, or more precisely SAFe® 5.0, which was published in January 2020 [1].

The idea behind SAFe® 5.0

Today, companies who want to scale agility are predominantly opting for SAFe®. For those who merely need a solution for software projects with several Scrum teams working in parallel, there are other, simpler scaling approaches. However, companies who have recognized that Business Agility (beyond pure software development) is crucial for their competitiveness, will definitely want to consider the new version of SAFe® – Business Agility is the focus of SAFe® 5.0.

Business Agility is “the ability to compete and thrive in the digital age by quickly responding to market changes and emerging opportunities with innovative business solutions. Business Agility requires that everyone involved in delivering solutions—business and technology leaders, development, IT operations, legal, marketing, finance, support, compliance, security, and others—use Lean and Agile practices to continually deliver innovative, high-quality products and services faster than the competition.” [2]

Speed and quality are thus the main characteristics of an agile business. They are to be achieved through the implementation of lean agile practices throughout the entire company. And exactly that is a central goal of SAFe® 5.0. But how can this be achieved? SAFe® 5.0 provides the following answer: In order to successfully implement Lean-Agile practices throughout the entire company, seven core competencies must be acquired. Each of them has three aspects, which are called dimensions.

Here are the competencies along with their dimensions [3]:

 

Core Competencies Related Dimensions
C1 Lean Agile Leadership

Describes how Lean-Agile Leaders drive and sustain organizational change by empowering individuals and teams to reach their highest potential.

·      Leading by example

·      Adopting a Lean-Agile mindset

·      Leading the change

C2 Continuous Learning Culture

Describes a set of values and practices that encourage both individuals and the enterprise as a whole to continually increase knowledge, competence, performance and innovation.

·      Becoming a learning organization

·      Promoting a culture of innovation

·      Commitment to relentless improvement

C3 Team and Technical Agility

Describes the critical skills and Lean-Agile principles and practices that high-performing Agile teams and Teams of Agile teams use to create high-quality solutions for their customers.

·      High-performing, cross-functional teams that apply Agile practices

·      Business teams and technical teams who together deliver high-value business solutions

·      Built-in quality as the result of teams’ agile practices

C4 Agile Product Delivery

Establishing a continuous flow of valuable products and services to customers and users. This enables the organization to provide solutions that delight customers, lower development costs, reduce risk, and outmaneuver the competition.

·      Customer-centric design thinking

·      Developing on cadence and release on demand

·      DevOps and continuous delivery pipeline

 

C5 Enterprise Solution Delivery

Describes how to apply Lean-Agile principles and practices to the specification, development, deployment, operation, and evolution of the world’s largest and most sophisticated software applications, networks, and cyber-physical systems.

 

·      Lean systems and solution engineering

·      Coordinating trains and suppliers to a shared business and technology mission

·      Continually evolving live systems

 

C6 Lean Portfolio Management

Addresses the question what should be developed and why. Aligns strategy and execution through Lean and systems thinking approaches. The goal is to give the enterprise the ability to align strategy to execution, to meet existing commitments reliably, and to better enable innovation.

·      Ensuring the portfolio is aligned and funded to meet business targets

·      Coordinating and supporting decentralized program execution

·      Lean Governance, or the oversight and decision-making of spending, audit and compliance, forecasting expenses, etc.

 

C7 Organizational Agility

Describes how Lean-thinking people and Agile teams optimize their business processes.

·      People and teams trained in Lean and Agile methods

·      Applying Lean principles for business processes

·      Strategic agility of the company

 

A glance at the table above clearly indicates that business agility isn’t something a company acquires overnight. Attaining these core competencies and applying them in practice represents a challenge for companies, teams and individuals. How can a tool, such as objectiF RPM, help meet this challenge?

objectiF RPM – ready for SAFe®?

This is precisely the question we asked ourselves. In answering this question, we first more closely examined our starting situation:

objectiF RPM

  • is designed from the outset for projects with several teams,
  • provides a common platform for both business and IT,
  • offers extensive functionality for agile project management.

And what’s more, speed and quality have always been the focus of objectiF RPM. Here are the most important aspects:

  • Creating with the help of a central repository the entire project infrastructure for all teams, in just minutes by using a template.
  • Removing overhead for managers and teams through planning patterns, prepared result types, backlogs, dashboards, metrics, analyses etc.
  • Ensuring high quality results and processes through automatic versioning, traceability, uniform structures, forms and workflows.

In order to make objectiF RPM ready for SAFe®, however, further extensions were still necessary, especially at the level of programs. Here’s an overview of a program using objectiF RPM for SAFe®:

scalable agile program management with objectiF RPM

I don’t want to go into all the details concerning what needed to be implemented in order to make the above illustrated process possible. Instead I’d like to concentrate on the following question: Concretely, what does objectiF RPM’s support look like for the core competencies for business agility according to SAFe®? First of all, not every one of the seven core competencies is a case for software support. But there are certainly at least two, and I’d like to use them as examples.

Numerous existing features in objectiF RPM address Team and Technical Agility (C3). For example, the related dimension Built-in Quality is supported by asynchronous reviews in teams comprised of business and IT employees. In addition, objectiF RPM has offered automation for test management for quite some time, ensuring that quality doesn’t come at the expense of speed. Features include the automatic derivation of test cases from backlog items. In short, relatively little effort was required here to adapt for SAFe®. The situation was different for the next area.

For developing on cadence in terms of Agile Product Delivery (C4), objectiF RPM for SAFe® needed to be equipped with new planning patterns. These include, for example, patterns for creating increments and for expanding increments with new teams, including their corresponding iterations. That means uniform procedures, so to speak, at the push of a button. New features include program and increment backlogs as well as features for program, increment and team planning. The DevOps dimension is also part of Agile Product Delivery (C4). To show how Continuous Delivery can be handled by objectiF RPM, we’ve provided in the application an example implementation using a common a technology stack for delivering cloud applications comprised of microservices.

Regarding everything else objectiF RPM offers for SAFe®, I’d like to leave you some things to discover. However, here’s a short preview:

objectiF for SAFe® – the story continues

A complex project  – a program  – rarely comes alone. That’s why Lean Portfolio Management (C6) is one of SAFe®’s core competencies. Support for this is in the works. objectiF RPM 6.0 will offer extensive features for Lean Portfolio Management. As an objectiF RPM user, you’ll be able to set up and manage portfolios consisting of:

  • “normal” agile or hybrid projects
  • agile programs according to SAFe®
  • digitization projects on the basis of Business Analysis Standards,
  • “pure” Requirements Engineering projects for objectiF RM

The new version will be released soon. Until then, you might want to learn more about objectiF RPM for SAFe® and you can find a whitepaper about it here.

 

Links:

[1] SAFe® 5.0 Homepage unter https://www.scaledagileframework.com/

[2] Business Agility – Definition unter https://www.scaledagileframework.com/business-agility/

[3] Achieving Business Agility with SAFe® 5.0 – Whitepaper unter https://www.scaledagileframework.com/safe-5-0-white-paper/

What makes a successful Project Management process? How do I find the right business process? Which methods are useful? Ursula Meseberg is a graduate mathematician and co-founder of microTOOL. She is fascinated with current trends and has made a name for herself as an author of professional articles.

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