Updated May 30, 2023
Introduction to Agile at Scale
‘Agile at Scale’ is a popular and trending topic nowadays. But what does it mean?
Well, it could be reasoned from three different perspectives:
- If agile is practiced in a few teams and has to be scaled to the entire organization.
- Scaling the size of projects is necessary when practicing agile.
- If agile is being practiced for a part of the value stream, and has to be scaled to the entire value stream.
Thus, ‘scaling agile’ could be interpreted from three different angles. Long story cut short, “Scaling Agile means implementing a set of workflow patterns practiced by few teams, projector streams to the advantage of the entire organization.”
Benefits of Agile at Scale
The benefits of successful scaled agile implementation by organizations include:
- Reduction in product delivery cycles and enhanced quality.
- Increased engagement and collaboration between the customers and organizational teams, resulting in increased goodwill and morale.
- Identify any issues, risks, or process errors at an early stage of the project.
Challenges in Agile at Scale
In today’s volatile business markets, where many top companies are fiercely facing competition, the idea of flexible, adaptive, and fast-moving organizations is the need of the hour. However exciting it may sound, putting it into practice can be challenging as companies struggle to understand which functions should be restructured into multi-disciplinary agile teams and which should not. Also, proper scaling up of several independent agile teams working on one or more products could be strenuous for organizations with excessive personnel and sluggish bureaucracies.
However, still, there is some light in the tunnel. Many existing techniques and frameworks help the organization with ways to scale the Agile implementations irrespective of the company size.
1. Scrum of Scrums (Meta-Scrum)
This technique to scale agile in large groups divides the group into sizeable scrum teams. As many teams use scrum, Meta-Scrum is a formal discussion arranged to keep employees updated and aware of what is happening in the company. Each team nominates an ambassador to represent these discussions, which facilitates the exchange of information or addresses any potential roadblocks between other scrum teams. Thus, the Scrum of Scrums is a pattern for enhancing team-to-team coordination between multiple teams.
2. Scaled Agile Framework (SAFE)
Safe is one of the leading frameworks for scaling Agile adopted by several large enterprises worldwide. It implements a more structured approach based on three stages within the organization.
- Portfolio Stage: The first stage includes values, patterns, and roles necessary to execute and manage a set of value streams.
- Program Stage: This stage defines the roles and responsibilities required to deliver results continually using an ‘Agile Release Train.’
- Team Stage: The final stage comprises roles, activities, and patterns the team develops to deliver across the value stream.
Every domain of the respective work is termed a ‘theme.’ The theme is a route to the project cycle’s ‘Organizational and Structural epics.’ ‘Organizational epics’ are consumer-specific, such as creating new software. While ‘Structural epics’ are specific to each company, they focus on reducing inventory waste and its consequential costs. These epics form the basis of the ‘Portfolio’ stage.
The project team and technical leaders transform these epics from the portfolio into a specific Agile pattern and Agile Release Train (ART). Thus, several teams can work on the same agile pattern within the same ART, making it the larger organizations easier to scale Agile through Safe.
3. Large Scale Scrum (Less)
Less is not a framework but a set of rules that guide applying scrum at an organizational level rather than being exclusive to the individual or team responsibilities.
Thus, it adopts two techniques based on team size:
- Basic Less: Eight teams of eight people per team working on a single product.
- Less Huge: Few thousand people are involved in one product.
Thus, multiple teams working collaboratively on one product apply Less Scrum. Basic Less and Less Huge are similar in functionality, the only difference being team size. Work done under Less Huge involves multiple area teams with many people involved, but Basic Less involves not more than eight teams.
- Applied to multiple cross-functional teams.
- Working on one deliverable product through collaborative efforts directed towards one goal.
- Focused on delivering a real-time customer-specific product.
Which is an Effective Framework – Scrum of Scrums, Safe or Less?
Scaling agile could be challenging, though the benefits are worth the effort. Companies widely adopt the frameworks discussed above.
However, before companies choose a particular framework, it is essential to analyze the goals based on factors such as:
- Evaluate the Current Agile Patterns: What works well, and what changes are required?
- Understanding of Agile Practices: How well the team is informed and effective at agile practices.
- Agile Capability Status: Assessing the performance of teams in a scaled environment.
- Attainable Outcomes: Understanding the outcomes and ways to achieve them.
- Key Components of Transformation: Estimating what would an effective transformation look like.
- Forecasting Risks: Identifying potential risks that could be a hurdle in the progress of a project and developing a risk mitigation plan to control the same.
With a definite understanding of answers to the above-listed questions, the companies could choose, develop or implement a scaled agile pattern that would offer maximum benefits, irrespective of the team or project size or complexity of the projects. The motto of implementing ‘Agile at Scale’ is all about ‘Aiming high and proceeding in gradual and smaller steps,’ even when the future seems blurred and uncertain.
This has been a guide to Agile at Scale. Here we discussed Agile at Scale’s basic concept, benefits, challenges, and effective framework. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –