What is Scaled Agile? | Methodologies | Inflectra

What is Scaled Agile?

One of the limitations of standard agile methodologies is that they are designed to operate primarily at the team level, with product owners, developers, testers, and other disciplines working together as a single team. So when you want to adopt agile practices on large programs or within large organizations, a scaled agile approach may be more appropriate.

Why Do You Need to Scale Agile?

Agile methodologies such as eXtreme Programming and Scrum were originally designed for small integrated teams of approximately 5-10 people working together on a single solution or product. As the benefits of agile approaches (early feedback, continuous integration, seamless communication and cross-discipline teams) have become apparent to larger organizations, there is a need to scale agile from its original roots to support larger initiatives and programs.

Individual Teams

If you consider a typical cross-functional agile team, you will have developers, UX/UI designers, and testers (automated and manual). You may also have other specialized roles (e.g. database administrator (DBA), security engineer, performance engineer, etc.) depending on the nature of the project.

In the middle you will have the product owner who works with the customer to understand the requirements (user stories, etc.) and the scrum master who is focused on the team and its operations. This arrangement works well for a single team, working on a single independent system or project.

Scaling to Team of Teams

The first step up in terms of scaling agile is to have multiple teams working on either different modules of a larger, integrated system (called a product), or multiple different projects that have a common set of business objectives (called a program).

In the case of a program, you will have multiple Scrum teams that work on the different projects, with a Program Management Office (PMO) in charge of coordinating the different teams that comprise the program. If you have a single, large, integrated project/system, then it would be a Project Management Office (PMO) instead. Please note that although the same abbreviation, PMO, is noted for both Project Management Office and Program Management Office, their role and responsibilities are not the same.

Scaling to Programs & Portfolios

Next, you may need to coordinate the development and release of multiple separate products (or programs) that have interdependencies, shared resources, elevated risk dependencies and associated governance for decision-making, or simply a common organizational reporting structure. For example, you might have one executive in charge of the rollout of a new online banking portal, mobile banking application, and related marketing updates to the website.

This grouping of products and programs is typically called “a portfolio”. Project Portfolio Management (PPM) - sometimes also called as P3O (Portfolio, program, and project office) - is the centralized management of the processes, methods, and technologies used by portfolio, program, product, and project managers to analyze and collectively manage current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics.

PPM provides portfolio, program and project managers in large, program/project-driven organizations with the capabilities needed to perform integrated change control while managing the time, resources, skills, and budgets necessary to accomplish all interrelated tasks. It provides a framework for risk mitigation and issue resolution, as well as the centralized visibility to assist with planning and scheduling.

Scaling to the Enterprise

The next level of scaling agile, is to the entire enterprise, with the agile teams, working in product groups and/or programs, organized into portfolios, to deliver on a company’s strategy, business objectives whilst supported by the infrastructure, culture and core values of the organization.

In this context, the agile teams will be providing high-level metrics and key progress indicators (KPIs) to the executive team of the organization, as well as equally important metrics to supporting shared services such as IT, HR, marketing, staffing, and customer support, so that the entire enterprise can deliver on its promises.

For example, knowing that a specific feature is on track for release by a certain date, will impact the marketing of that feature, the training of customer support agents, upgrades to IT infrastructure, as well the ability to meet company financial targets.

Beyond the Enterprise

Finally, the ultimate scaling of agile is when you connect together multiple organizations into an interconnected “software supply chain”, with software features, requirements and feedback being shared backwards and forwards between companies that make products, their suppliers, customers and subcontractors.

In this context, the supply of value from idea creation to product delivery is no longer restricted to the organization itself. One company is a supplier of products that is used as a component in the product of its customer, sowing the seeds for “value co-creation”. You may get unusual cases where outsourcing companies deliver components for multiple competing companies at the same time, so you may need business “firewalls” between various assets, including data and intellectual property.

This enlarged context also raises questions about - who’s “enterprise” are we considering when we look at program and portfolio management dashboards, KPIs and other metrics? In this world, the concept of enterprise needs to be replaced by the concept of the networked software “supply chain”.

Why Choose SpiraPlan for Scaled Agile?

Now that we’ve looked at the reasons for scaling agile, and the different levels in which it can be scaled, we will now look at why you should consider and choose SpiraPlan for your scaled agile needs. We will first look at some of the key features, before looking at how you can use SpiraPlan with some of the more popular scaled agile methodologies and frameworks.

Key Differentiators

The top reasons that our customers choose SpiraPlan over other solutions are:

  • Highly intuitive web application that provides a complete picture of a project’s status and health yet requires only a web-browser.
  • Methodology Agnostic – SpiraPlan can be used equally well for any scaled agile software development methodology – including SAFe®, Nexus, Scrum of Scrums, DAD, and LeSS.

In addition, we provide superb technical support that ensures that enquiries and questions are dealt with in a timely and professional manner.

How do I Get Started?

To learn more about SpiraPlan and how it can improve your agile software development processes please:

  • Take a tour of the available features

The Nexus Model

Scrum is a simple framework for delivering software products using an empirical approach in which teams deliver value in small increments, inspect the results, and adapt their approach as needed based on feedback. It consists of a small set of events, roles, and artifacts, bound together by practices, and enlivened by values that are the key to making it work.

Nexus extends Scrum to guide multiple Scrum Teams on how they work together to deliver working software in every Sprint. It shows the journey these teams take as they come together, how they share work between teams, and how they manage and minimize dependencies.

(Nexus™ framework diagram is copyright Scrum.org)

Nexus is a simple framework which implements scrum at scale across multiple teams to deliver a single integrated product. It can be applied to 3–9 scrum teams which are working in a common development environment and are focused on producing a combined increment every sprint with minimal dependencies.

The core of the Nexus framework is the Nexus Integration Team which consists of a Product Owner, ScrumMaster, and one or more members from each Scrum team. SpiraPlan provides the perfect tool for managing the individual Scrum teams and the Nexus integration team with its support for product backlogs, multiple releases per product and program-level backlogs.

SpiraPlan provides multiple support options for scaling Scrum with the Nexus model:

Nexus Model SpiraPlan #1 SpiraPlan #2
Product Program Product
Team Product Release
Product Backlog Program Backlog Product Backlog
Sprint Sprint Sprint
Integration Team Program Dashboard Product Dashboard

You can either use separate SpiraPlan products grouped under a common program for the integration team level, or you can use a single SpiraPlan product, and have each team work on different releases in the product workspace.

Scrum of Scrums (SoS)

(The scrum of scrums is a technique to operate Scrum at scale, for multiple teams working on the same product, allowing them to discuss progress on their interdependencies, focusing on how to coordinate delivering software, especially on areas of overlap and integration.

Depending on the cadence (timing) of the scrum of scrums, the relevant daily scrum for each scrum team ends by designating one member as an ambassador to participate in the scrum of scrums with ambassadors from other teams. Depending on the context, the ambassadors may be technical contributors or each team's scrum master.

The SoS framework typically is employed at multiple levels, and within SpiraPlan you have two main approaches you can follow:

  • Have the entire SoS hierarchy managed in a single SpiraPlan product, using the flexible release-sprint hierarchy to handle multiple levels
  • Have the top-level SoS hierarchy managed as a SpiraPlan program with each SpiraPlan product containing a hierarchy of releases for the lower levels of aggregation

SpiraPlan makes this approach especially fluid with its support for multiple levels of releases and sprints, each of which can roll up its progress and metrics to higher levels:

SpiraPlan provides the following options for scaling Scrum with the SoS model:

SoS Model SpiraPlan #1 SpiraPlan #2
Scrum of Scrums of Scrums Program Product
Scrum of Scrums Product Major Release
Scrum Release Minor Release
Sprint Sprint Sprint

Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)

Large-scale Scrum (LeSS) is a product development framework that extends Scrum with scaling rules and guidelines without losing the original purposes of Scrum.

(Image is copyright The LeSS Company B.V.)

There are two levels to the framework: the first LeSS level is designed for up to eight teams; the second level, known as 'LeSS Huge', introduces additional scaling elements for development with up to hundreds of developers. The intention of LeSS is to 'descale' organization complexity, dissolving unnecessary complex organizational solutions, and solving them in simpler ways. Less roles, less management, less organizational structures.

Some key features of LeSS that distinguish it from some of the other scaling approaches:

  • No central integration team, project management office (PMO)
  • No shared services or support groups such as DevOps, IT, testing. They are all embedded within the existing cross-functional agile teams.

Typically, LeSS teams are organized into products that have one product owner per product, with multiple feature teams under the single product owner. Each of them will have their own scrum master.

SpiraPlan includes easy to use product, release and sprint boards that let you see all of the features and defects planned for each feature team in the product backlog.

SpiraPlan provides the following support for the LeSS framework:

LeSS Framework SpiraPlan
Product Product
Feature Team Major Release
Sprint Sprint
Feature Requirement

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®)

The Scaled Agile Framework (or SAFe®) is an Agile software development framework that takes the concepts of agile development and provides a “larger picture” methodology that allows you to use agile approaches across an entire enterprise. Unlike traditional agile which is project-focused, SAFe scales up agile to work across large distributed programs and entire organizations:

(Image is Copyright Scaled Agile Inc).

SAFe comes in four main configurations, for use in different contexts:

  • Essential SAFe is the most basic configuration. It describes the most critical elements needed and is intended to provide the majority of the framework's benefits. It includes the team and program level.
  • Large Solution SAFe allows for coordination and synchronization across multiple programs, but without the portfolio considerations.
  • Portfolio SAFe includes concerns for strategic direction, investment funding, and lean governance.
  • Full SAFe combines the other three levels into a single methodology.

Essential SAFe®

Essential SAFe is the most basic configuration of the framework and it provides the minimal elements necessary to be successful with SAFe. It corresponds approximately to the Scaling to Team of Teams and Scaling to Product levels described previously.

(Image is Copyright Scaled Agile Inc).

SpiraPlan provides robust support for Essential SAFe with its rich library of artifacts and hierarchies that map to both the product and team levels. Each agile release train is managed as a specific SpiraPlan product that is long-lived and contains multiple agile teams with their own team backlogs and an integrated release train schedule:

SpiraPlan provides visual tools and mind maps to visualize more easily the relationship between the overall release train and the individual product releases and team sprints/iterations:

SpiraPlan provides the following support for Essential SAFe:

Essential SAFe SpiraPlan Artifact Artifact Sub-Type
Agile Release Train Product
- Product Backlog - Product Backlog
- Epic - Parent Requirement
- Feature - Requirement Feature
- Enabler - Requirement Enabler
Team Release Major Release
- Team Backlog - Release Backlog
- Iteration - Sprint
- Story - Task User Story
- Enabler Story - Task Enabler
- Acceptance Test - Test Case Acceptance
- Unit Test - Test Case Unit
- Component Test - Test Case Component

Large Solution SAFe®

Large Solution SAFe is for enterprises that are building large and complex solutions, which do not require the constructs of the portfolio level. In our scaling context, it is focused on situations where you have several interconnected products that comprise a larger solution or program

(Image is Copyright Scaled Agile Inc).

SpiraPlan includes a robust program management module that lets you manage the solution train as a SpiraPlan program, with the ability to manage the program / solution backlog and deliver increments of functionality based on the features, epics and enablers in each constituent product:

SpiraPlan provides the following support for Large Solution SAFe:

Large Solution SAFe SpiraPlan Artifact Artifact Sub-Type
Solution Train Program
- Solution Backlog - Program Backlog
- Capability (planned functionality) (planned functionality)
- Enabler (planned functionality) (planned functionality)
- Program Increment (planned functionality) (planned functionality)
Agile Release Train Product
- Product Backlog - Product Backlog
- Epic - Parent Requirement
- Feature - Requirement Feature
- Enabler - Requirement Enabler
Team Release Major Release
- Team Backlog - Release Backlog
- Iteration - Sprint
- Story - Task User Story
- Enabler Story - Task Enabler
- Acceptance Test - Test Case Acceptance
- Unit Test - Test Case Unit
- Component Test - Test Case Component

Portfolio SAFe®

Portfolio SAFe provides portfolio strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance. In our scaling context, it is focused on the situation where you have portfolios of independent products and systems that you manage from a resourcing, investment and business value perspective. Each of the products in the portfolio is considered “small” in terms of SAFe.

(Image is Copyright Scaled Agile Inc).

SpiraPlan includes portfolio management functionality that lets you manage multiple agile portfolios in the system, with the ability to track epics, backlogs, features, and enablers. Each of the value streams is represented by a long-lived SpiraPlan program artifact that lets you map functionality and features into each of the planned increments of functionality

SpiraPlan provides the following support for Portfolio SAFe:

Portfolio SAFe SpiraPlan Artifact Artifact Sub-Type
Value Stream Program
- Strategic Theme (planned functionality) (planned functionality)
- Portfolio Backlog - Program Backlog
- Epic - Parent Requirement
- Feature - Requirement Feature
- Enabler - Requirement Enabler
Agile Release Train Product
- Product Backlog - Product Backlog
- Epic - Parent Requirement
- Feature - Requirement Feature
- Enabler - Requirement Enabler
Team Release Major Release
- Team Backlog - Release Backlog
- Iteration - Sprint
- Story - Task User Story
- Enabler Story - Task Enabler
- Acceptance Test - Test Case Acceptance
- Unit Test - Test Case Unit
- Component Test - Test Case Component

Full SAFe®

Full SAFe represents the most comprehensive configuration. It supports building large, integrated solutions that typically require hundreds of people or more to develop and maintain.

This is the situation when you have portfolios of independent solutions, each of which is considered large. Therefore you need to combine the tools and techniques for managing large programs/solutions with the methods for allocating resources between portfolios of these solutions.

(Image is Copyright Scaled Agile Inc).

For Full SAFe, SpiraPlan provides you with both a portfolio and program (solution) level that can be used in concert to manage value streams, solution trains, product release trains, and teams in a seamless hierarchy of information:

SpiraPlan provides the following support for Full SAFe:

Full SAFe SpiraPlan Artifact Artifact Sub-Type
Value Stream Portfolio
- Strategic Theme (planned functionality) (planned functionality)
- Portfolio Backlog - Portfolio Backlog
- Epic - Parent Requirement
- Feature - Requirement Feature
- Enabler - Requirement Enabler
Solution Train Program
- Solution Backlog - Program Backlog
- Capability (planned functionality) (planned functionality)
- Enabler (planned functionality) (planned functionality)
- Program Increment (planned functionality) (planned functionality)
Agile Release Train Product
- Product Backlog - Product Backlog
- Epic - Parent Requirement
- Feature - Requirement Feature
- Enabler - Requirement Enabler
Team Release Major Release
- Team Backlog - Release Backlog
- Iteration - Sprint
- Story - Task User Story
- Enabler Story - Task Enabler
- Acceptance Test - Test Case Acceptance
- Unit Test - Test Case Unit
- Component Test - Test Case Component

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