6 Types of Scaled Agile Framework: Which One You Should Choose? 

If you work in an enterprise or large-scale organization, chances are you’ve already heard about Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe), Large-Scale Scrum (Less), or the Spotify model. However, these names are not just some Agile frameworks; they are responsible for the following: 

  • Aligning business strategy and work.
  • Helping teams improve productivity and efficiency by planning events.
  • Empowering people to make decisions, self-manage, and make an impact on driving business agility. 

As organizations grow and expand their workflow, it becomes essential to use an Agile scaling framework to market quicker and increase customer satisfaction and overall ROI. 

Approx 50% of Scrum Masters said they use some form of scaling framework for their Agile practices. However, 71% use only one scaling framework, while 29% of Scrum Masters said they use more than one Agile scaling framework. 

So, if your organization is also scaling and going through a technical or cultural shift, it’s time to choose the right scaling framework. But which framework is the right one? Which framework will be most beneficial for your business’s growth? 

We have answers to all these questions in this post; keep reading to find out more. 

What is Scaling Agile? 

Imagine you’re managing a single team of individuals working on a single product. To make the team more cross-functional, productive, and efficient, you applied Agile practices across the team. 

Now, after some time, as the product’s demand grows, your team members start to face more complex challenges. Not that your team is not Agile anymore, but now it needs a bigger team, more requirements, and a larger backlog. 

In short, to stay efficient and achieve product goals, your team needs to be scaled. But how do you manage a scaling organization or teams? Are Agile practices still applicable in a scaling business environment? 

The answer to all these questions is Scaling Agile. 

Scaling Agile or Agile at scale is a process that applies Agile principles and practices to large cross-functional teams and projects. It transforms organizations not only at a team level but also at all levels, including portfolio, program, and culture. 

Like the Agile framework, the Scaling Agile framework uses Scrum and Kanban’s proven practices. The only difference is it implements these methods within a more extensive and complex group of people.

The main goal of Scaling Agile is to help multiple teams and departments improve their collaboration and work processes to deliver value and faster results. 

When Should You Scale?

So now that you know what Scaling Agile is all about, you might be wondering, “when is the right time for me to implement it in my organization?”

It can be tricky to know when it’s the right time to make the switch from Agile to Scaling Agile. So, here are a few things you can consider before making the switch: 

  • When your organization’s workload is more complex than your team’s capabilities.
  • If your team is already proficient in the Agile approaches.
  • When your team’s development practices need improvement.
  • When your organization has multiple teams and departments working collaboratively to deliver a large product or project solution. 

So, if you met one or all the criteria from the above checklist, it’s time to scale Agile practices at your company.  

What are the Popular Scaling Frameworks? 

There are various agile scaling frameworks available for your large-scale organization. From Nexus and SAFe to Spotify and DA- there is no one perfect framework. You can choose any scaling framework based on your organization’s requirements. 

However, in this post, we’re going to talk about the five most important or widely used scaling agile frameworks: SAFe or Scaled Agile Framework, LeSS or Large-Scale Scrum, Nexus, Scrum@Scale, and DA or Disciplined Agile. 

Let’s learn more about them in detail: 

1. Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

SAFe agile or Scaled Agile Framework is one of the most used and popular frameworks for scaling Agile. According to a survey done by cPrime, 45% of respondents agreed on using SAFe as their most used scaling agile approach. 

Also, according to the latest 16th State of Agile Report, 53% of people scaling their businesses use SAFe. It’s a whopping increase from 35% last year to 53%. 

SAFe is described as a knowledge base for applying Agile practices at a large enterprise scale. The SAFe Agile methodology is built upon three concepts: Agile software development, Lean product development, and Systematic thinking.  The main goal of SAfe is to promote collaboration across multiple teams and drive business agility. 

As SAFe deals with a large team and works on providing solutions for large and complex problems, it organizes teams into ARTs or Agile Release Trains. Like Sprint Planning in Scrum, SAFe at scaling Agile uses PI (program increment iteration) planning to synchronize multiple teams in an ART. Each PI generally lasts eight to twelve weeks. Using this agile framework, any team can stay goal-oriented and solve complex projects efficiently. You can implement SAFe on four different levels. These levels are: Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe, and Full SAFe. 

SAFe is a large and well-established framework. For using SAFe, you need to hire additional roles or build complex projects that need more team members. Also, to apply SAFe, your team members must have prior good knowledge of Agile and Scrum. 

2. Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) 

Large-Scale Scrum, or LeSS, is a framework for managing and executing project development with multiple teams. Compared to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), LeSS has a less complicated structure and process of scaling Agile. LeSS offers two configurations: Less for two-eight teams and Less Huge for more than eight teams.

LeSS and SAFe both focus on the core principles of Scrum, such as the use of sprints, daily stand-ups, backlog, and cross-team meetings. However, the Less Huge configuration includes additional roles and artifacts to support coordination and communication among larger teams.

You can use Large Scale Scrum if your organization needs a lightweight scaling agile framework. Also, to implement LeSS, your team members must have prior experience in Scrum. 

3. Scrum@Scale

Scrum@Scale is a framework that enables organizations to manage software development projects with multiple teams effectively. The framework is built on the core principles of Scrum, but it is designed to handle the unique challenges of scaling Scrum to large, complex projects. It is one of the most used scaling agile approaches after SAFe, with over 22.1% of users. 

At the heart of Scrum@Scale is the idea of an interchangeable scrum team. This means that every member of the team comes together based on their goals and objectives, and they work together to build a network of interconnected teams. The goal of Scrum@Scale is to create an ecosystem of teams that can work together seamlessly, regardless of their size or location.

One of the key features of Scrum@Scale is its use of a “scale-free architecture.” This means that the scrum roles and events are linearly scaled, so the team doesn’t have to introduce new process dynamics as they add more teams. This helps to keep the framework simple and easy to understand, which is particularly important when scaling Scrum to large, complex projects.

Scrum@Scale is less prescriptive than frameworks like SAFe, but it helps organizations to understand if they’re ready to scale their development process. It is a tool to help organizations evaluate their readiness and capabilities to handle the challenges of scaling Scrum and provides guidance on how to handle those challenges effectively. With Scrum@Scale, organizations can ensure that they have the right processes, people, and technologies in place to support the growth and development of their software development projects.

4. Nexus

If you’re looking for a lightweight scrum-based framework, then Nexus can be your choice. Nexus needs small adjustments to collaborate with three to nine teams. Nexus is closely based on the Scrum framework, so there aren’t any additional roles as well. 

In Nexus team meetings, one representative from each team comes together to align their work goals. Like Scrum, the team members hold daily sprint planning sessions to keep track of the progress. However, the main difference between Scrum and Nexus is the integration team focused on facilitating integration and dependencies between the teams. 

Overall the Nexus framework is a lean and simple agile framework compared to other frameworks in this list. 

5. Disciplined Agile

The Disciplined Agile (DA) framework is a unique approach to software development that helps organizations determine the best working method for them. Unlike other frameworks, which prescribe a specific set of processes and practices, DA takes a more flexible approach and allows organizations to choose the methods that work best for them.

At its core, DA is focused on people and emphasizes the importance of building a strong, collaborative team. The framework offers lightweight, agile governance that is designed to promote teamwork and encourage continuous improvement.

One of the key features of DA is its ability to adapt to the specific needs of an organization. The framework is designed to be flexible and modular, which means that organizations can pick and choose the components that are most relevant to them. This allows organizations to tailor their development process to their specific needs, whether they are working on a large-scale project or a small one.

The Disciplined Agile (DA) framework structures the software development process into three distinct phases: Inception, Construction, and Transition. Each phase is designed to focus on specific delivery-oriented process goals, which helps to ensure that the project stays on track and that the final outcome meets the organization’s needs.

One of the key differences between DA and other frameworks is that it focuses on the full delivery life cycle. This means that it takes into account all the different stages of a project, from the initial planning stages to the final deployment and maintenance. Because of this, DA introduces more roles than other frameworks to ensure that all the different stages of the project are properly managed and that the final outcome is of high quality.

The main roles on a DA team are: stakeholder, product owner, team member, architecture owner, and team lead. Also, there are five temporary supporting roles: specialist, technical expert, domain expert, independent tester, and integrator. 

6. Spotify Model

Spotify is another scaling Agile concept that wasn’t meant to be a scaling framework. However, many organizations these days use the Spotify model for its people-driven and autonomous features. This model focuses on the importance of culture and networks and encourages organizations to deal with multiple teams for developing products or projects. 

What do all Scaling Agile Frameworks have in common?

All Scaling Agile frameworks have several things in common:

  • They are based on the Agile manifesto and principles, which emphasize individuals and interactions, working software, customer collaboration, and responding to change.
  • They are designed to handle the unique challenges of scaling Agile development to large, complex projects.
  • They all use Scrum as the core framework for managing and executing software development projects.
  • They all use Sprints as the basic unit of time for planning, executing, and delivering software.
  • They all use backlogs as a tool to track and prioritize work.
  • They all use some form of incremental delivery, which allows teams to deliver working software in small chunks rather than waiting until the end of the project to deliver a complete product.
  • They all use some form of planning and tracking tool to keep teams on track and ensure that work is being completed on time.
  • They all use some form of the retrospective meeting to review the previous sprint and identify areas for improvement.
  • They all put emphasis on the importance of collaboration and communication among team members and stakeholders.
  • They all strive to deliver high-quality, working software in a timely manner and continuously improve the process and the outcome.

Which Scaling Framework is Right for You?

When choosing an Agile scaling framework, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. The key is finding a framework that aligns with your organization’s needs and addresses any pain points you may face. 

For scaling Agile practices at your organization, you can also use different components from each framework. So, no matter which Agile scaling framework you decide to choose (SAFe, LeSS, Spotify, or Nexus) for your organization, here are a few things to consider: 

  • If your organization is proficient in Scrum and has small scaled Agile teams, you can choose LeSS or Nexus. 
  • Use DA if your organization is large, needs a flexible approach, and has the resources to hire additional roles.
  • If your team is satisfied with the Scrum approach, you can choose Scrum@Scale or Nexus. 

Most frameworks we mentioned here focus on driving business agility. However, the main difference they all have is different organizational scaling levels. So, focus on your organization’s scaling level and requirements to choose the right approach and bring meaningful agility. 

Wrapping Up

Among all the frameworks we mentioned above, the Scaled Agile Framework is the most used and popular one. The reason behind the popularity of SAFe is its ability to remove the bottlenecks an Agile team can face during scaling Agile. 

In short, if your organization is transitioning its Agile journey, using the SAFe framework is the best choice. Compared to disciplined, LeSS, and Nexus, SAFe is more flexible, gives more guidelines, and is beneficial. 
If you want to dive deeper into the world of SAFe, follow our page to keep yourself updated with our upcoming events. You can also opt for SAFe® Agilist Certification Training for a more guided and expert understanding.

Author’s Bio

Businesses transform when they realize that the current ways of working can no longer address the fast-changing market dynamics and rising user expectations. Agilemania, a small group of passionate Lean-Agile-DevOps consultants and trainers, is the most trusted brand for digital transformations in South and South-East Asia.

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