How to Drive Business Agility with SAFe

The term “business agility” describes an organization’s ability to adapt quickly and successfully to evolving market dynamics, consumer demands, and emerging trends. It basically refers to an organization’s ability to adapt to and grow in a continuously evolving and intensely competitive environment. In today’s fast-paced digital age, traditional methods of doing business are no longer sufficient. 

But, large organizations or enterprises find it difficult to keep up with the changing market. One of the main reasons is the complexity of operations at scale. Large enterprise have 

  • Complex organizational structure
  • Multiple layers of management
  • Bureaucracy
  • Resistance to change
  • Lack of agility 

These problems can slow down the decision-making process and make it challenging to respond to changes quickly. 

However, with Scaled Agile Framework, enterprises can face these challenges and keep up with the uncertain business environment. With the proper SAFe practice and approaches, large organizations can become more agile. 

Read on to find out how SAFe can make it possible. 

7 Competencies of SAFe for Improving Business Agility 

SAFe helps to improve business agility by focusing on seven key areas. These seven core areas are responsible for the operations and output of any large company or enterprise. Let’s learn about these seven core competencies of SAFe in more detail: 

1. Lean-Agile Leadership

If you want to drive business agility, focus on your organization’s ability to embrace and promote a Lean-Agile mindset. For effectively implementing the Scaled Agile Framework, the management team of any enterprise is extremely crucial. The management team needs to be well aware of the principles of SAFe and implement them in their daily responsibilities. After all, they are responsible for empowering teams to make decisions, lead, and sustain organizational change. 

The most important aspect of this competency is leading by example. After gathering good knowledge of the Scaled Agile Framework, management or leaders of your organization can demonstrate the knowledge in everyday work practice. When the leaders or management lead by example, the entire organization starts to follow this mindset. And when the organization starts to adopt SAFe, ensure you’re providing them with the right resources for the implementation. 

2. Team and Technical Agility

The second competency of the Scaled Agile Framework focuses on the ability of teams to apply Agile principles and practices to deliver high-quality products and services. If you want to achieve business agility, focusing on delivering high-quality products and services is essential. 

Now to build and deliver quality solutions, services, or products, to the customer, the teams of any organization play a vital role. If the teams aren’t synchronized, and every member of the team fails to perform their everyday duties optimally, will your organization be able to deliver value to the customer? 

The answer is no! 

Be it large or medium enterprises, teams need to be Agile to drive overall Business Agility. This is why SAFe encourages to include strategies or systems that help to adapt Agile, reduce lead time, respond to customer feedback quicker, and actively adjust strategy.  

The Team and Technical Agility competency had three different dimensions, such as: 

Agile Teams: The foundation of this competency is the Agile teams. These are teams of individuals who work well together in teams adopting Agile methods and concepts and have a variety of talents and expertise. 

These high-performing teams have the authority and duty to manage their own work, which makes them more productive and able to complete projects more quickly. Agile teams emphasize finishing small chunks of work at a time, allowing them to receive feedback fast and change as needed to meet the project’s changing needs.

Team of Agile Teams: Agile teams adhere to a certain SAFe process known as the SAFe Agile Release Train (ART), where each team has a shared vision and objectives. These teams focus on developing and delivering solutions that add value for the customer. ARTs need a wide range of skills for building significant systems, such as operations, supply chain, compliance, security,  training, product marketing, distribution, finance, support, legal, licensing, product management,  manufacturing, suppliers, engineering, etc.

All team members take part in the ART and collaborate to achieve the plans and objectives of the ART. Alignment, a fundamental SAFe concept, ensures that all teams collaborate to achieve a common goal and generate value together. Iterations that are brief help in synchronizing all work and events. ARTs collaborate to plan, commit, execute, and reflect in retrospect, just like Agile teams do.

Built-in Quality: To produce high-quality, valuable solutions for the present and the future, each Agile team adheres to a set of principles and practices. No matter the project’s focus—software, hardware, or business—all Agile teams must remain focused on producing high-quality results and establish their own built-in standards. The level of work directly affects a team’s capacity for predictable delivery and commitment fulfillment. Quality must be integrated into the value creation process as opposed to being evaluated later to prevent rework and delays.

By working in small batches, different members of cross-functional teams can update work artifacts frequently, which helps maintain quality and speed up the feedback process. Implementing Agile practices such as Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Agile Testing can also assist organizations in delivering high-quality results.

3. Agile Product Delivery

Agile Product Delivery is all about integrating Agile principles into the process of delivering products to customers. The competency emphasizes the importance of continuously providing value to customers through the Agile Release Train (ART), which involves practices like product vision, roadmapping, and backlog management. In order to develop products and services that truly meet the needs of customers, organizations must take a customer-centric approach, prioritizing the customer experience and responding quickly to feedback.

Agile support is also essential to product delivery, even after the product has been released. This ensures that the organization can continue to respond to customer needs and deliver updates or improvements as necessary. Overall, Agile Product Delivery is about creating a flexible and responsive process that puts the customer first, allowing organizations to stay competitive and meet the market’s ever-changing demands.

Agile Product Delivery is made up of three key dimensions: 

Design Thinking and Customer Centricity: Design Thinking and Customer Centricity are the first dimensions that consider customers’ interests and preferences when making decisions. This involves ensuring that every service or product satisfies the requirements of being feasible, appealing, sustainable, and viable.

Develop on Cadence: Develop on Cadence refers to having a release on demand or scheduled system for product development to maintain control of the development sequence even in market uncertainties. Products can be released as required to satisfy customer needs.

DevOps and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline: The goal of the DevOps and CI/CD pipeline is to build a foundation that allows enterprises to deliver solutions at any stage in the product development process. The continuous delivery pipeline automates key steps in the software delivery process, making it the backbone of modern DevOps.

By leveraging these three dimensions, organizations can create a flexible and customer-centric approach to product delivery that can adapt to changing markets and deliver value to customers effectively.

4. Enterprise Solution Delivery 

This competency focuses on the ability of organizations to coordinate and deliver large and complex solutions. This includes practices such as Agile architecture, Lean systems engineering, and Agile portfolio management.

The different dimensions of Enterprise Solution Delivery are: 

Lean Systems and Solution Engineering: Lean-Agile methodologies are used in this dimension to speed up the design, testing, execution, deployment, and decommissioning of systems. It attempts to reduce waste, boost productivity, and enhance quality, leading to quicker and more reliable delivery of solutions.

Coordination of Trains and Suppliers: This dimension focuses on coordinating and aligning different value streams to match the organizational objective. It entails working with suppliers and partners to ensure that they deliver their products and services on schedule and in accordance with the needs of the enterprise.

Continuous Evolution of live systems: This dimension highlights how crucial it is to keep systems and the development pipeline working at all times. It includes ongoing system testing, monitoring, and updating to deliver benefits during and after market launches. This contributes to the system’s overall performance and reliability, which enhances customer satisfaction and promotes business growth.

Overall, Enterprise Solution Delivery dimensions are essential for successful solutions satisfying the organization’s needs.

5. Lean Portfolio Management

Lean Portfolio Management is a crucial component of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) that focuses on managing the portfolio of products and services in a Lean-Agile model. This approach modifies traditional portfolio management practices to provide a full overview of products and services while enabling the necessary funding for business goals.

The Lean Portfolio Management approach also allows for decentralized strategy and execution processes, enabling Agile Release Trains to deliver solutions on time. This approach incorporates Lean Governance, ensuring that every team manages its relevant portfolio while providing an overview of the situation.

In short, the SAFe framework helps organizations manage their portfolio effectively while aligning with their business goals.

Lean portfolio management has three key dimensions, these are:

Strategy and Investment Funding: This dimension focuses on aligning the portfolio with the organization’s strategy and providing the necessary funding for sustainable solutions to achieve business targets. 

Agile Portfolio Operations: This dimension offers the coordination and support necessary for decentralized program execution and improved operational performance. It includes monitoring the efficiency of the Agile Release Trains (ARTs), offering ARTs direction and support, and improving value delivery.

Lean Governance: By reducing obstacles that would hinder the governance or oversight team from working in the organization’s or customers’ best interests, this dimension helps the team work more productively. It helps ensure that governance aligns with the organization’s goals, eliminating redundancy and giving teams direction and support.

6. Continuous Learning Culture

To improve Business Agility, companies must adopt a culture of continuous learning in the Scaled Agile Framework. This means everyone in the organization should remain open to new ideas, information, processes, technology, and more. SAFe continues to evolve as Agile teams in various industries find new ways to adapt the framework to their operations, creating new opportunities for improvement.

When an organization adopts SAFe, it is willing to develop new processes and find better solutions to problems. Creating a culture of continuous learning is essential for companies to innovate and constantly improve, which increases Business Agility. To foster this culture, organizations should encourage employees to experiment, learn from mistakes, and share knowledge with others. This approach helps the organization identify improvement opportunities and encourages employees to take ownership of their work.

Furthermore, organizations can create learning opportunities such as training, workshops, and coaching sessions to enhance their employees’ skills and knowledge. These programs provide employees with the necessary skills to take on new roles and responsibilities, ensuring that the organization can adapt to changes in the business environment.

The three dimensions of Continuous Learning Culture are:

Innovation Culture: This dimension encourages employees to think outside the box and be creative in their work. The organization should provide a safe and supportive environment where employees can experiment with new ideas and take calculated risks to drive innovative solutions that align with business goals.

Learning Organization: This dimension emphasizes the importance of continuous learning for everyone in the organization. Companies should invest in training, coaching, and mentorship programs to help employees develop new skills and knowledge. In addition, the organization should encourage knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and open communication to promote a culture of learning.

Relentless Improvement: This dimension highlights the need for all teams in the organization to focus on constant improvement. Teams should regularly assess their products, solutions, and processes to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to address them. By prioritizing continuous improvement, teams can deliver better customer and business outcomes.

7. Organizational Agility

The seventh competency of the Scaled Agile Framework focuses on the organizational ability to act quickly to changes in the market, customer expectations, or other external factors. To gain organizational agility, businesses need a continuous and fast feedback loop. This feedback can come from both external (from customers) and internal(within the enterprise) sources. 

To thrive in this digital age, enterprises can’t depend on the product stability or rigidity of their process. Instead, they have to act on feedback to adapt to changes. And adopting the Scaled Agile Framework can help them achieve this agility. 

In SAFe, you can achieve agility by implementing Agile and Lean practices at every enterprise level. This will help your businesses accomplish flexibility and speed. 

Here are the three dimensions of Organizational Agility:

Agility Teams and Lean Thinking People: Every individual involved in the product or solution delivery should be trained in Lean and Agile practices and principles. They should know how to embrace their values. 

Lean Business Operations: Every team within the enterprise should apply lean principles to map and improve the delivery process and support business solutions. 

Strategy Agility: This occurs when the enterprise showcases its ability to measure market trends and quickly changes its strategy to adapt to the market trends. 

So, these are the seven competencies of the Scaled Agile Framework. They focus on the ability of enterprises to adapt and succeed in a rapidly changing business environment. By developing these competencies, organizations can achieve business agility. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction, faster time to market, increased innovation, and improved employee satisfaction.

The Bottom Line

To drive business agility, you need to adopt a culture of experimentation, innovation, and continuous learning in your organization. Your team must have the ability to take risks, learn from their setbacks, and improve their strategies in response to the customer and market. 

And the Scaled Agile Framework can help you and your team adapt to these cultures by implementing Agile techniques. From breaking down old silos and forming cross-functional teams, SAFe can help your teams be empowered to make decisions and take ownership of solutions. 

This way, even in a large organization, your team can work in short cycles, producing value and continuously improving based on feedback.

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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