SAFe and/or DAD?

Many enterprises are finding RUP to be too costly, prescriptive and heavyweight, doesn’t provide the expected improvements in quality or time to value, and as a result often isn’t really followed by project teams. At the other end of the spectrum, Scrum is probably too simple, or a poor fit for enterprise IT development since it focusing primarily on the construction phase of largely independent projects with relatively small teams. Scrum is a good starting point, but needs to be scaled up to meet typical enterprise project needs.

There are a number of different approaches to scaling agile processes beyond individual projects to address enterprise concerns. Two of the more popular approaches are Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD).

SAFe and DAD both aim to scale Agile and Lean approaches, in particular Scrum, to support larger projects and cross project coordination at the enterprise level. But, they do it differently. DAD scales Agile within a delivery team to address inception and transition concerns. The inception phase helps prepare the project backlog needed to guide the project’s iterations. The transition phase includes additional testing and other activities required to move a release into production. For continuous delivery, the inception and transition phases of DAD may be quite short and potentially largely automated. DAD is also less prescriptive, providing a goal centered approach to tailoring the process to support earlier value delivery and risk reduction. There is a Rational Method Composer (RMC) plugin for DAD and a DAD Rational Team Concert (RTC) process template provided by IBM. However these assets are not being actively maintained as IBM is focused on SAFe support.

SAFe utilizes Scrum at the team level, and scales agile and lean across teams at the program and portfolio management level. Portfolio management helps drive Epics from enterprise investment strategies. Program management coordinates team activities to enact shared business direction and architectural vision, determine related groups of work items for cross-team dependencies, and coordinate with external team representatives. SAFe is also supported by IBM with an RTC process template and RMC method plugin with are both provided free with a purchase of RTC. There are many sessions at IBM InterConnect2015 that introduce these offerings. Be sure to check them out.

When conducting method adoption workshops or transition initiatives, you may find that your enterprise clients do need program and portfolio management capabilities. But the stakeholders often don’t highlight these issues as they are often more focused on either silo’d SDLC activities or individual project delivery challenges. Portfolio management, enterprise architecture, reusable asset management, and project cross-cutting concerns are important, but you may encounter situations where more core capabilities at the team and project delivery level needs to be addressed first. Therefore SAFe might be seen as addressing cross project and enterprise portfolio concerns that are less critical to your clients success, and not their immediate needs. SAFe does utilize Scrum at the team level, but that may not be sufficient to meet their initial enterprise project delivery needs.

DAD may be a better tactical fit in these situations since it addresses broader project management concerns than Scrum, without necessarily addressing full enterprise program and portfolio management issues you client might not be ready to consume. SAFe might be a better strategic solution in the future, but it may be beyond the scope of you client’s immediate needs.

One way to address the apparent conflict is to take a hybrid approach.

1. Recommend DAD to your client as a starting point for introducing agile in an enterprise context. Leverage DAD’s goal centered approach to tailoring the process as needed. DAD may address you client’s immediate needs, may be more consumable by the organization, has rich community support, and may fit better with the specific method adoption initiative.

2. Recognize that project teams are not entirely independent in an enterprise context because of asset reuse, enterprise architect building blocks and guiding principles, systems of systems dependencies across the teams, etc., and that eventually the program and portfolio management concerns will need to be addressed.

3. When you client is ready to scale agile and lean across project teams, and address program and portfolio management issues, you can position SAFe as a natural tailoring and extension of DAD to address these concerns. The tailoring of DAD would be to reduce the overlap between the inception and transition phases with the program management activities in SAFe, essentially replacing DAD with its Scrum subset and utilizing SAFe to provide scale.

Taking this approach allows you to start with DAD to address broader project delivery needs than are covered by Scrum, and then relatively seamlessly introduce SAFe to include  even broader program and portfolio management concerns. You may find this is an effective approach for scaled agile method adoption.


About jimamsden

I'm a software developer and amateur musician with an interest in home audio recording.
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