Choosing the Right Scaled Agile Framework

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jun 27, 2022
Updated on
Dec 4, 2022
Table of Content

The world of software development is constantly changing and evolving. New technologies, methodologies, and tools are continually being created and improved.

Agile development is a software development methodology characterized by short development cycles, called iterations, often of equal length. It emphasizes customer collaboration, constant feedback, and rapid delivery of working software.

During the past years there has been an explosion in the popularity of Agile methods. Many organizations adopt some form of agile methodology for their software development projects. As a result, several different agile frameworks have been created that guide how to implement Agile methods at scale within an organization.

But, how do you know which one is right for your project? Choosing the proper process or framework for your team can be a daunting task.

This article will guide you through selecting the best scaled Agile frameworks for your project based on its specific needs.

What are Scaled Agile Frameworks (SAFe)?

Scaled Agile Frameworks are an iterative and incremental approach to software development that emphasizes customer satisfaction, team collaboration, and continuous delivery of value-added functionality. 

SAFe is a family of frameworks that guides how to scale Agile across large enterprises. It is not a methodology or prescriptive process like Waterfall, but rather a set of values, principles, and practices that aim to help organizations achieve better business agility.

Its flexibility helps larger organizations adopt and implement Agile practices at their own pace, fit Agile methods to their specific business needs and culture, and scale Agile up or down as needed.

There are many benefits to using the SAFe methodology, including:

  • Improved communication and collaboration between teams
  • Increased transparency and visibility into project progress
  • More successful product deliveries
  • Reduced cycle times and faster time-to-market
  • Improved quality of products and services
  • Greater customer satisfaction

When to use SAFe?

The Scaled Agile Framework is a popular choice for organizations that need to scale their Agile processes to multiple teams across multiple locations. It is helpful for organizations looking to improve their Agile processes or needing help managing dependencies between teams. 

SAFe is also a good choice for organizations that want to test the waters of scaling Agile before fully committing to it. SAFe can be implemented incrementally, which means that organizations can start small and then expand their use of SAFe as they become more comfortable with it.

It is ideal to use SAFe when faster feedback from customers and users is needed, or if the organization wants to improve communication and collaboration between teams internally or between clients and teams. Improving collaboration can lead to a more motivated and productive workforce, yielding to better business results.

What is Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)?

Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) is a framework for developing and delivering products with multiple teams. It is an extension of Scrum, a lightweight Agile framework. Basically, it lets the team do more with less.

The LeSS framework helps organizations to improve their product development process by:

  • Enabling them to break down their work into smaller pieces that they can deliver incrementally
  • Allowing them to coordinate and align the work of multiple teams working on the same product 
  • Encouraging them to learn and experiment with new ways of working continuously

Large Scale Scrum keeps Scrum's core properties and extends them to cover the development of complex products by multiple Scrum Teams. The Large Scale Scrum framework is built on ten principles: 

  1. Large Scale Scrum is Scrum

This Agile framework scales Scrum without adding any new processes or tools. The goal is to keep things as simple as possible.

  1. More with LeSS

LeSS increases the focus on product development rather than process. It helps organizations to achieve more by doing less.

  1. Systems Thinking

LeSS is based on systems thinking. This means that it takes into account the interdependencies between different parts of the system. It helps decision-makers avoid mistakes made when considering only one part of the system in isolation.

  1. Lean Thinking

LeSS is based on lean thinking. This means that it focuses on eliminating waste and maximizing value.

  1. Empirical Process Control

This principle in this Agile framework helps deal with uncertainty and change. It relies on feedback and data to make decisions instead of assumptions and guesses.

  1. Transparency

LeSS promotes transparency in all aspects of the development process. This includes sharing information about the product, the development process, and the team's progress.

  1. Continuous Improvement Towards Perfection

LeSS encourages continuous improvement. It helps organizations identify and fix problems early on, before they become significant issues.

  1. Customer-Centric

LeSS puts the customer at the center of the development process. The goal is to deliver value to the customer as early and often as possible.

  1. Whole Product Focus

Large Scale Scrum helps organizations focus on the product, not just individual features. This helps ensure that the product is valuable to the customer and meets their needs.

  1. Queueing Theory

This principle helps organizations to understand and manage the flow of work. It allows teams to optimize the development process by reducing bottlenecks and increasing efficiency.

This scaled Agile framework exposes hidden dependencies, amplifies learning opportunities, and improves the flow of value through a minimal framework. LeSS helps you scale Scrum to over a thousand people, several locations, and multiple Scrum teams working on the same product.

When do you use LeSS?

Agile frameworks such as LeSS provide a viable path for scaling agility to the enterprise. But with so many options on the market, how do you know if LeSS is suitable for your organization?

Here are four key factors to consider when choosing LeSS:

1. Are you looking to scale beyond a single team?

If you're looking to scale your Agile efforts beyond a single team, LeSS may be a good option. 

Unlike other scaled Agile frameworks that focus on prescriptive processes and roles, LeSS takes a lean and agile approach emphasizing customer collaboration and continuous improvement. This makes it ideal for organizations that want to maintain agility at scale.

2. Is your organization willing to make changes at all levels?

One of the benefits of LeSS is that it can be tailored to fit an organization's specific needs. However, this also means that everyone from senior leadership down to individual contributors must be willing to embrace change to succeed. 

If your organization isn't ready or able to make changes at all levels, then another framework may be a better fit. 

3. Do you have the right mix of technical and business skills?

For LeSS to succeed, you need a team that has both the technical chops to get the job done and the soft skills necessary to collaborate effectively. This can be a challenge for organizations used to working in silos, so it's essential to consider whether your team has the right mix of skills before embarking on a LeSS implementation.

4. Are you willing to experiment and learn from your mistakes?

One of the core tenets of LeSS is experimentation, which means that teams are constantly trying new things and learning from their mistakes. This can be a hard pill to swallow for organizations that prefer stability over change, but it's essential for those who want to scale agility successfully. 

If your organization isn't prepared to experiment and learn from its mistakes, another framework may be more appropriate.

What is Disciplined Agile (DA)?

Disciplined Agile (DA) is an approach to software development that combines the best of both the Agile and lean worlds. It provides a lightweight yet comprehensive guide for teams and organizations who want to be Agile. 

Disciplined Agile also incorporates the best practices of other Agile approaches, such as Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming. It helps create more effective working methods since it’s not tied to any specific software development methodology.

DA is a process-independent approach that you can tailor to fit your organization's needs. It gives you the agility you need to succeed in today’s ever-changing business landscape.

When to use DA?

Disciplined Agile is used when: 

  • You are looking for a toolkit that provides guidance to help you tailor your processes to be effective in your context
  • You want more than just process guidance – you want people and organizational agility.
  • You want to move beyond just processes and tools and address the underlying issues that limit your success
  • You are struggling with other approaches such as Scrum or Kanban because they do not fit well in your context
  • You want to boost commercial success

Disciplined Agile can be used if the Agile team is highly experienced, since this can provide many benefits such as flexibility. However, this framework may not be the best option for teams transitioning to the Agile approach, since it can be quite complex.

What is Nexus Framework?

Nexus Framework is an approach to software development created by Ken Schwaber and Scrum.org. It is a set of practices and principles that helps organizations deliver large, complex Agile projects.

The framework addresses the challenges of scale by providing a set of guidelines and practices that enable large, distributed teams to work together effectively. It also helps organizations manage Agile delivery at scale by providing a clear and concise set of roles, responsibilities, and processes.

This Agile framework provides a comprehensive set of best practices for software development that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of an organization. It also includes a detailed description of how to implement the framework within an enterprise.

The main benefits of using Nexus are:

  • It ensures product quality by integrating testing and integration activities into every Sprint
  • The framework provides transparency and predictability across all Scrum Teams by synchronizing their planning, execution, and delivery
  • It improves coordination between globally distributed teams

When to use Nexus Framework?

Nexus is most appropriate for organizations with multiple Scrum Teams working on the same complex product or service. It provides a set of guidelines and best practices for how these teams should work together to deliver the product. 

The framework is also used when there are about 100 people involved in the delivery of the projects. If your organization only has a single Scrum Team, then there is no need to use Nexus – just stick to the core Scrum framework. 

What is Enterprise Kanban?

Enterprise Kanban is a framework that helps organizations improve their performance and delivery by providing visibility, transparency, and collaboration across all levels of the enterprise. 

It is based on the principles of lean thinking and Kanban. It has been proven to help organizations increase their agility, speed, quality, and predictability while reducing waste and cycle times.

The Enterprise Kanban Method (EKM) is a comprehensive approach to organizational transformation that enables companies to achieve their full potential in today’s rapidly changing markets. EKM provides a step-by-step guide for implementing Enterprise Kanban throughout an organization, from the boardroom to the shop floor. 

EKM helps you answer important questions such as:

  • What are our current pain points?
  • How can we optimize our value stream?
  • What are our risks and dependencies?
  • How can we better collaborate across functions and silos?

In Enterprise Kanban, a Portfolio Kanban is a tool that helps organizations optimize their workflows and improve their overall efficiency. It is based on the Kanban Method, which Toyota originally developed to streamline its manufacturing process.

The Portfolio Kanban is a visual representation of all the tasks that need to be completed to achieve a goal. A card represents each task, and the progress of each task is tracked as it moves through the various stages of development.

When to use Enterprise Kanban?

Enterprise Kanban is used to help visualize, limit, and balance the amount of work in progress (WIP) across the enterprise. Moreover, it can be used:

  • When there is a need to improve the flow of value through complex systems
  • When you have already implemented Agile and lean practices at the team level but are not seeing the benefits at the enterprise level
  • When you want to implement Kanban throughout your organization to improve transparency and collaboration

The Agile framework can also be used when the company wants to predict the delivery of value to the customer and improve the quality of work. Moreover, if the company is looking for more flexibility, this is the perfect framework to use.

What is Scrum at Scale (SaS)?

Scrum at Scale Framework was developed by Scrum Inc. and Scrum Alliance in collaboration with Dr. Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum and co-author of the Agile Manifesto. This tool is based on the fundamentals of Scrum, elevated to an enterprise level.

The SaS framework allows multiple Scrum Teams to work on a product or project. It allows the Product Owner and Scrum Master to have more control over the process and achieve faster development and delivery cycles. It has three core concepts:

  • Working in smaller teams
  • Scalability within the organization
  • Minimum viable bureaucracy

Using Scrum Scale enables Scrum Teams and projects to scale efficiently and effectively while maintaining the principles and practices that make Scrum successful. With Scrum Scale, organizations can fully benefit from Scrum's advantages, such as improved communication, increased transparency, and more efficient execution.

When do you use SaS?

Scrum Scale can be used when the organization aims to remain Agile in times of change and uncertainty. The scale of Scrum makes it more flexible than other Agile frameworks and allows for continuous delivery even as the business context changes. 

It is an extension of the Scrum framework, which focuses on delivering more significant impact and business agility. It allows organizations to grow organically and efficiently coordinate with multiple Scrum Teams, which is perfect for those looking for more flexibility.

Final Thoughts

The Scaled Agile Framework has been gaining in popularity in recent years as organizations attempt to improve their agility at the enterprise level. But with so many different frameworks to choose from, how do you know if SAFe is the right one for your organization?

Here are four factors to consider when choosing a scaled agile framework:

1. The size and complexity of your project

SAFe is a comprehensive framework covering all aspects of Agile software development, from team to enterprise level. This makes it a good choice for large and complex projects or organizations that are just starting out with Agile and need a comprehensive framework to guide their transition.

2. The maturity of your organization’s Agile practices

If your organization already has mature Agile practices in place, you may not need all the bells and whistles that SAFe offers. In this case, you might be better off with a leaner framework like LeSS or Nexus.

3. Your team’s preferences and working style

When choosing a Scaled Agile Framework, it’s also important to consider your team’s preferences and working style. SAFe methodology is prescriptive in nature, providing detailed guidelines on how groups should work. If your team prefers more freedom and flexibility, another option like DA might be a better fit.

4. The industry you’re in

Finally, your industry can also influence your decision on which Scaled Agile Framework to use. For example, if you’re working in a highly regulated industry like healthcare or finance, SAFe’s compliance-focused features could be a major selling point.

Whatever Scaled Agile Framework you choose, the most important thing is to select one that will work well for your specific project and organization. Aside from considering the factors mentioned above, here are some tips to guide you in choosing a suitable Scaled Agile Framework:

1. Define your goals and objectives

What does your organization hope to achieve by scaling Agile? What specific challenges are you trying to address? Be as straightforward as possible so you can evaluate different frameworks against your specific needs.

2. Do your research

The next step is to do your research and understand what each framework entails. This will help you decide which one is the best fit for your organization. There are many resources available online and offline that can help you with this.

3. Consider your organizational needs

Each organization has different needs and requirements. It is essential to consider these before selecting a framework. What works for one organization might not work for another. Make sure to select a framework that will support your organization's specific needs.

4. Get input from various stakeholders

Once you have shortlisted a few frameworks, it is vital to get input from various organizational stakeholders. This includes people from different departments as well as senior management. Their insights and perspectives will be valuable in making a final decision.

5. Assess the risks and benefits

It is also important to assess the risks and benefits of each option before making a decision. This will help you choose a framework that offers the most advantages for your organization while minimizing potential risks.

6. Trial it out 

Before fully committing to a particular framework, consider doing a trial run with one or two teams. This will allow you to see how well the framework works in practice and make any necessary adjustments before rolling it out company-wide.

7. Make a decision

After considering all of the above factors, it is time to decide. Choose the framework that you believe is the best fit for your organization and start implementing it. Monitor and review the results regularly to ensure they meet your needs.

When looking for the right Agile frameworks to work with,  it is crucial to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The implementation should be tailored to meet the specific needs of the organization. 

GoRetro can make all the difference by providing the ability to quickly and efficiently capture, track, and act on feedback from distributed teams. It is an excellent tool for Agile teams of all sizes who want to improve their retrospective process. 

The platform can help Agile teams improve their performance and become more Agile, regardless of the chosen Agile framework. GoRetro is easy to use and is available for free.

Scaling Agile can be challenging, but by choosing the proper framework for your organization that meets your specific goals and needs, you can set yourself up for success.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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