How do you scale agile software development from a small team across... multiple teams? From a small-scale project to an enterprise-sized one? You implement one of those powerful enterprise agile frameworks gaining traction these days, right?
“OK, but which one?”
And how do you choose that specific one? What should you base your selection on?
Which scaling approach best suits your:
- organizational structure
- team size
- business processes
- project particularities and... budget?
Let me give you a hand with that! Here are the 6 most popular scaled frameworks for Agile to choose from:
But First: What Is a Scaled Agile Framework More Precisely?
An accurate definition for it would be:
It's the “answer” to your question: “How can I scale up my Scrum or ExtremeProgramming (XP) methodology from a small team to an entire infrastructure of teams? Or teams of teams... hundreds of teams?"
Think of an agile scaling framework as a “process blueprint” providing you with:
- agile best practices
- a whole bunch of useful guidelines and recommendations
- org structure
… so you can seamlessly scale up your agile software development to an enterprise-sized project. To an intricate and large-sized “cluster” of teams.
Choosing the Best Scaling Agile Approach: Key Questions to Ask Yourself
Why do you want to implement one of these popular enterprise agile frameworks in your organization?
This is the question that you should start evaluating agile scaling frameworks with. Inevitably, it will unlock other essential questions to ask yourself:
- How important is team empowerment to you?
- Where are your teams located?
- Is it that you want to shorten delivery times?
- How important is speed of delivery to you?
- Do you want to acquire the agility needed to react more quickly to changes?
- What's your timeframe for becoming agile?
- How complex is the software product that you're working on?
Your scale-up strategy depends greatly on the answers to these particular questions.
There are many enterprise agile frameworks providing directions for how large-scale teams should work together on enterprise projects.
Yet, there's only one that perfectly suits your own context...
What Are the Main Challenges to Scaling Agile Development?
You must surely have your doubts when it comes to scaling agile across your entire organization.
Doubts deriving from some of the main challenges that you're facing right now:
- Visibility: How on earth will you keep close track of the work-in-progress of such a complex infrastructure of small teams? Especially when those teams are fairly autonomous already?
- Learning: how will you “replicate” one team's success across all the other ones?
- Coordination: how can you coordinate multiple teams of hundreds of members so that, in the end, they deliver the software product that meets your/your client's quality standards?
- Risk management: How do you “failure-proof” a team? How do you ensure that one team's failure won't propagate?
- Alignment: How do you ensure that all these autonomous small teams will pull in the same direction?
1. Scaled Agile Framework, One of the Best Enterprise Agile Frameworks
It's, without question, one of the most complex large-scale agile frameworks, providing lots of:
- tools to product delivery
A short, yet so very accurate definition would be:
A mix of Agile and Lean principles.
And here's how it works:
“Teams of teams” (or “agile release trains”) and “teams of teams of teams” (or “solutions trains”) work together in the same direction, to reach your enterprise's strategic goals.
Word of caution: do keep in mind that implementing SAFe across your multiple teams does require a complete makeover of your current organizational structure. For instance, organizing your team infrastructure into “agile release trains” does call for consultation and it takes... time.
2. Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS)
One of those enterprise agile frameworks that include many of the already familiar Scrum elements at a team level.
And I'm talking here about:
- daily sprint meetings
- sprint planning
And still, there's one crucial feature that sets LeSS apart from Scrum:
With LeSS, you have multiple teams working in different “lanes” on various sprints. And sometimes you have collaboration between different lanes.
Also, a very important aspect to mention is that: it's easy to adopt.
Word of caution: LeSS is a scaled agile framework that won't scale beyond 15 teams. Do keep that in mind if your team infrastructure is (way) heavier.
3. Lean Product Delivery
A system developed with the idea of “minimizing waste” in mind.
And by “waste” I do mean everything that's unnecessary in the processes of developing a software product:
- excessive steps
- unnecessary functionality in the final product
In short: you'd be maximizing value by trimming down waste if you decide to go with this particular framework here for scaling agile development.
4. Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)
A so-called “process decision framework”.
This means that DAD doesn't:
- come with a detailed implementation roadmap for your teams
- point out to specific processes to follow for scaling up agile in your enterprise
Instead, what it does do is:
Offer you general guidance in making certain choices at key stages in the product delivery process. Choices of certain processes and business operations to integrate into your workflow.
This could all get summed up to 1-2 phrases:
“These are your goals and these are some recommendations on the approaches to consider for meeting them. Here's some guidance for selecting the best approach for you.”
Word of caution: since it's only “recommendations” for scaling agile that this framework provides, this could lead to a certain level of chaos in a large-scale organization; an enterprise with an intricate team structure.
By far one of the widely used enterprise agile frameworks.
A card-based system where team members handle work items from a list of prioritized items, pulling them on a Kanban board.
It's these “cards” that signal when a task is ready to be moved to the next phase in the development process.
Note: a cards buildup is a clear sign that there's a bottleneck in the process that team members must address.
The main focus when implementing Kanban into your large-scale, multiple-team project:
To ensure and to maintain a continuous, smooth workflow.
A flexible scaled framework for Agile that keeps much of the core principles of Scrum.
Word of caution: Nexus can't scale beyond 3-9 teams and it might turn out to be quite a challenge for Agile newbies.
Final Word: Best Practices for Adopting an Enterprise Agile Framework
Every scaling approach offered by these enterprise agile frameworks here is highly contextual.
In other words: there's no general “silver bullet” that suits every enterprise's organizational structure.
Do consider these 2 aspects when choosing the best scaled agile framework for your own context:
- Are your teams already working in agile mode? Then you might want to consider going with Nexus or LeSS, which are known for their flexibility.
- Have your teams just replaced the traditional model with an agile one? Then SAFe, a prescriptive framework, might just be the best choice for you.
Also, keep in mind the inconveniences and best practices when implementing a framework for scaling up agile development across your teams:
- is crucial that you run trainings on Agile methodologies before adopting any of these frameworks enterprise-wide
- it takes months or years to fully incorporate the agile methodologies into the cultural DNA of your organization
- 100% enterprise agility can't be reached when there are gaps between the IT and the business strategy teams