The Rise of Enterprise Agile Frameworks

March 5, 2020 CollabNet VersionOne

Numbers reveal a story. In the 13th annual State of Agile report, 97% of survey respondents shared that their organizations practice Agile. The majority of these organizations are experimenting with Agile in pockets and are still maturing in their adoption of Agile beyond the team-level. 12% report a high level of competency with Agile practices across the organization and 6% have Agile practices that are enabling greater adaptability to market conditions. However, we can expect the number of organizations scaling agile across the enterprise to steadily increase because of the urgency to move and adapt faster and change their ways of working.

In today’s dynamic software-based economy, it is no longer the big eats the small rather the fast now consume the slow. Organizations need to become agile across the board so they can rapidly deliver software and respond swiftly to market changes, customer needs, and competitive threats. From an internal standpoint, as organizations begin to reap the benefits of agile adoption on a small scale, they realize just how impactful expanding it to multiple teams, larger more complex projects, portfolios of projects, and ultimately, the whole enterprise could be. By scaling agile across the enterprise, they can increase cross-functional team collaboration, drive greater alignment between business and IT, boost productivity, and quickly adapt to changing priorities.

But, scaling agile is no easy feat. Agile was conceived to help small teams work quickly, not for large-scale software development involving multiple big teams, and product portfolios. Managing large software portfolios is exponentially more complex than it is in small contexts where negative consequences and risks are easier to catch early, mitigate, and absorb. Successfully scaling agile demands a shift in mindset, culture, and operating model to support a dynamic yet stable environment for developing and delivering software. How can organizations build a strong foundation for their scaling agile journey that harnesses the collective power of teams to predictably deliver software important to the business and customers?

Enterprise Agile Frameworks are the answer, which is why they are being readily adopted by organizations of all sizes, business complexity, and agile maturity to scale smart. According to Gartner’s 2019 Agile in the Enterprise survey, 63% of respondents have already implemented at least one Agile Framework. These frameworks are tried-and-tested approaches that provide organizations with structures, processes, and practices to deliver complex software in a sustainable and efficient way.

There is a wide variety of Enterprise Agile Frameworks available in the market today, some have been around for decades while others have recently emerged. Gartner’s new report, Market Guide for Enterprise Agile Frameworks, explains the 13 major Agile frameworks, how much they differ, and why they are not interchangeable. Some organizations may even need two frameworks, depending on the structure of the enterprise. Others may start with one framework and then switch to different one that is a better fit for them. Therefore, it is important to carefully evaluate these frameworks, ideally with the help of a consulting service, to determine the best match for a given organization.

According to the aforementioned Gartner report, the three leading Enterprise Agile Frameworks are Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), and Disciplined Agile (DA, formerly known as Disciplined Agile Delivery). While each framework takes a different approach to scaling agile in the enterprise, they are similar in the following ways:

  • They are built on a foundation of Scrum or Kanban at the team-level
  • They have values and principles for organizations to use as a guiding force when scaling agile
  • They coordinate the delivery cadences of multiple teams and roll up features from each team into one release
  • They address overarching enterprise concerns such as architecture, security, and performance
  • They help resolve cross-team dependencies and feature inconsistencies

Here is brief overview of each framework:

Scaled Agile Framework

Developed by Dean Leffingwell back in 2011, SAFe has become the most widely adopted framework for implementing agile practices at scale. 30% of the respondents in our State of Agile survey identified it as their framework of choice. SAFe is a prescriptive yet customizable methodology with four different configurations for organizations (Essential SAFe, Large Solution, Portfolio, and Full SAFe) to start their scaling agile journey depending on their current maturity level. SAFe provides guidance for all development levels: team, program, large solution, and portfolio. The concepts of value stream and Agile Release Trains (ARTs) are unique to SAFe, where value streams are used to organize the organization around value and multiple self-organizing teams focus on delivering value streams. The Scaled Agile Framework website provides a wealth of information on how to structure roles, processes, and techniques using the SAFe framework.

Large-Scale Scrum

Developed by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde in 2005, LeSS works best for organizations that are already using Scrum at the team-level and are starting to scale up to large teams, one at a time. It has two framework configurations: LeSS is used for two to eight teams and LeSS Huge for more than two teams. It is based on the idea of one Product Owner, one Product Backlog, one Definition of Done, and one Potentially Shippable Product Increment at the end of each sprint.

Disciplined Agile

Developed by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines in 2012, Disciplined Agile is more of a process-decision toolkit than a scaling framework. It is a hybrid approach based on the practices of many Agile software development practices including Scrum, Kanban, Agile Modeling, Lean software development, and others. DA takes a goal-driven and context-sensitive approach over being prescriptive, giving organizations the flexibility to scale agile as they see fit and prioritize work according to factors that are important to the enterprise and project stakeholders. It emphasizes consumable solutions and well-defined roles.

While these frameworks are the most popular ones, they do not necessarily guarantee success. There is no single best approach to scaling agile in your organization. The strong execution of any Agile framework comes with organizational change, which requires an implementation plan that includes expert services and training, as well as leadership support for establishing a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration that needs to be carefully managed, especially, if strong traditional approaches to software development are entrenched.

As your scaling agile efforts mature, you will realize that Enterprise Agile Frameworks alone are not enough to tie software development with business value. The industry endorsed approach to getting that tie-in at any scale is to add Enterprise Value Stream Management (VSM) Solutions. Download our latest whitepaper, Enterprise Agile Frameworks with Value Stream Enable Agile at Scale, to learn more.

CollabNet VersionOne solutions are unique in their ability to support each of the main frameworks and goes beyond that to provide enterprise VSM solutions, in fact the company pioneered VSM for DevOps. CollabNet also offers consulting services and partners with a range of domain experts to help customers plan and execute their journey to Enterprise Agile with DevOps and VSM.

Market Guide for Enterprise Agile Frameworks, Mike West, 2019

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