3. Govern: Link Agile Portfolio planning and operations with business strategy
The focus on innovation, speed, and customer experience requires organizations to reset the way they govern their strategic portfolios. These, in turn, should be aligned with a clear vision, objectives, roadmap, and overall organizational strategy.
In order to do this you need to use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), implement continuous planning, fund customer journeys, decentralize decision making, and more.
The head of group design office at a leading UK-based bank mentioned, “We are less focused on KPIs and more focused on OKRs. So KPIs traditionally will go with a target, and a stretch target. OKRs essentially say that they are stretching right from the get-go. The idea is you’re never going to achieve an OKR in its entirety – it is a different mindset and behavior.”
A great example of continuous planning is the PI Plannings which is ingrained in SAFe and a part of the essential configuration. Program Increment (PI) Planning is a cadence-based, face-to-face event that serves as the heartbeat of the Agile Release Train (ART), aligning all the teams on the ART to a shared mission and Vision.
The Agile Manifesto states, “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is a face-to-face conversation.” SAFe takes this to the next level with PI planning, a routine, face-to-face event, with a standard agenda that includes a presentation of business context and vision followed by team planning breakouts—where the teams create their Iteration plans and objectives for the upcoming PI.
Finally, decentralize decision making is necessary to be able to deliver value in the shortest sustainable lead-time. It has been proven that most decisions that must be escalated to higher levels of authority introduce a delay, leading to longer lead times. As SAFe mentions, Some decisions, then, should be centralized. Generally, they share the following characteristics:
- Infrequent – Made infrequently, these decisions typically are not urgent, and deeper consideration is appropriate (ex., product strategy, international expansion).
- Long-lasting – Once made, these decisions are unlikely to change at least in the short term (e.g., commitment to a standard technology platform, commitment to organizational realignment around Value Streams).
- Provide significant economies of scale – These choices deliver large and broad economic benefits (e.g., a common way of working, standard development languages, standard tooling, offshoring).
Overall, Understanding how decisions are made helps enable knowledge workers to approach the decision-making process with a clearer point of view
4. Accelerate: Modernize IT with DevOps and microservices
Leading organizations are combining DevOps and Agile efforts, introducing modularity in their systems, and progressively retiring legacy systems. DevOps is a mindset, a culture, and a set of technical practices. It provides communication, integration, automation, and close cooperation among all the people needed to plan, develop, test, deploy, release, and maintain a Solution.
A Quality Manager at a UK based water utilities says, “If you don’t have Agile and DevOps working hand in hand, then you cannot deliver the benefit early. This is because you are not making the best use of automation, release management, and you are not planning your releases well – you are not getting released windows defined.”