The Complete Guide to Scaling Agile with Jira Software and Portfolio
We live in an agile world. A world where the ability to anticipate and quickly adapt to change has become a powerful source of competitive advantage. Success in this world demands that businesses become more nimble and adaptable.
Since the release of the Agile Manifesto, many large organizations have embarked on the journey to refine their business models and processes, with software teams at the forefront of agile transformation initiatives.
Now, other non-tech teams, such as HR and Marketing, are following suit. They’re using agile methodologies to bring products to market faster, quickly anticipate and respond to customers, and keep pace with changes inside and outside the organization.
Deploying agile at scale is a much bigger challenge than building discrete agile teams. In the 12th State of Agile report by VersionOne, 52% of organizations surveyed stated that more than half of their teams are already employing agile practices. However, only 16% of them said their companies had reached a high agile maturity level.
Before scaling agile, it’s crucial to understand your organization’s needs and how agile fits into the big picture. This complete guide will equip you and your organization with a deep understanding of agile at scale—its principles, challenges, and popular scaling frameworks.
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Agility isn’t about creating products that sell, it’s all about designing a new way of working. This mindset has been exemplified by the world’s fastest growing “unicorns” like Spotify and Airbnb. These digital platforms are designed to support borderless collaboration, liberate the full capacities of the teams doing the work, and most importantly, to delight customers through rapid iteration.
That said, enterprise agile consists of both self-directed and cross-functional teams. As these teams grow in size, a new breed of organizational structure starts to take shape – the “wirearchy“. This operating model helps reduce silos in processes and keep business objectives aligned with downstream deliverables.
Wirearchy, coined by organisational advisor Jon Husband, “is about the power and effectiveness of people working together through connection and collaboration… taking responsibility individually and collectively rather than relying on traditional hierarchical status.”
Tightly correlated with agile principles, the wirearchy of teams is linked around the organization’s vision. Each team decides which tasks to complete within a given duration, as well as the strategies to achieve them. If needed, teams can pull talent from other functions depending on the priorities of tasks. And the leadership role is to maintain a clear line of sight between individual teams’ daily activities and the company’s collective goals.
How can business leaders facilitate the transition into the wirearchy model? The answer is scaled agile.
Simply put, it means designating work across IT, HR, and Finance, among other functions, based on the requirements of the entire customer experience (product-driven), rather than according to a single interaction between the customer and the business (project-driven).
To sum it up, agile at scale is a transformation journey from agile project level, portfolio level, to the organization level. It calls for a cultural shift from project-driven to become product-oriented, supported by strategic investments in agile development tools.
The essential first step for agile leaders is to determine the right scaling frameworks for an effective agility expansion.
Scaled Agile Methodologies
VersionOne’s State of Agile survey also identified the most popular scaling approaches, as listed below:
As with anything in life, there is no one-size-fits-all scaling method for every business. By understanding the core differences as well as the benefits of each framework, you can adopt the right solution(s) for your organization.
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
SAFe is the most widely adopted framework for scaling agile across the enterprise. It’s designed to help businesses achieve high-value work continuously on a predictable schedule.
The framework provides guidance for all levels of development:
- Large Solution (optional)
- Portfolio (optional)
Depending on the scale of implementation and the business complexity, there are different SAFe configurations: Essential SAFe, Large Solution, Portfolio, and Full SAFe. We recommend that you start with the framework that is appropriate for your agile environment, and only upscale if required.
Besides the common taxonomy of vision, roadmap, and backlog, there are other artifacts that are unique to SAFe like Value Streams and Agile Release Train (ART). ART is a group of individuals focus on defining, building, and testing solutions. They are self-organizing agile teams aligned around the value streams. This is also the fundamental concept of the scaled agile framework.
Scrum of Scrums
According to agile principles, Scrum involves daily meetings so that everyone in the scrum team stays aligned on their work. In large-scale contexts, having multiple scrum teams attending the daily scrum will most likely turn into chaos. That’s where Scrum of Scrums comes into the picture: each team prepares one or more representatives who then meet and report on their team’s status.
This framework allows you to quickly create different backlogs with multiple releases from individual scrum teams. From there, the development team knows which requirements depend on each other as well as the current status of those dependencies. With Scrum of Scrums, you can flexibly reallocate resources to help move the project forward in case of project creep.
Disciplined Agile Delivery (DaD)
Disciplined Agile Delivery is a hybrid between Scrum and other methods, including Agile Modeling, Kanban, Lean, and SAFe. Which means, DaD aims to solve the challenges faced by other scaling frameworks, primarily in terms of complexity of terminology, processes, and roles.
DaD takes a people-first approach by suggesting a robust set of roles, including: Team roles (team lead, product owner, team member, and architecture owner), the Stakeholders, and secondary roles (specialist, independent tester, domain expert, technical expert, integrator).
This approach enables the agile leader to address the full, end-to-end delivery lifecycle from project initiation all the way to delivering the solution to its end users. Under this framework, teams can focus on all aspects of solution delivery, including the technical aspects that Scrum leaves out.
From Team to Enterprise Agility: Is Your Company Ready for It?
Now, we’ve come down to the real question. Is your company ready to scale?
At 6kites, we assess an organization’s scalability in three core areas:
State of agile
- Is everyone familiar with the language of agile?
- How many teams are practicing or planning to adopt agile methods (e.g., Scrum or Kanban)?
- Are there pilot agile projects that can demonstrate early wins?
- Does the business need to become adaptive to achieve its goals (responsiveness vs efficiency)?
- Are there functions whose processes are repeatable or governed by strict regulatory compliance? (which may not fit for agile management)
- Are teams using different toolsets to manage projects?
- Is the organizational structure flexible enough to let go of command-control hierarchy?
In general, companies that are innovation-led and prioritize adaptability will find success with large-scale agile. Because their operating model revolves around real-time customer demands, agile practices allow them to make major pivots in the face of disruption.
Jira Software and Portfolio Deployment to Support Agile at Scale
Within the scattered world of project management tools, the Atlassian ecosystem stands out for its native agile approach to software design. With Jira Software and Portfolio for Jira ranking at the top of go-to tools for agile development, you’ll be able to steer away from agile at scale pitfalls even before you dive in.
Click the links below to read our in-depth guides to scaling agile with Jira Software and Portfolio for Jira.
Design Your Journey to Scale
No two companies are alike, and neither are their agile practices. Whether you’re a luxury hotel chain or a global aerospace leader, your business faces unique challenges, your teams have adopted specific ways of working to address them, and you likely have years of organizational inertia to overcome.
That’s why it’s so important to work with experienced agile consultants like 6kites. We can show you proven best practices that have worked for other teams, help you avoid pitfalls that have tripped up others, and ensure that your tools are optimized to work the way your teams need them to, at any scale.
Get in touch with us for a free, no-commitment consultation to scale agile across your enterprise. In the meantime, watch our On-Demand Agile at Scale Webinar.