What if you could deliver quality products and reduce time to market? Or how about increasing employee engagement while improving team productivity?

Adopting an Agile approach to working brings many benefits. And Scrum, being the most popular product development framework in this complex and fast-moving digital world, is a great fit for companies wanting to get out of the traditional waterfall-project-planning approach, speed up product cycles, and increase team morale. It’s time to take Scrum seriously. But which flavor works best for you?

Customize with Scrum

Scrum was originally designed for small, cross-functional teams working on complex problems. With a very lightweight framework (only 19 pages), it doesn’t dive too deeply into specific practices. So teams can build off it and create approaches that work best for them. Practices developed through Scrum are highly flexible and customizable.

However, Scrum only focuses on a single team. While not specifically covered in Scrum, this framework is able to foster collaboration between different teams. But collaborating successfully within Scrum requires good soft skills (or an external coach to bring collaborators up to speed) since working with others in a timely manner doesn’t always come naturally.

If multiple teams are working on the same project, each team is free to design their own set of processes. Normally, however, companies adopting Scrum for a large number of people build an overarching framework to align the cadence (pace of delivery), integrate planning, and allow them to review roadmap events together.

Pick the One That’s Right for You

Some Agile frameworks have been around for more than two decades — time enough for Agile scaling to be addressed in several ways. According to the recent 14th Annual State of Agile Report, SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is the pack leader, having been adopted by 35% of large companies. Apart from the Spotify method — practices created by the digital music service — most other methods are based on a scaled Scrum framework, with large-scale Scrum (LeSS) being one of the most elaborate.

LeSS: LeSS has the same three roles, five events, and 5 artifacts as solo-team Scrum. However, some LeSS users have one-team and multiple-team phases (e.g., two-part sprint planning, or both a team and a joint retrospective). Every team is working to implement Scrum on a smaller scale — typically between three and nine people — but with LeSS or LeSS Huge you can scale up to hundreds or even thousands of people from the same organization. This pure Scrum framework is based on independent, cross-functional teams, delivering incremental value. But, being based on a collaborative culture rather than a traditional hierarchy, setting up LeSS can lead to major changes in the organization’s structure. It’s important to break up functional silos so each team has the necessary skills to develop the product and deliver business value.

This framework is revolutionary rather than evolutionary.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe): More tolerant of traditional management. SAFe is considered, by some experts, to be the missing link between the traditional waterfall approach and continuous, fully Agile delivery. Still based on the same principles as featured in the Agile manifesto, it’s ideal for management teams that value alignment and compliance as much as fast delivery, but are not ready to completely disrupt their processes and rebuild their delivery organizations from scratch.

With SAFe, teams can depend on each other, if necessary, forming an overarching, cross-functional Agile Release Train (ART) composed of 50 to 125 developers, product owners, system architects, and other roles required to deliver business value at scale. ART teams are encouraged to be as cross-functional as possible (like LeSS teams), but it’s not considered a prerequisite for launching an ART.

A regular 2-day planning session helps keep everyone aligned on current goals and where they are on the roadmap (focuses on potential challenges and how to overcome them). This 2-day session includes approximately five 2-week sprints, with leeway to brainstorm or change the plan, if necessary. However, between 70% and 80% of the established plan remains the same. So this method works best when mid-term program goals aren’t changing on the fly. Other events on the roadmap include regular system demos (similar to sprint reviews in LeSS), regular product owner syncs and Scrum of Scrums meetings as well as program increment-level problem-solving workshops.

Forming a dedicated Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (executive leadership, Agile experts and other major stakeholders on the transformation project) can help with adoption. It allows people less experienced in Agile delivery, to participate in building a structure to expand SAFe across the organization.

This framework is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Overcoming Challenges with Luxoft

Depending on the scale of organizational change, setbacks can happen. Here are the three most common challenges you’ll need to overcome:
  • Lack of clear communication: Changing processes, roles and benchmarks may not be communicated properly, leading to the organization not comprehending why they’re implementing the change. This can create internal frustration, even prompting some employees to check out new career opportunities as a result
  • Falling back into old habits: The urge to fall back on traditional silos is hard to resist. But this is counterproductive to the Agile way of thinking where teamwork is the central tenet. It can be a difficult habit to break, since people are used to doing things a certain way
  • Neglecting team and infrastructure issues: While manual testing and a cumbersome build process may work well with a 6 to 12-month release cadence, short release cycles (from weekly to several times a day) often reveal huge and frequent transactional costs. To minimize these costs, it is essential to focus on creating a DevOps culture, investing in a flexible infrastructure, automated testing and metrics gathering, before even considering launching an Agile framework on a corporate scale
To overcome these challenges, it’s important to assess the context, create an implementation roadmap; launch workshops and role-based training for product owners, Scrum Masters and key stakeholders; and focus on creating a Scrum and DevOps culture rather than just adhering to specific practices. However, there are a lot of context-specific, Agile-scaling tips and tricks.

If you want to learn more about how to successfully transform your organization, please reach out to us.
Sergey Prokhorenko
Sergey has a computer science background and 18 years of experience in IT, including over 9 years in Agile scaling. Currently he combines several roles: Director of a company-wide Agile practice center of expertise with focus on growing a solid consulting offering and meeting challenging financial goals; Principal Agile consultant running presales, kick-starting new Agile engagements, driving organizational changes, coaching client executives and being a leader of a team of consultants; Agile promoter of modern management principles and practices through public speaking, supporting analyst firms and investor relations, running internal community Agile-related topics, and developing partnerships with 3rd parties. Sergey’s goal is to help organizations build sustainable and effective product development frameworks with a close focus on timely delivery of business value.