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We recently crossed an important milestone. Over 200,000 people have now received training through our SAFe training and certification program. That’s a lot of folks who can speak, implement, and ‘be’ SAFe. A Lean-Agile community of this size—trained on globally standardized courses—has never existed until now. So, how did we get here, and what did we learn along the way?

It started with a couple of books

A decade or so back, the movement to Agile and my interest in applying Lean to software development really took hold of me. I was consumed by it. I wrote the books Scaling Software Agility and Agile Software Requirements to further explore the idea that Agile development, especially Agile at scale, could be approached as a ‘software instance of Lean.’ Those books gave the world its first glimpse of what would eventually be known as SAFe, and it sparked an audience that was hungry for a better approach to understanding Agile software practices. The readers of those books seeded what we know today as the SAFe community.

We developed and field tested the earliest SAFe concepts in places like BMC Software, Nokia NAVTEQ, Computer Associates, John Deere, Nokia Siemens Networks, and a dozen more, and we were excited about the results that were stacking up. This was the proof I needed. Next step: find a way to deliver SAFe to a broader audience. And so, together with Drew Jemilo—and a few souls brave enough to wade into the deep end—we formed Scaled Agile, Inc. and pieced together a business model that would support the evolving Framework—even more importantly, one we believed had the potential to change the way the largest enterprises in the world would develop software and deliver value. We really believed we could change the world.

SAFe goes public in 2011

In 2011, what was then known as the ‘Big Picture’ was re-christened as the Scaled Agile Framework—SAFe for short (Insider question- what does the “e” stand for?). A training and certification program was launched with the help of a small group of forward-looking partners and early adopters, and a website—scaledagileframework.com—was developed and loaded with guidance articles and content. I had developed early versions of the Leading SAFe course, and our first Implementing SAFe class took place with 34 students, and the first SPC certifications were awarded.

Click to enlarge – The first class of SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs) Building a business, creating a Partner Network, adding role-based courses

People were hearing the buzz about what the early adopters were able to accomplish with SAFe. This created a big demand for training and consulting. The thing is, we weren’t looking to get into the business of being the sole source of training and consultation for SAFe; we wanted to keep enough skin in the game to make sure we understood our enterprise customers and their needs, but we felt it was our job to develop the Framework to its maximum potential and design the courses to make it accessible to the business world at large. Our solution was twofold: First, create a certification hierarchy that enabled the top-level certification—SPCT—to train and certify SPCs, who could in turn deliver other courses in the curriculum. Second, build and nurture the Scaled Agile Partner Network to empower like-minded businesses to support implementation of the Framework through consulting, training, and tooling.

As adoption of SAFe continued to grow across the globe, the demand for role-specific training was growing in tandem. And so we began adding role-based courses to the curriculum, starting with SAFe for Teams, then moving on to create SAFe Product Owner/Product Manager, SAFe Scrum Master, and more. With more courses still to be developed, we’re currently offering eight courses, including our newest addition, Applied DevOps and Continuous Delivery with SAFe currently in beta.

Fast-forward to 2018

The first class of 34 has grown to 200,000. SAFe has evolved through five versions, including a branch for Lean Systems Engineering that provided us with a pivotal learning moment which we absorbed in SAFe 4.0. We have over 40 published case studies, and many more are on the way. Two books dedicated to SAFe have also been published, SAFe Reference Guide, and SAFe Distilled, both of which are being updated for SAFe 4.5.

To provide ongoing support for our customers, we built the SAFe Community platform where those who are certified may access Communities of Practice for each role, as well as videos, toolkits, and resources for professional development. Our partner base has grown to 160 and supports enterprises in over 50 countries, and we now hold an annual SAFe Summit that is being held in both Frankfurt, Germany and Washington, DC in 2018. Now up to 60 employees, we’ve had to move our Boulder office twice to accommodate our growth.

The world’s leading framework for enterprise agility

Two leading surveys cite SAFe as the preferred method for scaling Agile, and the 2017 Gartner Research Circle survey “Agile in the enterprise” describes a steady growth of organizations adopting an enterprise Agile Framework, and of those frameworks, SAFe is the most commonly adopted and considered.

Hundreds of the world’s largest brands now depend on SAFe to stay competitive in an ever-disruptive marketplace, and thousands of individuals have built their careers around SAFe. That’s a big responsibility and we take it very seriously.

Click to enlarge – 2017 SAFe Summit exhibition hall So, what did we learn?

“Making an insanely great product has a lot to do with the process of making the product, how you learn things and adopt new ideas and throw out old ideas.” —Steve Jobs

The success of SAFe, and the business that supports it, is a direct result of practicing what we preach. We run our entire business—not just product development— with SAFe. Our walls are plastered with Kanban boards, sticky notes, objectives, and backlogs, and we plan, iterate, and deliver as we prescribe in SAFe. But most importantly, we have hard-wired ourselves to embrace a learning mindset. We never assume that we have all the answers, and do our best to listen to our detractors as much as our enthusiasts; indeed, we find motivations in both! Development of SAFe was and is driven by fast feedback, and a relentless pursuit of the best possible version of the Framework along with the highest quality training, certification, and customer experience. And of course, future versions of the Framework are always in development.

It really does take a village

Under the banner of ‘ideas are worthless without the right people making them a reality,’ we’ve been fortunate to attract some exceptionally talented folks who are passionate about SAFe and have the heart and mental acuity to nurture the Framework and the ecosystem we’ve built around it. From our community support team to our Enterprise and Partner managers, Learning and Certification team and everyone else in between, we are grateful for each and every one of our staff members who bring their best selves to the office every day.

Click to enlarge – The Scaled Agile team at the 2017 SAFe Summit

We also want to thank and acknowledge the individuals who have been instrumental in making the Framework a reality in the field: the enterprise adopters and practitioners who are doing the heavy lifting in applying the Framework in enterprises, the Partners, consultants and trainers who support them, and the growing pool of SAFe Contributors who provide content that is included in the Framework knowledge base.

So, we ask you to join us in celebrating this major milestone. It’s a wonderful thing we’ve all built together, and we are inspired to continuously evolve SAFe to provide value to the industry—better systems, better business outcomes, and better daily lives for the people who build the world’s most important new systems.

Stay SAFe!
—Dean Leffingwell, Drew Jemilo, and the entire team at Scaled Agile

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Hi Folks,

It is our pleasure to officially welcome Dr. Steve Mayner and Ian Spence to the SAFe Fellow program. Steve and Ian are joining a small but growing group of Fellows, increasing their number from nine to eleven.

Now in its third year, the SAFe Fellow program recognizes a select number of individuals with the depth and breadth of experience to work at the highest levels of complexity in enterprise strategy, and who have provided thought and industry leadership on Lean-Agile transformations using SAFe. These are the folks we turn to when we have a particularly challenging implementation or are making high-impact decisions about the evolution of the Framework. Learn more about the program here.

A bit about Steve and Ian:

—Dr. Steve Mayner, SPCT, Senior Consultant, Scaled Agile, Inc.

A 29-year veteran in information technology, Steve brings a passion for cultivating transformational leaders and high-performing teams. His research on the correlation between transformational leadership behaviors and the factors that contribute to successful organizational change was the first of its kind in the specific context of Agile and DevOps. As Product Owner of Scaled Agile’s new SAFe for Government Programs course—currently in development—Steve is driving Scaled Agile’s initiative to help government agencies achieve better business results by implementing Lean-Agile practices at scale. View Steve’s interview with SolutionsIQ’s Howard Johnson, “Agile Transformation in the Federal Government, Third Time’s the Charm,” and watch his presentation from the DevOps Enterprise Summit: Transformational Leadership – What every DevOps leader needs to know.
You can also follow Steve on Twitter at @SteveMayner.

—Ian Spence, SPCT, Chief Scientist, Ivar Jacobson International

Aka the “mad scientist,” Ian has led hundreds of organizations through Agile transformations and is known for his blog posts and contributed SAFe content such as the Feature Slicing poster and story splitting cheat sheet. He is coauthor of “Use Case Modeling” and “Managing Iterative Software Development Projects,” and is the team lead at SEMAT, an initiative to create a common ground of theory, principles, and practices for software engineering. He has helped large enterprises apply SAFe practices, including Schneider Electric, Nordea, Deutsche Bank, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Ericsson Modems. Read Ian’s blog posts here.

Both Steve and Ian bring impressive backgrounds, experience, and energy to the pool of SAFe thought leadership and we are excited to see the continued impact they will have on SAFe and the community of practice.

Stay SAFe!
—Drew Jemilo, Program Director, SAFe Fellow Program

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Hello everyone,

You may have read Dean’s recent blog post about the expansion of our thought leadership capabilities to keep advancing the Scaled Agile Framework and associated courseware. As SAFe Methodologists, we – Richard and Inbar – feel privileged to not only be working with such a great team of experts but also for our opportunities to engage with many other influential thought leaders. For example, at the October SAFe Summit in San Antonio we were able to sit down for extensive interviews with DevOps visionary Gene Kim and Lean product development flow thought leader Don Reinertsen following their well-received keynote presentations.

Inbar: I had the privilege of sitting down with Don to discuss leadership in product development flow, especially what Don refers to as the swing of the pendulum from the central control of the waterfall method to classic Agile methods which first appeared at the small team level. A critical, ongoing issue is how to balance energizing people by giving them autonomy while still maintaining alignment. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be a binary decision. I met with Don both before and after this interview to continue to discuss these topics, and I am still thinking about them many weeks later. Watch the video to hear more of the discussion. 

Richard: Gene and I talked about the commonality between DevOps practices and SAFe principles given that in many ways they are both derived from Lean. We went on to discuss the issue of lead time and its impact on both sides of the value stream (design and development as well as testing and operations), hypothesis-driven development, and MVPs to create genuine organizational value. Do you fear doing deployments? Is this too often an emotional, rather than a rational, decision at your organization? Watch the video to listen to our discussion of these and many other DevOps issues.

Always be SAFe!

-Richard Knaster and Inbar Oren, Methodologists and SAFe Fellows

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Hi Folks,

The Scaled Agile Framework has many moving parts but the overarching intent is to deliver value quickly, cost-effectively, and on target. Sometimes it’s hard to connect the dots, but I wanted to call out a couple of SAFe Summit presentations from SAFe Fellows and Principal Consultants Inbar Oren and Richard Knaster that help tie together two key Framework elements, the Continuous Delivery Pipeline and DevOps.

The Continuous Delivery Pipeline directly supports faster value delivery to customers. Inbar’s Summit presentation, Building Your Continuous Delivery Pipeline, explores its key elements, how it works, and how it can be managed.

Rich’s Summit presentation, Scalable DevOps and Continuous Delivery, is complimentary as it describes the problem DevOps tries to solve, our CALMR approach to DevOps, and how they enable the Continuous Delivery Pipeline.

We hope this new SAFe content helps you deliver value faster!

Stay SAFe,

-Dean

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Hello Folks,

It’s my great pleasure to announce that we have made a major expansion of our thought leadership capabilities to keep advancing the Scaled Agile Framework and associated courseware. Our growing pool of contributors – now numbering 23 SAFe experts – includes the best and brightest in the Lean-Agile space. They bring specialized knowledge and in-depth field experience that can help enterprises effectively leverage SAFe within their contexts.

Each contributes either to the development of the Framework itself or in associated advanced-topic articles. Our current focus areas represent the latest innovations and applications of the Framework (4.5), DevOps and Continuous Value Delivery, SAFe in Government, Lean-Agile Architecture, Lean Portfolio Management, and Agile software engineering practices.

The most recent submissions to the Framework come from the following individuals:

Recently promoted to Methodologists:

  • Richard Knaster, SAFe Fellow and Principal Consultant, Scaled Agile, Inc.
  • Inbar Oren, SAFe Fellow and Principal Consultant, Scaled Agile, Inc.

Recent Principal Contributors:

  • Harry Koehnemann, SAFe Fellow SPCT, expertise in large-scale systems in aerospace, defense, automotive, and medical, 321 Gang
  • Eric Willeke, SAFe Fellow, SPCT, expertise in Agile Architecture, and complex transformation efforts, Eric Willeke Associates

Recent SAFe Community Contributors:

  • Carl Starendal, SPCT, SAFe Release Train Engineer role
  • Steve Mayner, SPCT, SAFe for Government
  • Joe Vallone, SPCT, SAFe Scrum Master and SAFe Advanced Scrum Master roles
  • Isaac Montgomery, SPC, Lean Portfolio Management
  • Marc Rix, SPC, expertise in DevOps and Continuous Delivery
  • Charlene Cuenca, SPCT, expertise in enterprise backlog structure and management

You’ll have the opportunity to meet with them all over the coming months, up to and including the SAFe Summit 2018 in Washington, D.C. You’ll see why I’m excited that we’re pulling from the world’s foremost experts on the critical topics that are driving innovation of the Framework, to the direct benefit of those who apply it.

Stay SAFe
– Dean

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“The fact that we delivered for the biggest industry event of the year was hugely motivating and moved us from a negative to a positive spiral. The business was a bit surprised and shocked that we did what we said we would do on something that was quite big and complicated. There’s no way we could have done it without SAFe.”
Paul Littlefair, CIO, Livestock Improvement Corp.

How do you deliver with confidence when you have an immovable deadline— just six months out—and a history of reworks and overruns? For New Zealand’s Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), Essential SAFe was the answer.

In 2016, LIC was preparing for its biggest annual trade show, Fieldays, which brings together 115,000 farming industry visitors. Everyone within the organization was expecting to deliver a new release of the company’s proprietary herd management system. Yet the newly arrived CIO had serious doubts. The organization had a history of failing to deliver on time or budget.

Gillian Clark, SPCT, recommended that LIC implement SAFe. But given the short timeframe and the team’s unfamiliarity with the Framework, they chose to deploy a subset of SAFe that includes 10 major elements necessary for a successful implementation—otherwise known as Essential SAFe.

Given the urgency, they asked everyone to participate in a PI planning event, including Operations. The CEO likewise attended, which communicated the importance of the launch. Some folks resisted. Why get together in a room to plan when they should be building? But leadership remained firm on the approach.

From there, they aligned teams into a single ART with a focus on integration and on delivery with a single program backlog. One person coordinated the project managers and pooled budgets. Up to that point they had three project managers fighting for budget and resources, so they merged them into one.

For the first time, teams began working on the same cadence, an essential step in synchronizing everyone across the organization. Soon, they fell into a flow and started to self manage. Communication and transparency improved; instead of making assumptions, individuals started identifying dependencies with others, and making sure those dependencies were discussed and accepted.

Within what seemed like an impossible timeframe, LIC delivered for the Fieldays event and demonstrated surprising gains across multiple areas:

  • Time-to-market – A 75% reduction in the time to get features to market (from 12 to 24 months down to three to six months); Features are now released twice a week for COBOL and legacy solutions
  • Customer value – With more frequent releases, customers now see value much faster
  • Quality – A 25% reduction in defects in production
  • Predictability – 98% accuracy on delivery predictability
  • Morale – A 60% improvement in employee engagement survey results

Now, the Framework has become the new way of working across their entire technical landscape. Having moved beyond Essential SAFe, the organization is now on course to fund projects at the Value Stream level.

For more insights on how LIC rolled out Essential SAFe, take a look at the complete case study.

Special thanks to Paul Littlefair, CIO of LIC, and Gillian Clark, SPCT, for sharing the highlights of their SAFe journey here and at the 2017 SAFe Summit.

Stay SAFe,
—Dean

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We’re always looking for ways to use online venues to complement our world-class, instructor-led training. The most recent is my LiveLessons video tutorial on the 4.5 version of Scaled Agile’s most popular course, Leading SAFe. The tutorial is being provided through Pearson’s InformIT and InformIT resellers. In this nine-hour course, I provide an in-depth exploration of version 4.5 of the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) and how to lead a Lean-Agile transformation at enterprise scale.

The 4.5 version of Leading SAFe Live Lessons is not a minor update. It is an entirely new video that captures the latest advances and innovations of the Framework. From the SAFe Implementation Roadmap to the new Scalable DevOps and Continuous Delivery Pipeline, there’s a wealth of content for enterprises looking to gain the latest business benefits that can be achieved through SAFe. More details on the learning objectives and for each of the nine lessons is available on the InformIT course page.

The LiveLessons video format is designed for busy professionals as it allows them to watch the entire video or navigate directly to the content of choice, resulting in a customizable, self-paced, learning environment. It bridges the gap for people who may not be able to initially attend the 2-day Leading SAFe certification course, but still need to gain the knowledge necessary to start or continue their Lean-Agile transformation. And for enterprises looking for consistent results as they introduce employees to the SAFe way of working, this video is an ideal addition to their training catalog.

Please forward the InformIT link to any of your colleagues who may benefit from this updated training. And remember to use the code ‘SCALEDAGILE’ when registering to get 40% off the list price.

Stay SAFe

– Dean

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“SAFe provided the agility, visibility, and transparency needed to ensure we could integrate with numerous other efforts, get predictable in our delivery, and ensure timelines are met.”
David McMunn, Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile COE

For those of you watching SAFe in the government space, there’s good reason to get excited about our latest case study from Fannie Mae. While we know of several SAFe deployments in government and the military, this is the first fully documented case study we’ve published from that sector in the U.S. And though Fannie Mae isn’t what we might think of as a ‘traditional’ government agency—it’s actually a hybrid of government agencies and private corporations—it is a government-sponsored enterprise and faces many of the same economic, operational, and regulatory challenges as stand-alone agencies.

Coming out of the housing crisis in 2013, Fannie Mae knew it had to make sweeping changes to be able to respond to changing customer needs. For the leading provider of mortgage financing in the United States, agility across the organization would be critical.

Adding to the urgency, under a joint venture of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Congress, named Common Securitization Solutions (CSS), the organization would need to break ground on an entirely new business model that would change the way securities are issued to the market—and do so within aggressive timelines. Getting there would require Fannie Mae to overcome deeply ingrained internal practices.

Leadership believed that achieving their objectives would demand an Agile methodology. Fortunately, individuals within the company had prior success with large-scale Agile deployments using SAFe®.

To begin their SAFe journey, the organization required every new team to attend SAFe role-based training led by external coaches. Then, in June of 2015, Fannie Mae launched its first Agile Release Train (ART) encompassing six programs across 12 teams with more than 130 people.

While the first Program Increment (PI) began chaotically, by the end of the second day, teams had mapped out their dependencies on the program board, resolved, owned, accepted, or mitigated (ROAM) all of the known risks and achieved a Fist of Five confidence score of 3. In subsequent PIs, those confidence scores began going up. When challenges arose, they resisted the urge to resort to old tactics, such as adding more people.

Today, Fannie Mae runs three ARTs. Additionally, there are more than 200 Lean-Agile teams across Enterprise IT, encompassing over 3,000 people. The organization has seen improvements on multiple fronts:

  • Reduced risk – Fannie Mae reduced delivery risks through the relentless focus on innovation and automation to ship ‘production ready’ code with higher and higher frequency
  • Improved predictability – Teams, within the program and across the enterprise, integrate reliably every two weeks
  • Faster feedback cycles – Releases now happen every month, instead of once or twice a year, for the largest application across the enterprise, with millions of lines of code
  • Boosted quality – The organization reduced the defect rate substantially
  • Increased business value – Teams now deliver more than 30 attributes per sprint compared to 2-5 attributes when Agile was first adopted within Enterprise Data
  • Better team progress – Teams undergo regular AHR (Agility Health Reviews) cycles and have matured to higher Agile Maturity Model levels
  • Greater efficiency – Fannie Mae realizes significant efficiency through a reduction in technical debt

Most notably, the Enterprise Data division delivered an integrated solution on time and with much higher quality than was expected for an effort of this size. From a broader perspective, the transformation to SAFe revolutionized how the organization plans for the delivery of large-scale programs.

For more insights on how a large government-sponsored organization deployed SAFe, take a look at the full case study.

Many thanks to David McMunn, Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile COE; Atif Salam, Director of Enterprise Data at Fannie Mae; Scott Richardson, Chief Data Officer at Fannie Mae; and Vikas Kapila, Senior Agile Consultant, Eliassen Group, for sharing their story.

Stay SAFe,
—Dean

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At the 2017 SAFe Summit, Dr. Chuck Pezeshki, Ryan Martens, and myself presented Extending Lean-Agile Leadership Skills with Empathetic Leadership to a standing-room only audience of interested souls. This talk was the result of weeks of work compiling our collective knowledge into a 45-minute synchronized talk presenting our individual perspectives and understandings.

The main takeaway from our talk was the following:

As we continuously nurture our set of development value streams, and strive to deliver value that is both sophisticated and evolved from a development perspective, we also have to have empathy expressed throughout the social system in order to evolve our information coherence to enable the development process. This is inherently an emergent process. And, believe it or not, empathy helps you manage complexity. When people are connected, the information that passes between them is far more likely to be accurate, and thus you’ll increase the quality of the end result.

This topic of empathy has been inspired by Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, and the change-management and leadership myths that Jim distills. The reality is that there is no miracle moment in which transformations occur. Just as our Agile Release Trains (ARTs) represent a journey in which applying Lean and Agile patterns and principles incrementally provides better results to our internal and external customers and society, there is an empathetic dimension and related evolution of our social and human networks that truly provide better results as well. In short, as the systems and solutions that we’re delivering evolve, empathy needs to evolve in parallel.

As organizational empathy increases, it permeates throughout its structure. Leaders initially set the pattern. Leadership style, and the associated empathy level, is then reinforced by the behavior of employees. This propagates in a circular fashion both up and down and throughout the organizational structure. As empathy increases, our knowledge and information coherence increases as well.

It actually goes even deeper than a simple circular reinforcement. The roots of empathy are deeply neurogenic and are associated with the emergent parts of our human brains. Starting in our brainstem, and spreading out through our emotional, and finally our conscious centers, empathy and its expression maps to timescales (from virtually instantaneous to short-term and long-term memory) in our brain. It is the core of our collective being. How we cultivate and allow its expression directly indicates how evolved our organizations are.

Spatial, temporal scales, resources, energy

In summary, the benefits of empathy are profound. Positive work environments, increased knowledge flow, information coherence, quality and productivity are only the tip of the iceberg.

So if evolving empathy is truly an emergent process, where can you start? Perhaps by following a simple Learn-Do-Teach sequence.

Learn

  • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
  • Blog: guru

Do

  • Empathy Interviews:
  • Prior to Program Increment (PI) Planning
  • Prior to Portfolio Planning
  • Bring customers and/or partners to PI Planning

Teach

  • Empathy interviews to other Scrum Masters, RTEs, and facilitators

To learn more, please download the Extending Lean-Agile Leadership with Empathetic Leadership presentation from the 2017 SAFe Summit.

Many kudos and deep gratitude to Dr. Chuck Pezeshki and Ryan Martens for collaborating on this important work. If you want to learn more, please reach out and let us know!

Cheers and be SAFe!

–Jennifer

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As I mentioned in my Summit keynote blog post, nearly 1200 people from 27 countries attended the 2nd annual SAFe Summit last month. This is the largest gathering of the SAFe community of practice to date, and the wide variety of high-quality presentations being made in San Antonio were a big draw for many people. If you weren’t able to attend this year, or if you want to revisit and share some of the information, most of the presentations are now uploaded to the SAFe Summit presentations page.

They offer a wide range of topics and important insights to the community; from technical discussions around scalable DevOps and continuous delivery, to identifying value streams and ARTs, to the critical challenges of translating traditional roles to SAFe and engaging HR in the process, and many, many more. And don’t forget the case studies presented by Standard Bank, Capital One, Intel, LIC, Thales, and Air France-KLM.

As Scaled Agile President and Chief Operating Officer Chris James noted in his opening remarks, the SAFe Summit is all about continuous improvement driven by you. That’s why this year’s Summit included twenty ‘Lightning Talks’ on topics of interest voted on by the community. They’re also available on the presentations page.

So please take a look. There’s plenty to interest you, share with colleagues, and draw upon as you implement SAFe in the coming months. We hope to see you again in Washington, D.C. for SAFe Summit 2018.

Stay SAFe

– Dean

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