In recent years, software development has undergone a massive transformation. The rise of Agile frameworks has led to a greater focus on collaboration, flexibility, and continuous improvement. Among these approaches, SAFe© (Scaled Agile Framework©) has emerged as a powerful way to manage complex software development projects. At the heart of SAFe is the concept of flow as a way to successfully deliver value.
If you are looking for practical ways to increase flow using a project management tool, read on. And for those of you who are craving just the right tool - there’s a bonus for you at the end.
First, a quick definition of SAFe and the concept of flow. For those of you who are already going with the flow - feel free to…flow ahead.
What is SAFe?
SAFe© (Scaled Agile Framework©) is an approach that enables organizations to employ Agile project and product delivery practices within the context of a complex enterprise. It’s a framework for managing and delivering large-scale software projects, with a focus on collaboration, continuous improvement, and rapid delivery. SAFe is designed to address the challenges that come with managing complex software development projects, such as large teams, multiple dependencies, and conflicting priorities.
As its name implies, SAFe uses the general principles of Agile as its foundation. It builds on this foundation by providing a set of principles and practices that support teams in planning, executing, and delivering software in a consistent and predictable way. SAFe also emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and improvement, with a focus on measuring and optimizing performance.
“Flow” in SAFe
At the heart of SAFe is the concept of flow. Scaledagile.com puts it this way: “flow occurs when there is a smooth, linear, and fast movement of work product from step to step in a relevant value stream.” Flow is achieved through a number of practices. Here are just a few::
Value Streams: Value streams are the series of steps that work must pass through in order to be delivered to customers. In SAFe, value streams are visualized and optimized to ensure that work flows smoothly and efficiently.
Kanban: Kanban is a project management approach that enables teams to visualize their workflow and manage work in progress. Kanban boards provide a real-time view of the status of work and help teams to identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement.
Continuous Integration and Delivery: Continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) is a practice that enables teams to rapidly deliver software updates by automating the testing and deployment process. This helps to ensure that work flows smoothly through the development process, with minimal delays or interruptions.
Agile Release Trains: Agile release trains are cross-functional teams that work together to deliver software updates on a regular cadence. This method ensures that work flows smoothly through the development process, with a focus on delivering value to customers.
A focus on flow in SAFe offers a number of benefits to organizations, including:
✓ Greater Collaboration
✓ Continuous Improvement
✓ Reduced technical debt
✓ Improved Quality
✓ Increased value delivery
✓ Faster Delivery
✓ Customer satisfaction
SAFe (and Practical!) Ways to Increase Flow using a Project Management Tool
A chief goal of SAFe is to provide a continuous flow of value. Principle 6 of the framework seeks to support this lean-thinking idea: “Make Value Flow without Interruptions.” This principle typically focuses on making improvements in flow by visualizing and limiting work in progress (WIP), reducing batch sizes, and managing queue lengths.
With large and complex organizations, increasing flow is no small order. It’s critical, then, to be able to systematically identify ways to optimize flow while removing any impediments. A robust and user-friendly project management tool can support the aims of SAFe and help ensure the success of a project as well as the organization. In fact, it can make or break the approach.
Here are some practical ways an effective project management tool can directly increase flow in SAFe projects:
- Aligns projects to organizational goals: The ability to ensure projects are aligned with organizational goals is one way to eliminate waste. A tool that enforces such an alignment supports this effort.
- Supports Cross-Functional Collaboration: Effective cross-functional team collaboration (such as agile release trains) and hand-offs in support of flow is a tenant of SAFe. Silos must be broken down, and a PM tool that removes them is key. Such a tool provides a combination of shared workspaces, visible workstreams, reports and analytics, and workflow automation that isn’t bound by barriers.
- Uses Agile Estimation Techniques: A project management tool with Agile estimation features such as t-shirt sizing, story points, and PERT estimation can help teams quantify the effort required for each item in the backlog and identify potential roadblocks early on. These features can also provide a more accurate view of the team's capacity and help them avoid overcommitting to work.
- Visualizes Work: A project management tool with a Kanban board feature can provide visibility into the work being done through the value stream. Teams can create columns for different stages of work, move tasks between columns as they progress, and easily see what tasks are in progress, blocked, or completed. This visualization enhances a team’s ability to move the work along.
Tools that support Scrum also provide visibility into work based on sprints. A Project management tool can help manage each scrum cycle by providing prioritization, visual cues, filters, and other means to organize and visualize the work. Estimated work that has been managed to a sprint cycle can all contribute to reducing batch sizes and increasing flow.
A gantt chart is yet another way to visualize project work. Task, milestone, and dependency tracking create visibility into all the moving parts of projects and portfolios. Robust project management tools allow gantt charts to include information across teams as well as the entire enterprise to prevent bottlenecks and increase flow. This type of visibility helps teams see the work in such a way that they can effectively break down larger tasks into smaller ones.
- Prioritizes and Sequence Work: A project management tool with backlog management can help prioritize items based on business value and appropriately sequence the work. Teams can easily drag and drop items within the backlog to reorder them based on priority.
- Limits Work in Progress (WIP): Many project management tools allow users to set explicit limits on how much work can be in progress at any given time. This approach can help reduce batch sizes and minimize multitasking while improving focus. When a team member tries to exceed the WIP limit, the tool will flag the issue, reminding the team to focus on completing existing work before starting new tasks.
- Uses Workflow automation: Workflow automation is an obvious way in which a project management tool can increase flow. Workflow automation capabilities reduce batch sizes by breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. For example, if a team is working on a project that involves multiple stages, the automation tool can create sub-tasks and alerts for each stage and assign them to specific team members. Workflow automation can also help manage queue lengths by prioritizing tasks based on their importance and urgency.
- Implements Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): A project management tool with integration capabilities can connect to a CI/CD tool to automate the process of building, testing, and deploying code changes, increasing speed and reducing errors. Visibility into the status of code changes and deployments allows teams to quickly identify and resolve issues. GitHub is one example of a tool that works nicely with project management solutions, allowing full-team collaboration, automated workflows, and visibility into the process.
A project management tool with collaboration features also helps teams adopt DevOps practices such as continuous feedback. Teams can use these features to coordinate on code changes, document processes, and respond to each other's work.
- Capitalizes on reports and analytics: Reports and analytics increase flow by providing visibility into measures such as velocity, current progress, trending progress, cycle times, throughput, burn up, burn down, and churn. The ability of a team to identify where they are in the process through reports and analytics helps to both provide signal on the status of flow and avoid issues before they create bottlenecks.
- Fosters a Culture of Continuous Improvement: With a project management tool created for continuous improvement, teams can achieve new levels of success. Organizations can use the tool to capture key learnings achieved through analytics, templates, and workflow improvements, and make adjustments based on feedback from customers and team members.
Increasing Flow with the Right Tool: Discover the DevStride Difference
Finding the right tool provides the means to achieve SAFe goals, like accelerated flow. Such a tool can prioritize work, manage risk, implement quality features, remove debt, and ultimately increase value, all of which support the goals of SAFe and, of course, the business.
Hint: DevStride is just this kind of tool!
DevStride stands apart as a modern project and portfolio management tool that delivers unprecedented collaboration, planning, execution, and analysis tools to complex teams. Large organizations have to coordinate work with many teams at once, and DevStride provides a seamless experience that breaks down project silos to drive coherent value delivery across a portfolio of work. When two or more teams need to collaborate to reach a goal, DevStride is there.
DevStride offers strategic project and portfolio mapping, visual boards and tools to track work progress, collaboration and automation, deep insight through reports and analytics, and flexible ease-of-use.
Here are just a few ways DevStride gets to the heart of increasing flow in support of SAFe:
Our mission is to eliminate stress, anxiety, and uncertainty around project and portfolio management...reducing fragmentation and improving product delivery. DevStrides provides immediate answers to complex questions, so that even the most complex organizations have a clear path to better outcomes.
If you need access to a modern project and portfolio management tool that can help you plan and control your projects, then schedule an introductory call with us today.
Tired of guessing, failing, and losing time to rework? Contact DevStride. www.Devstride.com