CVS Health Tackles COVID Response – SAFe for Healthcare

When empowerment and urgency come together, anything is possible.

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Join four Agile leaders from CVS Health to learn how they banded together to form teams out of existing trains in order to tackle their monumental, and ever-evolving COVID response.

What does it look like when all roles across an operational value stream truly come together without the usual complexity and roadblocks that come with being in a large organization? How did they show up, lead with heart, and truly live their values? And what lessons were learned that other organizations can take away from this extraordinary experience.

Having scaled Agile in place already prior to this happening helps create a lot of clarity and transparency on where we should identify people who already had all the skill sets that we needed to really achieve this. And then it set up like a common language to talk about things like priority and how to sequence work. And honestly just really live the values of SAFe even more so than the process of SAFe which I think is just a beautiful place to be.”

Presented at the 2021 Global SAFe Summit, October 2021 by:

  • Caitlin Clifford, Senior Director of Digital Health Services /CVS Health
  • Rebecca Davis, CVS Health Digital Lean Agile Practice Leader /CVS Health
  • Matthew Huang, Senior Product Manager of Immunizations /CVS Health
  • Randy Kendel, Release Train Engineer of Immunizations /CVS Health
  • Interviewer: Michael Clarkin, CMO, Scaled Agile Inc.

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Johnson Controls

“SAFe brings so much more engagement, which has really been key for all parties. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.”

Rajbir Bal, Program Manager, Access Control

Challenge:

JCI’s access control division needed to improve coordination among firmware and software teams across three locations with the goals of improving time-to-market, quality, and engagement.

Industry:

Information Technology

Solution:

SAFe®

Results:

  • The division releases at least 2-4X more frequently than before
  • JCI reduced the size of its bug backlog by at least 3X
  • Access control delivers on its commitments 100 percent of the time
  • Customers/stakeholders appreciate the chance to provide feedback during the process—instead of at the end

Best Practices:

  • Get help – Especially early on, partner with a consultant
  • Train leadership – JCI trained resource managers, product management, and directors to get buy-in before moving forward
  • Train SPCs – They serve as change agents and coaches
  • Follow progress – JCI used automated Agile dashboards in Team Foundation Server

The partner that made it happen:

Introduction

Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI), a global diversified technology leader, serves customers in more than 150 countries and reports $30 billion in annual revenue. The company’s access control division develops systems to help buildings achieve maximum security while increasing efficiency and lowering costs.

Johnson Controls - a Case Study of Implementing SAFe

Developing access control systems demands that firmware and software teams work together to deliver on a coordinated schedule. At JCI, those teams are spread across Southern California, Milwaukee, and India.

In 2014, the division began an effort targeted at improving time-to-market and the predictability of releases. They also sought to identify quality issues sooner, increase transparency, and raise team engagement.

“We were having very little success at planning, predicting releases and committing to and delivering on the timeline,” explained David Richter, Director of Engineering, Access Control. “We wanted to increase our flexibility and ability to react to change, and our ability to react to our customers’ needs in a positive and respectful manner.”
But Richter and other change agents knew they would have to contend with several roadblocks along the path to transformation:

  • Changing the established paradigm of working in waterfall
  • Aligning teams in three disparate locations

Taking the SAFe route

JCI identified the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) as the most promising route for instilling lasting Lean-Agile practices.

“SAFe brought all the practices for us to start and then learn and adapt as we go,” said Rajbir Bal, Program Manager, Access Control. “It also forced us to have tough discussions early and throughout development—versus down the road when we got close to release.”

To gain leadership backing, the Director of Engineering gave decision-makers clear reasons for deploying SAFe and the expected outcomes. Concurrently, Scaled Agile Gold Partner Icon Agility Services trained leaders in Leading SAFe® so they would fully understand the Framework. This worked well as change agents succeeded in securing executive backing.

They followed with Leading SAFe® for directors, product managers, and resource managers, bringing together 15 individuals from California, Milwaukee, and India. Next, they defined the structure of the various teams that would begin the first Agile Release Train (ART), and put all team members through SAFe® for Teams training.

Two individuals, including Bal, earned certification as SAFe® Program Consultants (SPCs) in order to serve as change agents and coaches. Following certification, they became authorized to deliver SAFe® Scrum Master, SAFe for Teams, and SAFe® for Product Owner/Product Manager training.

In addition to Bal, other coaches included engineering managers and the director of engineering, while Scrum Masters became coaches at the team level. When it was apparent that Scrum Masters and Product Owners had an overlap of responsibility, or at least their understanding of it, Bal brought them together in one location for a custom Product Owner/Scrum Master workshop to clarify roles and responsibilities.

Navigating the path to alignment

In 2015, JCI launched its first ART at a Program Increment (PI) Planning meeting with about 100 people and followed Essential SAFe. Bal and others knew they were taking the first steps toward progress, however, early planning events felt chaotic.

“The first two PIs were not fun and we did not come out with committed plans,” Bal said. “Some features were not well defined, people were not clear on the process, and we needed more time to break down user stories.”

Bal attributes the discord to a couple of factors. The company included some user interface teams in that first ART, but not others, which caused misalignment. Geographic distribution also created challenges.

For more cohesive teams, they tried several approaches. First, they brought representatives from India to present on behalf of their teams. However, in doing so, they lacked the voices of those not in attendance.

Johnson Controls - a Case Study of Implementing SAFe

Instead, they decided to start concurrent planning in the U.S. and India, with India beginning 12 hours ahead due to the time zone differences. As teams in India complete their planning days, those in the U.S. come in early to overlap with them. The Indian teams present their planning via videoconference. The same goes for day two of planning. American teams presented in what was the evening for their Indian counterparts.

Richter notes that, in those early months, JCI attempted to modify the Framework. Only some teams attended training and the company followed three-week sprints. “We tried to make changes to SAFe, but that was a disaster,” he said. “After that experience, we then started following SAFe exactly.”

Many people also insisted on continuing lengthy documentation of functional and design specs, after 50 years of following this practice. But that changed over several PIs. “We realized that documentation is not adding value,” Bal said. “Instead, we switched more to flow diagrams and writing code versus paragraph after paragraph of specs.”

With these tweaks, subsequent PIs progressed more smoothly as everyone became accustomed to the ceremonies and practices of SAFe. They made better use of their time at PI planning events. By the third PI, all teams also joined the train.

Over time, JCI found it more feasible to modify the framework to its own processes. In the access control division, developers must follow a specific process. They found that SAFe allowed them to implement Lean-Agile methods that worked in conjunction with these required processes. Other modifications included concurrent planning for India and the U.S., and face-to-face meetings between Product Owners and Scrum Masters to walk through the features radiator.

Acting like ‘One Big Team’

Richter and Bal saw a number of positive outcomes emerge during the transformation:

  • Increased ownership – Entire teams committed to goals in PI planning and delivered on those goals
  • Less technical debt – Issues were identified earlier in development, which allowed for course corrections along the way, instead of at the end of development
  • Greater participation – All levels joined in, including business partners and architecture
  • Earlier decisions – Using the Lean Startup Cycle, they make go/no-go decisions sooner in the cycle than they had before practicing SAFe
  • More automation – Automation reduced the overhead of testing and corrects quality issues earlier
  • Enhanced transparency – People bring up issues sooner, rather than at the end of a PI
  • Greater teamwork – Inter-team collaboration improved as well, with individuals reaching out to help others when needed

“We started acting like one big team, instead of a bunch of teams of teams,” Bal said. “We saw more engagement at all levels.”

Driving time-to-market, quality, predictability

Johnson Controls - a Case Study of Implementing SAFe

After early growing pains, JCI began seeing the results of its efforts:

  • Faster time-to-market – The division releases at least 2-4X more frequently than before
  • Higher quality – JCI reduced the size of its bug backlog by at 3 times
  • Predictability – Access control delivers on its commitments 100 percent of the time
  • Customer satisfaction – Customers appreciate the chance to provide feedback during the process—instead of at the end

“This wasn’t an easy process for us,” Bal said. “It takes time getting everyone jelling PI over PI. But SAFe brings so much more engagement, which has really been key for all parties. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.”

For more details on JCI’s Essential SAFe implementation, download the supplemental PowerPoint presentation.

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Intel – Implementing SAFe for Information Technology

Intel - Implementing SAFe for Information Technology

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made a stunning observation: The number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every 18 months since their invention. He predicted the trend would continue into the foreseeable future—and it generally has. A billion transistors now fit on a chip the size of a pea.

Challenge:

In a complex, fast-growth industry, Intel must continuously innovate while controlling costs and maintaining quality.

Industry:

Information Technology

Solution:

SAFe®, Agile and Lean

Results:

  • MVE delivered 65% more products with the same capacity.
  • Improved Commit-to-Accept ratios from 74% to +90%.
  • Everything is visible to everyone.
  • Scope change reduced to less than 5%.

Best Practices:

  • Choose the right RTEs – Intel found that effective RTEs have a combination of technical background and a deeper Agile mindset/experience
  • Train the Leaders – Business owners and Train Management should be required to attend SAFe training. It is critical that the leaders speak for the transformation, act as role models, and reinforce direction within the organization. Leverage advocates in the organization whenever possible.
  • Always end with Inspect & Adapt – Just get started and then learn and adapt. Favor “progress over perfection.”
  • Keep it Simple – Don’t overcomplicate the process, and bring things back to the basics of Agile and Lean.

Introduction

Intel has been integral in pushing that pace of growth in the marketplace. Today, the company employs more than 100,000 people globally and reports net revenue of $59.4 billion.

But like most enterprises, as it continuously innovates and expands, Intel must balance cost control while maintaining high quality.

“With the complexity and number of the products skyrocketing, if we didn’t adjust or adapt, other than adding more people, Moore’s Law would crush us,” says Allen Ringel, Lean & Agile Transformation Leader, Intel.

Agile at Enterprise Scale

Agile at Enterprise Scale

Intel’s Manufacturing Development Organization (MDO) division tests and validates Intel solutions, producing over two million lines of code every two weeks. In an effort to deliver more value, MDO began to adopt Lean-Agile practices in 2005, and by 2012 had small pockets of Scrum and a homegrown solution for scaling Scrum.

“We found the Agile approach attractive because it turns the Iron Triangle on its head,” Ringel says. “Features are negotiable but time, cost, and quality are not.”

Yet as more people and divisions were folded into MDO, Intel found it increasingly difficult to scale Scrum. Thus, a team of about 15 people tasked with driving Lean-Agile at Intel looked at industry frameworks for ways to scale more effectively.

In 2013, MDO discovered the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), which provided clear structure and roles for taking the company into the next phase of Agile. SAFe also aligned well with the company’s broader Lean approach as a learning organization focused on continuous improvement and waste elimination.

“In an organization as large as MDO we needed to standardize the planning and execution process we use to work together to deliver value,” Ringel says. “When we encountered SAFe it provided a proven, public framework, with well-defined roles and artifacts for applying Lean and Agile at the enterprise level.”

Those 15 Lean-Agile leaders prepared for the implementation by attending the SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) Certification training. After mapping the roles, principles, practices & tools to back to what currently existed in the organization, they had essentially created a trail through the forest with a visible plan for implementation. Then they jumped in with both feet.

Leading up to the first Program Increment (PI) planning event, Intel trained more than 1,500 people. Over the course of eight weeks, they launched eight Agile Release Trains (ARTs) with 170 Scrum teams—with Christmas and New Year’s in the middle. To ease the transition, the 15 Intel Lean-Agile coaches were embedded at the 14 different sites with MDO teams to answer questions and provide guidance.

At Intel, executive backing proved critical to the success of the rollout. Mohsen Fazlian, General Manager of the division, created a shared vision by communicating clearly about the reasons for adopting SAFe and scaling Agile. Intel also reinforced Scrum rules for teams to be properly sized, co-located, 100% committed, and cross-functional. Where co-location was not possible & budgets allowed, Intel brought together people in person for at least the first planning event.

That first PI, admittedly, demanded considerably more effort than subsequent events. Yet, the ability to see immediate value spurred momentum. “The planning events were essential for teams to align at the train level while highlighting dependencies and allowing risk mitigation early on,” Ringel says.

Intel made a few enhancements to the typical SAFe deployment. They digitized the program board so they could see everything on a dashboard at all times and identify efforts quickly as progressing normally or abnormally. Lean-Agile leaders guided managers in looking at abnormal areas from a new perspective. If something turned red on the virtual program board, instead of managers saying, “Fix this,” they ask, “How can I help?”

Training 2,000 Over Three Months

Fast forward to 2017. Intel has grown Lean-Agile practices at a pace that rivals Moore’s Law. The well-defined roles and terminology within SAFe serve as essential signposts for those new to the Framework.

The structure has kept the trains on track as the organization continuously expands. A merger with another group—now combined under the name Manufacturing Value Engineering (MVE)—nearly doubled the size of the organization.

Agile at Enterprise Scale

To fold in the new division, MVE trained nearly 2,000 people over three months and immediately organized them into trains. While the change came as a bit of a shock to some, the rapid integration enabled people to participate in the Agile system while trainers consistently communicated the value of the change, helping people experience it first hand and embrace their roles with the new way of working.

“We all feel part of a bigger thing and speak a common language that everyone understands,” Ringel says. “There’s clarity in the model we work in, which has definitely been something people latch on to.”

Ringel says that Intel has settled on an acceptable ratio of coaches to employees: 1:200-250. “We have shown management that we can deliver value with half a percent of the organization as transformation leaders,” he says.

One of the Largest Reported SAFe Deployment

Today, MVE has over 440 Scrums organized into 35 ARTs, including software and hardware engineers. MVE continues to widen the circle and is frequently consulted by organizations throughout Intel. Adjacent organizations at Intel interested in MVE’s success have enlisted MVE to help with scaling Agile, leading to eight additional ARTs in partner organizations. In fact, Intel’s effort is one of the largest publicly reported SAFe deployment based on number of ARTs.

While scaling has not been easy, it has been worth it. The impact of these efforts ripples across the company.

Increased Product Variants

  • Helped MVE to delivered 65% more product variants

Strong Performance-to-Schedule Discipline

  • Capacity-based planning and cadence provides a heartbeat and prevents schedule slips
  • Customers and upper management are changing their behaviors to protect the cadence set by Program Increments
  • Commit-to-Accept ratios improved from 74% to +90%
  • MVE minimized scope change in Program Increments to less than 5%

Increased Transparency & Visibility

  • The company identified bugs, impediments, weak tools and poor engineering habits
  • Transparency is invaluable and everything is visible to everyone
  • Communication & conversations are more valuable than tracking indicators in a tool
  • MVE now has a strong community with a common language

Institutionalized Process

  • Teams have demanded adherence when the environment becomes chaotic

Ultimately, Intel’s Lean-Agile efforts help it maintain the industry’s rapid rate of growth.

“Lean & Agile help us deliver more products without adding more people, so we can stay competitive and keep up with Moore’s Law,” Ringel says.

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LEGO Digital Solutions – Business Agility Transformation

“ … this has ​improved the motivation​ of the team members. Going to work is more fun when there’s less confusion and less waste. And motivated people do better work, so it’s a positive cycle! Another impact we’ve seen is that other parts of LEGO visit the meeting, get super inspired, and start exploring how to implement some of these principles and practices in their own department. In fact, agile is spreading like a virus within the company, and the highly visible nature of the PI planning event is like a a catalyst.

—Henrik Kniberg and Eik Thyrsted

Update:

January, 2017 : A year after Henrik Kniberg and Eik Thyrsted shared the first phase of LEGO’s SAFe journey, they are back with the next chapter of their story. Their efforts to nip and tuck SAFe for optimal results run the gamut from large edits to small tweaks, and their learnings and outcomes are captured in a 36-page in-depth summary that is full of candid commentary and describes the thought process behind each decision. You can download it below.

Industry:

Consumer Products

Introduction

One of the world’s leading manufacturers of play materials, The LEGO Group is still owned by the Kirk Kristiansen family who founded it in 1932. With headquarters in Billund, Denmark, and main offices in Enfield, USA, London, UK, Shanghai, China, and Singapore, the company employs more than 15,000 people worldwide.

In 2014, LEGO Digital Solutions turned to SAFe to improve their collaboration model and seek out what they like to refer to as the “Land of Awesome.” Their story of transformation was presented at LKCE (Lean Kanban Central Europe) by LEGO’s Head of Project Management, Eik Thyrsted Brandsgård and Lean/Kanban Coach, Mattias Skarin from Crisp.

Much like creating something from LEGO® bricks, they built their transformation one piece at a time, starting with inviting 20 managers to a 2-day Leading SAFe class. From there, they began training the teams; first one, then another until they had 20 teams trained in SAFe. They approached every step as a learning journey, allowing for creativity along the way. When something didn’t seem like a good fit, they weren’t afraid to experiment. Taking results from Inspect and Adapt, they tweaked SAFe to their needs with a simple guiding principle, “Keep the stuff that generates energy.”

“The combination of a structured system, logic and unlimited creativity encourages the child to learn through play in a wholly unique LEGO fashion.” —The LEGO Group

Their first PI Planning event—which they now refer to as their “center of gravity”—went better than expected, with the teams eager to take what they learned and apply it.

“You just can’t replace face-to-face communication, and PI planning is just a fantastic way to do that.”

Their presentation includes insights and lessons learned, such as:

  • You need critical mass
  • They can now better manage expectations
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment
  • To become good at something you need to practice it
  • Experimenting your way forward matters more than your selection of path

SAFe’s creator, Dean Leffingwell, calls their presentation, “One of the most insightful applications and presentations that I’ve yet seen on SAFe.” You can view their 45-minute video below.

Many thanks to Mattias and Eik for sharing their inspiring story!

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Northwestern Mutual – SAFe for Financial Service

“We had been challenged a number of times in changing our underlying CRM platform. After implementing SAFe, our overall effort actually came in $12M less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted.”

Bryan Kadlec, Director, Client Digital Experience

Challenge:

Market leader Northwestern Mutual sought to apply Lean-Agile practices to remain competitive, though previous efforts had been stymied by a longtime Waterfall culture.

Industry:

Financial Services, Insurance

Solution:

SAFe®

Results:

  • Collection Feature Cycle Time improved 30-50%
  • IT delivers requested capabilities 80-90 % of the time
  • The overall effort on a project came in $12 million less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted

Best Practices:

  • Support experimentation—Leadership at NWM fostered an environment, and provided resources, to enable this transformation. “Our forward-thinking leadership knew we needed to bring in some changes so they invested in continuous learning and improvement,” Schindler says.
  • Use proxies for offshore teams—NWM pre-plans with offshore teams and then brings proxy representatives to PI planning events.
  • Customize SAFe—NWM increased engagement with its own spin on the program board, with the Transformation Railway Station.

Introduction

In business, staying ahead of the competition inevitably requires taking some risks. But how do you do this, when a key part of your success depends on keeping risk at bay? That’s the question Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual (NWM) had to answer while seeking new ways to maintain and build on their 160-year history of helping families and businesses achieve financial security.

To maintain the leadership position NWM has built over nearly 160 years, the organization has taken an innovative, entrepreneurial approach to business. It’s paid off: The past year (2016) was one of the company’s strongest. The company reported record-level revenue ($27.9 billion), was named by FORTUNE® magazine as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies, and has maintained the highest financial strength ratings awarded to any U.S. life insurer.*

300-Day Cycles

In 2012, the company reached a turning point. In addition to a company-wide push for continuous learning and improvement, IT needed to move faster.

“It took over 300 days and many instances to deliver value to our customers,” says Jill Schindler, Manager, Client Digital Experience. “We were getting a lot of questions around, ‘Why does it take so long and cost so much?’ We knew we needed to be more flexible, adaptable and responsive, and it didn’t take us long to realize that Agile was a big part of that.”

SAFe for Financial Services

NWM had tried to adopt Lean-Agile practices before, experimenting with a few Scrum teams in the mid-2000s. However, those efforts ran headfirst into a deeply ingrained Waterfall culture.

“We didn’t start with much training or coaching, and teams worked on the aspects they wanted instead of the aspects that we needed,” says Bryan Kadlec, Director, Client Digital Experience. “We fell woefully behind and then were slammed by a waterfall world to put out the fire.”

A Second Attempt at Agile

Northwestern Mutual shelved its Scrum efforts until 2012, when the company embarked on a more methodical approach to Agile. This time, they set out to train as many people as possible. “We wanted to do this and senior leadership believed in it, so we pushed forward,” Schindler says.

At the time, three or four teams experimented with Agile but the organization simply was not set up to accommodate it.

For next steps, they held their first rapid improvement event (Value Stream mapping). The weeklong event brought together Scrum teams and specialized teams with the goal of addressing the challenges of these distinct groups working together. The end result: a better understanding of the problems and a systematic way of approaching them. Key to that was engaging the IT strategy team to help remove barriers.

The Missing Piece

About that time, NWM found the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) and quickly saw it as the missing piece. “SAFe totally lines up with what we were already trying to do but we just didn’t have a platform for it,” Schindler says. “This was the framework we needed for delivering Agile at scale.”

“In SAFe, we could see Agile and Lean together and had this sense that it was a very powerful thing,” Kadlec adds.

Schindler and Kadlec went back to the leaders or their respective organizations and secured resources to try SAFe—becoming pioneers not just for their own company, but also establishing NWM as the first large company in Wisconsin to take this course. They believed firmly in their chosen path, but it still felt risky to apply new practices to a large chunk of the company’s portfolio.

“It shaved a few years off our lives!” Kadlec quips. “We believed that the path we were taking would deliver high value, but it still felt high risk. But if we’re going to compete, we had to have quicker response time.”

The First Program Increment (PI)

SAFe for Financial Services

Schindler and Kadlec trained as SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs) and additionally tapped Al Shalloway, CEO, Net Objectives, along with SAFe Fellow Jennifer Fawcett to facilitate the company’s first PI planning event. NWM asked 270 people to come together for the first two-day event—in January in Wisconsin—where they launched their first four Agile Release Trains (ARTs).

The response was heartening. People were engaged and ultimately on board. “At the end of the day, we felt a huge sense of accomplishment,” Schindler says. “Everyone understood what was expected of them.” Northwestern went on to train as many people as possible. In fact, for some team members, training was the first sprint.

Making the shift in the company’s longtime waterfall culture wasn’t easy. Coaching was key, especially at the beginning. As teams went through cycles of Plan, Do, Check and Adjust, old behaviors would emerge—and need to be addressed. In truth, some individuals chose to leave—but most chose to dedicate themselves to the new way of working. The “new era” behaviors the Agile mindset fosters have taken such a firm hold companywide that they are now a factor in performance reviews.

By the second PI event, again with Fawcett facilitating, Release Train Engineers had a sense of ownership.

Transformation Railway Station

Northwestern Mutual took a clever twist on the ART program board, dubbing it Transformation Railway Station. On its board, a tunnel image represents the funnel of new work/ideas and cows represent impediments. The former is particularly apt given that, in 1859, two policy owners were killed when a train hit a cow and derailed. When the new company lacked the full funds to pay out those first life insurance claims (for $3500), NWM’s president at the time personally borrowed the funds.

On the board, laminated trains make their way along the track (the Portfolio level) from the departure station through various stages:

  • Identify—Communicate change vision, and determine Value Stream, ARTs, scope, PI planning date and training
  • Prep—Perform SAFe training
  • Launch—Conduct final prep and first PI planning event
  • Mature—Coach and develop the ART
  • Inspect and Adapt—Hold Inspect and Adapt workshop, plus second PI planning event
  • Aftercare—Complete coach strength, weakness, opportunity and threats (SWOT) assessment; discuss future coaching engagement

Through the PI, all parties keep a close watch on progress and metrics. “Leadership can walk up and know where we are at any time,” says Sarah Scott, Agile Lean Organization Coach at Northwestern Mutual.

SAFe for Financial Services
Transformation Railway Station

Cycle Time Improvement

Since deploying SAFe, and beginning its first earnest Agile efforts, Northwestern Mutual reduced Collection Feature Cycle Time by 30-50%. And surveys of business representatives indicate that IT delivers what they requested 80-90 percent of the time.

Ultimately, the changes affected the bottom-line—for the better. “After implementing SAFe, our overall effort actually came in $12 million less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted,” Kadlec says.

Now in year three, with 12 PIs behind them, the company has five SAFe instances and 14 ARTs in progress across a wide range of product areas. Northwestern Mutual provides leadership for SAFe in Wisconsin, even hosting a Scaling Agile Meetup Group that draws as many as 300 attendees to its monthly gatherings.

“We’re at a tipping point now, continuing to break down barriers,” Schindler says. “The whole organization is in the heart of a major transformation and we’re leveraging SAFe to accelerate our Lean-Agile IT transformation. We’re at a whole other level that I don’t think would have happened as quickly or with as much impact if we’d just had a handful of Scrum teams.”

* Ratings are for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company, as of the most recent review and report by each rating agency. Northwestern Mutual’s ratings: A.M. Best Company A++ (highest), 5/2016; Fitch Ratings AAA (highest), 11/2016; Moody’s Investors Service Aaa (highest), 1/2017; Standard & Poor’s AA+ (second highest), 6/2016. Ratings are subject to change.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NWM), Milwaukee, WI and its subsidiaries.

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Suggested Case Study: Fannie Mae

Seamless Payments – A Story of Successful SAFe Transformation

To sum up, the case study of Seamless is evidence that small or medium-sized companies can benefit from a scaled agile framework with custom modifications.”

Challenge:

  • Multiple environments
  • Feature requests coming from different markets
  • Synchronizing work between teams (Software Engineering department spans 4 countries)
  • A way to deal with inevitable change of culture due to fast growth

Industry:

Technology, Financial

Introduction

Founded in 2011, and active in more than 30 countries, Seamless handles more than 3.0 billion transactions annually, making it one of the world largest suppliers of payment systems for mobile phones. Perhaps best known for its flagship mobile wallet product, SEQR (se•cure), the fast-moving Stockholm-based company has grown from 50 to 200 employees in 2 years, and is pursuing an expansive growth strategy that has presented challenges both technical and organizational.

Challenges

Seamless Payments - A Story of Successful SAFe Transformation
  • Multiple environments
  • Feature requests coming from different markets
  • Synchronizing work between teams (Software Engineering department spans 4 countries)
  • A way to deal with inevitable change of culture due to fast growth

Wanting to avoid the unnecessary bureaucracy that often comes with expansion, they turned to a scaled-down version of SAFe—along with major technical investments in the deployment pipeline—to provide a structure that would provide a solution for current challenges, and accommodate growing complexity.

More Stories in Less Time—Despite Setbacks

Seamless Payments - A Story of Successful SAFe Transformation

The story of this SAFe transformation is published in InfoQ, and comes from Agile and Lean Product Development Expert, Mikael Lundgren, and Seamless Payments’ Software Engineering Manager, Tomek Pająk. They provide an account of the experience that is rich with detail, and goes beyond tactical execution to include the strategical thinking behind this scaled-down transformation. They recount:

  • How they down-scaled SAFe while maintaining its core ideas
  • Tools utilized for managing backlogs of features, epics, and stories
  • Recruiting Scrum Masters to act as Agile coaches for entire organization
  • Establishing new roles to better support working environment
  • Introducing WIP-limited program execution where work is planned in Agile Release Trains

Many thanks to the study authors, Mikael Lundgren and Tomek Pająk, for sharing your story and providing inspiration for small to medium-sized companies seeking scalable solutions as they face similar growth challenges.

Read the full story in the InfoQ article, Downscaling SAFe.

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