Lockheed Flying the F-16 into the Future with SAFe: Evolving the Falcon Factory
Presented at the 2019 Global SAFe Summit, San Diego Oct. 2, 2019, The F-16 Fighting Falcon is the world’s most successful, combat-proven multirole fighter with approximately 3,000 operational F-16s in service today in 25 countries. In 2014, new production orders were drying out, and the F-16 production line was in danger of shutting down. Our solution to that problem was the adoption of SAFe to streamline the F-16 Product Development and Engineering in 2015. We overcame a lot of challenges along the way, and made rapid progress initially, but have plateaued. That should come as no surprise though. Our limited SAFe implementation showed us limited results. But we are turning this ship around! This year we have really taken stock of our Agile Transformation and implemented several ground-breaking initiatives that are changing our landscape. Lockheed has now started a new F-16 production facility in Greenville, South Carolina that is producing F-16s expected to operate to 2070 and beyond!
“SAFe has been a successful story for us. It allowed us to grow our team in a seamless way that integrated cross-functional groups and aligned with the company’s long-term strategy. Fitbit has grown significantly since we adopted SAFe, and we were able to scale the process and still deliver high achievement every PI. My VP calls it the scaffolding that has helped moved our team forward.”
—Damian Brown, Sr. Director of Program Management Office, Fitbit
With major consumer holidays as deadlines, target dates are immovable. Early Scrum efforts could not keep pace with company growth.
Consumer Products, Information Technology
Fitbit achieved a long-term look-ahead on its product roadmap and a short-term look-ahead on team tasks
Teams now achieve five business goals per PI, compared to three previously
Velocity increased 33 percent year over year
Fitbit launched a record number of products last year
Don’t miss retrospectives – After every PI planning event, Fitbit listens to feedback on what went well and what needs improvement—and integrates those changes for the next PI.
Establish long-lived teams – Long-lived teams provide more stability and predictability.
Collect metrics along the way – Collect as many metrics as possible, which could back up decision-making. These could include velocity, overall objectives completion rate and reasons for scope changes during execution.
Always plan for the next PI – Cadence is important to align multiple groups in the PI in preparation for the next PI planning event. Start early and make sure every participant is aware of the timeline, so all stakeholders are well-informed and prepared for PI planning.
In 2016, consumer technology company, Fitbit, released four new products to the market that were positively received by consumers, and shipped over 22 million devices.
Delivering its highest number of products in a year is due in part to the company’s commitment to, and success in adopting SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework®) as a way to scale the team to meet target dates.
Challenge: Delivering for Consumer Shopping Seasons
Since 2007, Fitbit has helped millions of people around the world lead healthier, more active lives by empowering them with data, inspiration, and guidance to reach their goals.
At Fitbit, major consumer holidays drive the product delivery schedule, including the year-end holiday season, Valentine’s Day, graduation, and Mother’s and Father’s Days. For that reason, target dates are inflexible when it comes to developing firmware and software for every product for each major platform (iOS, Android, and Windows).
In working toward targets, Fitbit engineering managers, tech leads, and Scrum masters have collaborated closely in recent years, sprint to sprint. But as the company and user base grew, Fitbit had to expand and evolve this process to meeting company and consumer needs.
“With our growing team and global presence, we knew our Scrum efforts were not going to scale,” says Damian Brown, Sr. Director of Program Management Office, Fitbit. “The question was, ‘How do we keep the organic culture people like about Fitbit while addressing the needs of the business and our global community of users?’”
Always Planning, Always Delivering
At a previous company, Brown and colleague, Brian Hsieh, had been part of a successful Agile effort by deploying SAFe. When they arrived at Fitbit, they saw an opportunity to deploy SAFe once again.
“We had done research on the different models for scaling Scrum,” Brown says. “Brian and I had been to Leading SAFe training, and once you see that big picture, your eyes start lighting up. It’s a powerful story how the Program layer aligns with Scrum teams. We knew that SAFe was something that would work for us at Fitbit.”
But first, they had to gain executive buy-in. “I think the story we told of always planning, always delivering, was very powerful for leadership,” Brown says
A Big Picture—for the First Time
With leadership on board, in fall 2015 the company started with 12 Scrum teams at its first Program Increment (PI) planning event in San Francisco. They created a highly interactive experience with physical boards and red ribbon for a visual of team dependencies within the PI. In that first meeting, teams were energized and excited about their PI objectives.
“Teams reported that they could see the whole picture across company-wide initiatives and understood where they could contribute,” says Hsieh, Manager of Program Management Office.
But as early as the first PI retrospective, the company realized it had not included all the teams that would benefit from this process. Thus in the next PI, Fitbit added other teams, including firmware engineering groups.
With each PI—now up to ten—Fitbit folded in more teams and more functional groups, including some not typically part of an Agile transformation. Today, members of Firmware, Software, Design, Research, Marketing, Customer Support, Data Analytics and Infrastructure Engineering all participate in PIs. Fitbit trained all those who were leading PI events, with events extended to its other office locations, including Boston, San Diego, and Minsk, Belarus.
100% Delivery on Objectives
In adopting SAFe, Fitbit aimed to evolve its process for scaling development teams in many ways:
Create a fast and flexible flow across the entire Fitbit ecosystem
Create a system of teams across the ecosystem that work together to deliver quickly
Scale up to adopt team growth
Improve visibility with the objective of a two-month look-ahead on what each team will be working on
Create mechanisms for teams and stakeholders to identify cross-team dependencies and add items to other teams’ backlogs as needed
Align key business dates across all of the programs, including security, data center moves, compliance, and marketing programs
With the help of SAFe, Fitbit successfully achieved process evolution.
As for visibility, Fitbit achieved a long-term look-ahead on its product roadmap and a short-term execution plan at areas of work for the teams, supporting planning and decision-making for leadership. It’s a roadmap process that Brown and Hsieh credit SAFe with providing.
Velocity likewise increased; teams now achieve five objectives per PI, on average, “With the metrics that SAFe provides, combined with what we regularly report on, we can tell our CTO that velocity has increased 33 percent over the past year,” Brown says.
With higher cadence and velocity, Fitbit can more readily respond to market needs. For example, when the company noticed an opportunity to add a specific capability to its products, it brought the new feature to market in a very short time with no major bugs in internal and external testing.
In 2016, with an aggressive plan for launching four new products, Brown and Hsieh credit the SAFe approach with enabling teams to complete goals and objectives two to three PIs ahead of schedule.
Additionally, the integrated, measured approach contributes to the quality of the user experience. In particular, Brown points to that critical time between Black Friday and New Year’s Day when many new Fitbit owners activate products and visit the Fitbit app and website for the first time to create accounts and sync their new devices. In 2016, the company experienced no major impact to the site during that timeframe.
Just as critical, team engagement has gone up since deploying the SAFe. As a result, teams now regularly hit their top objectives. “Having PIs and objectives really rallies us around something positive several times a year,” Brown says.
Now, as the company plans for next year, it’s working toward funding value streams rather than projects—a goal that SAFe 4.0 supports with its Value Stream level.
“SAFe has been a success story for us. It allowed us to grow our team seamlessly that integrated cross-functional groups and aligned with the company’s long-term strategy,” Brown adds. “Fitbit has grown significantly since we adopted SAFe, and we could scale the process and still deliver high achievement every PI. My VP calls it the scaffolding that has helped move our team forward.”
“It usually takes about 36 months to bring a new TV platform to market but we had a minimally viable product in 8-10 months and brought the full product to market in 18 months. SAFe helped our relatively small team build and run a world-class product and guided us when in doubt, showing us the way toward Agile product development flow.”
—Simon Berg, Agile Program Manager, Swisscom Entertainment Projects
Swisscom had to move quickly to bring a new IPTV product to market since a competitor had already begun a similar effort.
Rally® Unlimited Edition (now CA Agile Central)
Swisscom brought TV 2.0 to market in about half the time of comparable projects, ahead of the competition.
The company decreased the time from code-ready to mass rollout from 9-12 months to no longer than six weeks.
The product won a coveted industry award for “Best multi-screen experience.”
Last year, IPTV signups grew by nearly 14 percent.
PI Planning recommendation score from participants: 8.3/10
Test Automation—Swisscom reduced end-to-end test team size from dozens to just three, while maintaining quality – and deployed those individuals to other value-producing functions.
Program Increment Planning—Planning with SAFe led to new alignment and momentum.
Most Valuable Feature First—WSJF Abstract (Weighted Shortest Job First) helped prioritize features and quantify the cost of delay.
Across the globe, consumers are increasingly choosing IPTV over cable. In Switzerland, more than 1.37 million customers now subscribe to Swisscom’s cloud-based service, Swisscom TV 2.0.
While the growth of Swisscom TV 2.0 is a success story in itself, so too is the company’s journey to bring the product to market in a highly competitive industry where speed can make the difference between success and failure.
Thanks to Agile development practices with SAFe and a new level of collaboration between business and IT, the Engineering group at Swisscom Entertainment achieved the feat in half the time of typical projects, with a small but nimble team that helps proper agility transformation.
“It usually takes about 36 months to bring a new TV platform to market but we had a minimally viable product in 8-10 months and brought the full product to market in 18 months,” says Simon Berg, Agile Program Manager, Swisscom Entertainment Projects. “SAFe helped our relatively small team build and run a world-class product and guided us when in doubt, showing us the way toward Agile product development flow.”
SAFe: The Blueprint Swisscom Sought
In 2012, Swisscom initiated plans to bring a new IPTV offering to the market, to go beyond the basic product currently available.
This time, Swisscom wanted to add features that newly available technology would make possible. Adding urgency, the company’s largest competitor had reportedly already begun work on a similar product.
At the time, Swisscom ran what Berg describes as a PMI-style, waterfall, multi-project environment that was transitioning into a home-grown, scaled Scrum approach. A year prior, Swisscom had taken steps to realize a product house model by moving “business” and “IT development” groups into one organization.
“Many things we tried to come up with on our own were already defined in a structured manner in SAFe,” Berg says. “It clicked with us, and we began transitioning to SAFe almost immediately after discovering it. With SAFe, we were able to take incremental transformation steps, profiting from the vast body of knowledge it represents.”
Finally: Big-Room Success
The team had already implemented three-month program increments with teams structured along program lines. However, they had not yet tried cross-functional, big-room planning meetings.
After diving into SAFe, the Engineering group held its first Program Increment (PI) planning session with approximately 70 people across multiple functions, including product owners, IT operations, business operations, product management and experience development.
“I was pleased to see which people were talking to each other, people who had not talked before,” Berg says. “Business owners and IT ops engineers talked about what they do and their priorities. They were giving each other their part of the vision and could finally align and work together.”
“We came out of the first PI planning session with a decent plan that lasted for the PI, except for one other small planning session,” Berg adds.
Today, PI planning has become standard practice. Noted one product manager after the group’s ninth PI planning meeting: “It’s challenging, but I don’t want to work differently ever again.”
More Flexible in a Fast-Changing Market
In total, about 120 people ultimately worked on Swisscom TV 2.0, in more than 10 teams of teams, spanning from pure software development to video streaming, building up the data center capabilities and working to design the TV set-top box and remote control hardware. When you count non-Agile suppliers, the project included approximately 20 teams.
SAFe’s focus on alignment and shared vision kept diverse stakeholders in sync, accelerating progress and enhancing quality. “The focus on showing your work and releasing often for feedback helped us build a better product,” Berg says.
Likewise, SAFe provided flexibility when it mattered most. Mid-project, Swisscom decided to improve the product by removing time limits on the storage of recordings—a major product enhancement.
Berg also stresses the value of the WSJF concept (Weighted Shortest Job First) in helping prioritize features. “Quantifying the cost of delay was perhaps the most impactful learning of SAFe,” Berg says. “It was the first formula that really helped us have the right discussion about our priorities and what to build, aligned around the benefits to the customer.”
Such agility in business also helped the company become one of the first IPTV providers globally to launch Ultra HD Video on Demand, as well as Ultra HD live TV in early 2016.
Code Ready in Six Weeks
On the Swisscom TV 2.0 release, the company decreased the time from code-ready to mass rollout from 9-12 months to no longer than six weeks. “We don’t know of a comparable case in the industry,” Berg says.
Swisscom also did it more efficiently. Where test team size was once dozens of people, now with test automation, testing requires just three people while still maintaining product quality. Those testers now focus on other value-generating functions, ensuring that quality gets built into the process.
Beyond internal success, the industry took notice as well. The product went on to win a coveted award for “Best multi-screen experience”—an honor not usually bestowed on telecommunications companies.
Perhaps the greatest rewards: strong customer satisfaction scores and product sales. Last year, IPTV signups grew by nearly 14 percent.
Swisscom now deepens its SAFe adoption, with newly set priorities for elaborating on the economic framework concept and the solution intent concept, along with improving DevOps. Other Swisscom product units have also taken interest in adopting SAFe.
“For Swisscom TV, this has become a new way of doing business,” Berg says. “Others are looking into how we work because they see it drives us forward.”