Use WSJF to Inspire a Successful SAFe® Adoption

SAFe® Adoption

By definition, Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) is a prioritization model used to sequence jobs to produce maximum economic benefit. Utilizing WSJF relies on the Cost of Delay and job size to determine its weight in priority. Think of the Cost of Delay as the price you pay for not delivering a feature to the end-user in a timely manner. For instance, if you know a competitor is also working on a similar initiative to yours, you can acknowledge the risk of losing customers if the experience you deliver pales in comparison.

I like to refer to WSJF as a tool that helps you take the emotion and politics out of a decision and rely on facts instead. WSJF allows us to take an economic view and not be swayed by the loudest complainer (aka squeaky wheel) or the person with the longest title in the room.

I’m sure we can all relate to being in a prioritization meeting either before, during, or after your SAFe® adoption where people demand that their feature be the top priority. But what they can’t clearly explain is why they want it, why that feature is important to the business, end-user, or buyer, and how it aligns with the organization’s purpose. After the WSJF exercise, participants often assume that the biggest, most needed items will find their way to the top of the priority list and are surprised by what features actually get selected. Remember, in Agile, we like to show value quickly. So, WSJF also helps participants identify features that could be too large to ever get to the top, forcing them to break down the work into more manageable batches.

Here’s an example from a retail company I worked with. The company’s top priority at the time was a single-sign-on (SSO) integration feature that was considered critical to improving the user experience. SSO was all everyone was talking about. So, after going through the WSJF exercise, a marketing executive was surprised that aspects of their SSO integration weren’t at the top of the list. The conversation surrounding this—which, by the way, involved the squeaky wheel and the person with the longest tile—enabled participants to break the work down into smaller batches. Everyone involved in the discussion got the context they needed to see that by changing the scope of the work, teams could provide incremental value to customers more quickly. We then went back through the WSJF exercise with the smaller batches of work, some of which moved to the top of the priority list and others moved further down.

Going through this exercise gave participants the context and information to explain:

  • Why and when items were being delivered
  • How customers would be delighted with ongoing improvements versus one large release in the future

Having those key stakeholders in the room allowed us to work through the tough conversations and gain alignment more quickly. That’s not to say the conversations were any easier. But showing how the larger batches of work could be broken down into small batches provided proper context based on end-user value and faster delivery.

In the end, WSJF doesn’t only help an organization deliver the most value in the shortest amount of time, it also fosters decentralized decision-making. This requires your RTE or Product Managers to be steadfast in their approach to ensure trust and belief in the process. When members of the team see leadership supporting this new approach, even when that leader’s feature doesn’t land at the top, it goes a long way in building the trust and culture to inspire a successful SAFe adoption.

About Elizabeth Wilson

Elizabeth Wilson

For more than a decade, Elizabeth has successfully led technology projects, and her recent experiences have focused on connected products. As an SPC, she’s highly versed in Agile methodology practices, including SAFe, and leverages that expertise to help companies gain more visibility, achieve faster development cycles, and improve predictability. With a wealth of practical, hands-on experience, Elizabeth brings a unique perspective and contextual stories to guide organizations through their Agile journey.

View all posts by Elizabeth Wilson

Share:

Back to: All Blog Posts

Next: The SAFe Coach

Global Summit 2019 – Applying WSJF in SAFe – The Financial Impact of WSJF

Safe Business Agility

Hear Joe Vallone, SAFe Fellow and SPCT, and Don Reinertsen, author of Principles of Product Development Flow discuss how to apply WSJF in a SAFe context using dollars, not just Fibonacci numbers, and how to involve finance in WSJF conversations.

Click the “Subscribe” button to subscribe to the SAFe Business Agility podcast on Apple Podcasts

Share:

Hear Joe Vallone, SAFe Fellow and SPCT, and Don Reinertsen, author of Principles of Product Development Flow discuss how to apply WSJF in a SAFe context using dollars, not just Fibonacci numbers, and how to involve finance in WSJF conversations.

Joe Vallone and Don Reinertsen discuss the use of cost of delay and weighted shortest job first within the SAFe context. Because the cost of delay is denominated in Fibonacci numbers instead of dollars, it presents a disadvantage in communicating with finance people and higher level management. This episode covers how you take the very useful formulation you have today and how you can extend it into something that is more salient to the financial organization.

Hosted by: Joe Vallone

Joe Vallone is an experienced Agile Coach

Joe Vallone is an experienced Agile Coach and Trainer and has been involved in the Lean and Agile communities since 2002. Mr. Vallone has helped coach several large-scale Agile transitions at Zynga, Apple, Microsoft, VCE, Nokia, AT&T, and American Airlines. Prior to founding Agile Business Connect, Joe Vallone served as an Agile Coach at Ciber, CTO/CIO of We The People, and the VP of Engineering for Telogical Systems.

Guest: Don Reinertsen

Don Reinertsen is the President of Reinertsen and Associates, a consulting firm specialized in the management of product development. He has worked with leading product development organizations for over 35 years, and taught executive courses at Caltech for 15 years. He is the author/co-author of three best-selling books on product development, and is considered one of the leading thinkers in the field of lean product development. His latest award winning book, The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development, has been praised as, ‘… quite simply the most advanced product development book you can buy.’

SAFe and Architecture – Identifying Value Streams and WSJF

Safe Business Agility

In this SAFe Business Agility podcast episode learn how SAFe embraces architectural roles, the struggles around identifying value streams and the meaning behind WSJF. You will also learn the minimum an organization can implement and still call it SAFe.

Click the “Subscribe” button to subscribe to the SAFe Business Agility podcast on Apple Podcasts

Share:

SAFe in the News

From business strategies to successful IT delivery

Daniel Lambert, CIO.com (ICN)
Full article

  • Architects and agile teams often work in silos to the detriment of organizations
  • Architects can prioritize strategic initiatives from other initiatives by identifying key but problematic business capabilities using value streams and several measurement techniques. Architects can also decompose value stages defining a value stream into sub value-stages and breakdown business capabilities into sub-capabilities several levels deep for further exploration, refinement and precision
  • Finally, architects can detect, signal and eliminate duplicated sub-projects or sprints that can appear in different Agile Release Trains (‘ART’).
  • Business and enterprise architects can be instrumental in the delivery of sophisticated projects with their ability to accomplish these following four tasks:
    • Prioritize strategic initiatives,
    • Decompose high level value stream/value stages and business capabilities,
    • Assist in defining epics and user stories using architecture model elements, and finally
    • Eliminate sub-projects or sprints duplicates.

Want to learn how System, Solution, and Enterprise Architects can engage SAFe across the organization to collaboratively deliver architectural solutions? Check out the new SAFe for Architects course at  scaledagile.com/architects

SAFe in the Trenches

We discuss Value Stream identification, the issues with it and how to overcome common struggles.
Current SPCs – don’t forget the Value Stream and DevOps Workshop Toolkits are available for you to download at community.scaledagile.com

Audio CoP

The Audio Community of Practice section of the show is where we answer YOUR most frequently asked and submitted questions. If you have a question for us to answer on air, please send it to podcast@scaledagile.com
The two questions we answer in this episode are:

  • What is WSJF and why is it a critical part of SAFe?
  • Can SAFe be customized and if so, how?

Hosted by: Melissa Reeve

Melissa Reeve is the Vice President of Marketing at Scaled Agile

Melissa Reeve is the Vice President of Marketing at Scaled Agile, Inc. In this role, Melissa guides the marketing team, helping people better understand Scaled Agile, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and its mission.

Hosted by: Joe Vallone

Joe Vallone is an experienced Agile Coach and Trainer

Joe Vallone is an experienced Agile Coach and Trainer and has been involved in the Lean and Agile communities since 2002. Mr. Vallone has helped coach several large-scale Agile transitions at Zynga, Apple, Microsoft, VCE, Nokia, AT&T, and American Airlines. Prior to founding Agile Business Connect, Joe Vallone served as an Agile Coach at Ciber, CTO/CIO of We The People, and the VP of Engineering for Telogical Systems.

Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Flying the F-16 into the Future with SAFe: Evolving the Falcon Factory

Share:

Presented at 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 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!

Back to: Customer Stories

Next: Bosch/ETAS Customer Story

Bosch / ETAS – Agile Framework

Presented at 2019 Global SAFe Summit, San Diego Oct. 2, 2019

Share:

For over 130 years the name “Bosch” has been associated with forward-looking technology and trailblazing inventions that have made history. Bosch does business all over the world and is active in the most wide-ranging sectors. In particular, BOSCH is the largest supplier for the global automotive industry.

Dr. Volkmar Denner, CEO of Bosch; “For Bosch agility is crucial, it allows us to adjust to the increasing speed of change around us. Agility allows us to remain in a position as an innovation leader.”

This video tells the story of how an enterprise of more than 70,000 knowledge workers and traditionally independent business areas have faced the challenge of an agile transformation and started an alignment to common a strategy for mobility solutions and the SAFe journey. It provides a deep dive into one of Bosch`s Business Units, ETAS, and shows what was already achieved by introducing SAFe and focusing on current activities in Lean Portfolio Management and how the company organizational structure is being adopted as a consequence of the SAFe transformation.

Back to: Customer Stories

Next: PepsiCo Customer Story

Swisscom – Agility Planning with SAFe for Telecom

Agility Planning with SAFe for Telecom

“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

Challenge:

Swisscom had to move quickly to bring a new IPTV product to market since a competitor had already begun a similar effort.

Industry:

Telecommunications

Solution:

  • SAFe®
  • Rally® Unlimited Edition (now CA Agile Central)

Results:

  • 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

Best Practices:

  • 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.

Introduction

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.

Agility Planning with SAFe for Telecom

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.

Now, the Engineering group sought to scale Agile in earnest, leading it to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

“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

Agility Planning with SAFe for Telecom

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 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.

Next Steps

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.”

Back to: All Case Studies

Suggested Case Study: Amdocs