U.S. Airforce / Northrop Grumman – Lean-Agile Mindset

Lean-Agile Mindset & DevSecOps in a Multi-billion Dollar Defense System

Share:

How do you achieve unprecedented communication between contractor, government, and stakeholders in a large acquisition?

Northrop Grumman and US Air Force agile transformation leads describe how they have worked together to leverage SAFe and DevSecOps to scale Agile practices to refine requirements, enable customer and stakeholder collaboration, and facilitate technical planning for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) modernization program. The development occurs under a multi-billion dollar contract involving hundreds of companies and over 10,000 people across the US.

GBSD’s 50-year mission is vital to our nation’s security and adoption of a Lean-Agile mindset is essential to meeting GBSD’s schedule and capability requirements.

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

  • David Gellen, Agile Transformation Lead for GBSD /Northrop Grumman
  • Micheal Burkhart, Lead for Agile Transformation of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program /U.S. Air Force

Back to: Customer Stories

Next: Kaiser Permanente Customer Story

Stories from the Field: Coaching in Government – SAFe for Government

Safe Business Agility

IIn this ongoing series, our customers and partners share their stories from the field about working with SAFe ceremonies, implementations of SAFe and business agility. In this episode, Phil Gardiner, enterprise Agile coach at SAIC (a Scaled Agile partner) talks to us about his coaching experiences in the public sector, including anecdotes about business agility in government and some interesting a-ha moments.

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

Share:

Visit these links to learn more about SAFe in the government space referenced in the podcast:

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.

Guest: Phil Gardiner 

Phil Gardiner

Phil Gardiner is on a mission to help organizations transform the way they work. Having served as an internal change agent, an enterprise coach, and a ‘coaches’ coach,’ Phil has enabled large-scale Lean-Agile transformations within the telecom, entertainment, finance, cybersecurity, healthcare, and government markets. His current focus is to enable people within the federal government space achieve greater business agility within their agencies and programs.

Stories from the Field: Remote Experiences in Government – Agile in Government

Safe Business Agility

In this ongoing series, our SAFe members, customers, and partners share their real-life stories about their field experiences working with SAFe ceremonies, implementations of SAFe, and business agility. In this episode, we speak with Mark Byers and Dan Montgomery from Octo Consulting—a Scaled Agile partner. They’ll share their experiences working with federal government agencies and contractors in a fully virtual environment, some tips on making this smooth, and some key government trends.

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

Share:

Visit these links to learn more about SAFe in the government space referenced in the podcast:

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.

Guests: Mark Byers and Dan Montgomery

Mark Byers is the SAFe Practice Lead at Octo Consulting Group, a Scaled Agile Partner. Dan Montgomery is the lead for Octo Consulting’s Agile and DevSecOps Center of Excellence.

Dutch Tax and Customs Administration – Implementing SAFe for Government

Dutch Tax and Customs Administration - Implementing SAFe for Government

“We are delivering faster and more predictably than in the past, which has changed many minds and driven a shift in long-ingrained ways of working.”

Mark Braam, IT Manager/RTE, Interaction Services at DTCA

Challenge:

DTCA sought to improve its speed and predictability in bringing new technology to the organization and citizens.

Industry:

Government

Results:

  • Major releases 3X more often
  • 80% reduction in technical debt
  • Half of managers moved into other roles
  • Greater engagement and collaboration across all levels

Best Practices:

  • Go ‘by the book’ – Follow SAFe training and ceremonies closely for the best results.
  • Anticipate organizational change – SAFe facilitated a cultural and organizational shift at DTCA.
  • Give teams freedom – Trust teams and give them space to do their jobs.
  • Shift to product thinking – Product vs. project thinking provides continuity and life cycle management and a more long-term outlook, plus brings more attention to improvement, maintainability, lifecycle management, and cost of ownership.

Introduction

With 26,000 employees, the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (DTCA) is one of the largest government agencies in the Netherlands, and is responsible for collecting taxes and customs, and extending tax credits and benefits to Dutch residents.

Implementing SAFe for Government

DTCA relies on technology to sharpen productivity and simplify online tax and customs procedures. Yet in this process-oriented and risk-averse culture, technology evolves slowly. Initiatives have typically begun with piles of paperwork and then have taken months or years to reach completion, often to suffer from frustrating quality issues.

To address its ongoing challenges, DTCA began moving toward a Lean approach and also started applying Scrum practices. These first steps toward an Agile way of working did help but were not enough to achieve goals such as improving delivery times and elevating quality.

SAFe: A Path to Delivering Value

In the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), DTCA found a method for achieving agility at scale—and long-sought results.

“To deliver more value, we knew that projects and teams needed to be aligned more effectively, and we believed the shift to SAFe would help us get there,” explained Mark Braam, IT Manager/RTE, Interaction Services at DTCA.

The Tax Allowances division, which handles tax credits and benefits for health care, rent, and childcare, began first. Per the SAFe Implementation Roadmap, they provided role-based training to virtually all Agile Release Train (ART) members, relying on an independent Certified SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) for training and coaching.

Early on, managers and team members sceptically viewed the effort and the time they would need to dedicate to training and planning events. Ultimately, they had to trust that pulling 140 people into an event for two days every 12 weeks would pay off in the end—and it did. The first ART began delivering business value during the first PI.

“Before SAFe, we released our software twice a year, with all the fixed requirements and the changes on these requirements during the development phase,” recalled Ramzi Barkoudah, Release Train Engineer (RTE) of the Tax Allowances ART. “But now we are releasing every four weeks. Seeing those benefits helped gain the support of the business and the leadership of the company.”

As one example, every year, tax allowances, which have been granted in advance, are calculated and extended based upon the determined annual income of each citizen. This massive process involves allowances for millions of citizens. In the past, DTCA could implement changes in this process only once or twice a year. With a major investment in the delivery pipeline and improving the delivery process by implementing SAFe, the organization now makes changes to the process in small batches, releasing changes every four weeks.

Progress in the Tax Allowances ART inspired the Interaction Services division to make the leap as well. Going ‘by the book,’ they asked everyone joining the first ART to go through role-based training, approximately 140 people.

When it was time for the first Program Increment (PI) Planning event, team members arrived excited and optimistic. They quickly saw the impact the Framework brought as the number of risks on the Program Board grew to 100. Identifying those risks allowed teams to resolve them together, one by one, and to categorize each before moving on to set PI objectives.

IT/Business Collaboration = More On-Target Products

In a culture of such ingrained practices, DTCA has had to educate team members and Product Owners continuously on the value of spending time in PI Planning, and to prove that SAFe delivers better results than traditional project management.

Siebren Biesma, Process Director for Supervision in Interaction Services, has spent nearly 35 years at DTCA. With SAFe, he has seen new ways of working replace long-held practices.

Before, Biesma’s team would spend months writing plans for projects with occasional interaction with him. Then, IT teams would go away to work on the project—often for at least a year.

Implementing SAFe for Government

Today, Biesma remains engaged from the start. “With SAFe, as a Business Owner, I’m always participating,” he explained. “The RTE asks a number of questions and I need to explain loudly and clearly what I want. It forces me to be prepared and prioritize what’s most important.”

Biesma stresses that relentless involvement, from PI to PI, not only creates a more on-target product, but builds in flexibility to make adjustments along the way. Product Ownership continuously informs the development process—ensuring that the final product meets their needs and that funds are allocated in the right areas. While budgeting itself hasn’t changed, transparency regarding the budget has.

“In PI planning events, I get a better understanding how much we’re spending and if it’s on the right things,” Biesma added.

Biesma and fellow decades-long colleagues have noticed a significant cultural shift; they clearly know who is doing what, and collaborate and discuss more than before. Such collaboration has led to tighter alignment between the business and IT, which Willy Rovers, Managing Director of IT, says is one of the biggest benefits of SAFe.

“To maintain optimal alignment with societal and market changes, the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration’s processes must be continuously and short-cyclically adjusted,” Rovers said. “Business and IT use SAFe to be able to realize and implement the required IT facilities quickly and predictably.”

Braam gives credit to the teams for self-organizing, increasing their engagement. Train leaders asked 100 people to assign themselves to one of the teams, with each team comprising seven to nine people. They provided guidelines around the composition of each team, such as the ratio of junior to senior people.

“We stepped aside and let people self-organize instead of management telling them where to go,” Braam said. “After a week, we only had to ask about 10 people to move to other teams. It was quite a victory for us.”

Technical Debt Down 80 Percent

DTCA continues to run two large ARTs (125+), with four Value Streams (one in Tax Allowances and three in Interaction Services). In fact, DTCA follows a hybrid way of working where every department can choose either SAFe or a more ‘traditional’ project management-oriented way of working, depending on what fits best. The organization has driven notable results across the two ARTs and within a few smaller ARTs:

  • More frequent releases – Major releases come out 3X more often, from 4 to 12 in a year.
  • Improved software quality/technical debt – DTCA improved quality by reducing the number of ‘problems’ by 80 percent, and security issues by 87 percent (Interaction Services).
  • Less management overhead – The number of people with the word ‘manager’ in their titles dropped in half. These individuals moved into other roles.
  • Increased engagement – People are more engaged, connected with each other, and willing to help others.

“We are delivering faster and more predictably than in the past, which has changed many minds and driven a culture shift in long-ingrained ways of working,” Braam said. “And we expect even more progress as we move ahead on current objectives such as continuous deployment and release on demand.”

Training At-a-Glance

The organization trained more than 250 people across multiple SAFe courses:

Back to: All Case Studies

Suggested Case Study: Westpac

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

SAFe case study CMS

Nearly 140 million Americans rely on Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the health insurance exchanges—all programs administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The agency pays out approximately $767 billion in benefits annually and employs 4,100 people to administer programs in partnership with state governments.

Challenge:

Isolated Scrum teams didn’t make much progress within a deeply ingrained waterfall culture and against long-range planning and budgeting.

Industry:

Government, Healthcare

Results:

  • CMS shifted the budget from 100% dedicated to system maintenance to a 40/60 split between maintenance and innovation
  • Help desk tickets decreased by 55%
  • Surveys show a 27% increase in employee satisfaction

Best Practices:

  • Prepare for face-to-face events – CMS found the SAFe Implementation Roadmap and training invaluable to smooth-running PI planning events
  • Establish transparency – Stress the importance of open, honest discussion and engagement
  • Communicate the vision – In opening remarks at PI events, CMS reminded team members that their work directly impacts people’s health and lives

Introduction

Amid the pressures of increasing citizen expectations, the CMS environment is complex and ever-changing as budgets and legislation fluctuate—making for a perfect setting to introduce Lean-Agile principles. A few isolated programs had begun using Scrum practices, but given the size and complexity of programs at CMS, Scrum did not lend itself well to longer-range planning and the identification and mitigation of dependencies among the Scrum teams. In addition, the organization still had cultural battles to overcome.

“We were still suffering from a ‘throw-everything-over-the-wall’ mentality,’” explained Brent Weaver, Director of Systems Implementation at CMS. “The few Agile teams were requiring more of programs and that created more frustration on both sides. There was no vision or framework where everyone saw how they fit together. As a result, what they delivered was late, with defects—and not what the market needed.”

SAFe: Systems Thinking for a Complex Organization

In 2017, Weaver arrived with the charge of improving the Agile transformation for the Center of Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ) within CMS. In the search for a new approach, the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) resonated as the right option.

“SAFe brought a much-needed approach to scaling Agile and systems thinking that was critical to an organization of our size and complexity,” Weaver said.

In preparation to obtain buy-in and funding, Weaver built his knowledge of SAFe by taking some initial courses: Leading SAFe®, and later, Implementing SAFe®. Following the Leading SAFe® course, he made the case for the Framework to leadership and earned the full support of Steve Davidson and Mark Plaugher, Directors of the Information Systems Group within CCSQ. Additionally, Debra Santos, Director of Hospitals, ASC, and QIO Systems was also willing to support the adoption of SAFe for one of her systems.

SAFe case study

For help, Weaver tapped Scaled Agile Partner, Agile Six Applications, Inc. With Agile Six, CMS decided to implement SAFe first in a group brand-new to Lean-Agile concepts, rather than with those already using Scrum, for a chance to start from scratch. The first teams on SAFe would be those working on CMS’s Hospital Quality Reporting (HQR) system, which healthcare facilities use to report data to CMS.

With leadership backing, they secured the budget and marked the calendar for the first face-to-face Program Increment (PI) planning event—to take place just six weeks in the future.

PI Planning Day One: Messy and Chaotic

To meet the timeframe, CMS decided to shortcut the recommendations from the SAFe Implementation Roadmap and skip SAFe training—a decision that created significant challenges and that, in hindsight, they wouldn’t recommend to other organizations. The fact that many team members were located outside the area, and many were contractors, played into that decision.

To help prepare for PI planning, HQR conducted a four-hour, half-day mock PI session with about 20 percent of team members to give them an idea of what to expect.

For the actual PI Planning event, CMS brought together more than 120 people, with approximately a quarter of them coming from out of town. The first day, unfortunately, proved to be chaotic and more challenging than expected for several reasons, according to Weaver and Ernie Ramirez, President of Agile Six Applications:

  • They underestimated the refinement status of the backlog and didn’t follow all relevant parts of the SAFe Implementation Roadmap
  • They had a single Certified SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC) in Ramirez (the recommendation is 3 – 5 per 100 development practitioners)
  • The agency skipped Leading SAFe®, SAFe® for Teams, and SAFe® Product Owner/Product Manager training
  • They did not identify Value Streams
  • CMS simultaneously created the implementation plan and prepared for the Agile Release Train (ART) launch

“It cannot be overstated how horrible day one of that PI went,” Ramirez said. “We didn’t lay out an implementation plan as well as we should have, and the development contractor didn’t have the resources or roles we thought they did.”

PI Planning Day Two: ‘Quarter-Million-Dollar Conversations’

Day two, however, could not have played out more differently. “At the end of day one, rather than throw in the towel, we rolled up our sleeves, and resolved to do better in day 2. We came out of day two with a plan that the teams would ultimately deliver on over the next 12 weeks,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez points to a few reasons for the turnaround. After the first day, people returned knowing more of what to expect and came more prepared. Also, the two-day format created a sense of urgency to make progress. Additionally, Ramirez walked around troubleshooting any issues immediately as they arose.

“After the first day, everyone had an opportunity to ‘sleep on it,’” he said. “A lot of the frustration at the end of the first day kind of washed out and everyone came back with a renewed focus and commitment to get the plan done,” Ramirez said.

SAFe case study

Team members and program managers alike left the event more hopeful than ever before, believing they could actually hit the plan’s targets. Most promising, Weaver and Ramirez noticed productive discussions happening throughout the room—often between people who had worked together for several years, but had never actually met one another in person.

“We witnessed a lot of team and cross-team bonding that just cannot be replicated over WebEx, Hangouts or Zoom,” Ramirez said. “There is something immeasurably valuable about being in the same room with someone, laughing, joking and yes, respectfully arguing. A lot of trust was earned and built on day two.”

“Quarter-million-dollar conversations were happening all over the place,” Weaver said. “That’s what it would have cost to fix problems down the road if those conversations had not happened.”

Communication, Collaboration across CMS + Contractors

Following that first PI, CMS began adhering to the SAFe Implementation Roadmap. They delivered Leading SAFe®, SAFe® for Teams, and SAFe® Product Owner/Product Manager training. Unlike the first PI, they identified Value Streams.

“For the second PI, we found a lot of value in identifying Value Streams and ARTs, which helped people understand where they fit in and how teams fit together,” Ramirez said.

Agile Six also delivered training to external contractors, including Leading SAFe®, SAFe® for Teams, and SAFe® Product Owner/Product Manager. Several people at contractor organizations earned their SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC) certification and began training their own people—knowing that it is likely to give them one more strength to promote as they seek to win future contracts with CMS.

During RFPs, contract organizations routinely compete against each other. However, once on contract, they must work with team members from competing firms. As an unexpected benefit, SAFe helped unify CMS team members and contractors, as well as contractors from various companies. Face-to-face, they collaborate more effectively and come to personally know the people behind the roles, developing comfortable working relationships with each other.

“It’s fundamentally better for American taxpayers that teams work together and break those walls down,” Weaver said. “I’m really proud of contractors’ ability to collaborate, share information, and work as a single team. Doing so has helped us reduce trouble tickets, so we know we’re delivering higher-quality solutions.

Because of CMS’s heavy use of contractors, each ART is comprised of people from numerous organizations. That required transformation leaders to be sensitive to job functions and responsibilities across the different companies on a single ART to foster trust and teamwork instead of competition. Having a single backlog for an ART creates further harmony among diverse team members.

27% Boost in Employee Satisfaction

So far, CMS has trained more than 200 people, including 25 – 30 Certified SAFe® Program Consultants (SPCs). The agency has also since launched four more Agile Release Trains (ARTs).

With training and preparation, participants have been more engaged in PI Planning events after that first learning experience. Communication, says Weaver and Ramirez, has been critical to the acceptance of the new way of working. Especially in the early days, they had to communicate clearly and persistently to convince people to join in the effort and assuage fears about what this meant for their futures.

SAFe Case Study

“We really had to do a lot of selling on SAFe to get people comfortable,” Weaver said. “People were genuinely apprehensive about changing the way they have worked for so long, but as they have seen results, they have embraced it.”

And over time, HQR has implemented other SAFe concepts such as Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF). Well ahead of a PI, the primary stakeholder has time to weigh the value of work and prioritize—which takes some of the emotion out of the decision, Ramirez says.

They are also in the process of adjusting budgets to fit more with shorter-term planning. Instead of years in advance, they began thinking in terms of three-month increments, in which Ramirez called a halfway step between the traditional approach and the ‘wild west’ of Scrum.

Higher Quality, Happier People

After a bumpy beginning, CMS points to measurable progress:

  • Budget shift to modernization versus maintenance – Instead of 100% of the budget going to maintain the existing HQR system, now only 40% is dedicated to it. A full 60% of the budget goes toward innovation for the system, helping the agency deliver on citizen expectations.
  • Higher quality – The HQR group reports a 55% decrease in help desk tickets from hospitals—demonstrating a direct impact to customer satisfaction.
  • Happier people – Surveys conducted before and after SAFe show a 27% increase in employee satisfaction.

While CMS can’t yet measure customer satisfaction gains directly, they know that fewer quality issues and more innovation contribute to that goal.

“SAFe provided a map that enabled us to shift to modernizing versus just maintaining the status quo,” Weaver said. “Beneficiaries will ultimately benefit from more user-friendly, human-centered design systems, which will allow us to reduce the burden on our providers.”

The group’s success has caught the attention of others, with trains now starting in other CMS groups. “Other programs within CMS have approached HQR asking us how to drive the same outcomes,” Santos said. “It’s a testament to how far we’ve come in the past year.”

  • Transformation starts with leadership – Ideally, you need two to three leaders who are fully committed to the change. If possible, send them through SPC training.
  • Coaches are a MUST – CMS found substantial value in them
  • Agile contracting is necessary – Rigid contracts that have highly specific deliverables can be an obstacle to agility and to embracing shifting priorities as new data emerges
  • Use contractors that understand Lean-Agile principles – Hire teams that truly understand what this means, not just those who can talk the talk
  • Find collaborative work space – From PI planning events to day-to-day work, collaborative work space enables teams to capture the value of face-to-face interaction
  • Just do it! – “If we could time-travel and do it again, we would emphasize a sense of urgency to get going,” Weaver said. “Set a near-term date and follow the roadmap.”
  • Engage employees – Any effort is only as strong as its people. Approach the change with empathy for what your team is undergoing and leverage the support of management and coaches to keep employees engaged and excited.
  • Start with Essential SAFe® – CMS found it valuable to simplify as much as possible and started with a program that lent itself to Essential SAFe. The learnings they achieved will influence larger programs, which will require multiple Value Streams.

Back to: All Case Studies

Suggested Case Study:

NHS Blood and Transplant

Fannie Mae – SAFe for Mortgage Financing

“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

Challenge:

Within three years, the organization would need to stand-up an entirely new business model that would change the way securities are issued to the market—and do so within aggressive timelines.

Industry:

Financial Services, Government

Results:

  • Releases now happen every month, instead of once or twice a year.
  • They integrate reliably every two weeks.
  • Fannie Mae reduced delivery risks.
  • The organization reduced the defect rate substantially.
  • Teams now deliver more than 30 attributes per sprint compared to 2-5 before.
  • Velocity increased from 10 story points to more than 30.

Best Practices:

  • Sync cadence – Establishing a common cadence was critical to success. Engineering practices must evolve in order to comply with bi­modal governance.
  • Work on database modeling upfront – For any data-heavy effort, perform advance work on database modeling to avoid the impact of changes identified later in the sprint.
  • Develop a playbook – Such guidance reduces rework for multiple teams working in parallel.

Introduction

Fannie Mae is the leading provider of mortgage financing in the United States. Operating under a congressional charter, Fannie Mae—and its sibling organization Freddie Mac—play an important role in the nation’s housing finance system; they provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the mortgage market.

Coming out of the housing crisis in 2013, Fannie Mae recognized that the lending environment it was moving into required it to be even more responsive to meet rapidly changing customer needs. Further, Fannie Mae recognized that agility was critical to achieving this objective—not just in technology, but across the organization.

In January 2015, Fannie Mae was preparing to align with guidance provided by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Congress, under a new joint venture named Common Securitization Solutions (CSS). As part of this effort, Fannie Mae undertook an initiative to transform some of their key internal business processes to align with CSS to build a universal securitization platform for the issuance and management of mortgage-backed securities.

SAFe for Mortgage Financing

Within three years, Fannie Mae planned to develop an entirely new business model that would change the way securities are issued to the market—and do so within aggressive timelines. More than 20 development teams, encompassing over 300 individuals, were needed to integrate development and testing efforts across 30 assets. As Fannie Mae prepared to implement this change, the organization encountered several challenges as the new model was being defined based on continuously evolving requirements.

“When you’re doing a large-scale integration with a lot of data, the number-one factor for success is early integration and early testing,” says Atif Salam, Director of Enterprise Data at Fannie Mae. “The federal mandate required us to mitigate risk from the get-go, and we realized early on it would not be possible following a waterfall approach. There was no better way for us to mitigate that risk than to adopt Agile.”

Overcoming Initial Roadblocks

Enterprise Data’s efforts to adopt Agile uncovered several challenges, both internal and external:

Challenge #1: No Agile capability evident for the initial two teams at the outset of the Enterprise Data initiative.

The first Enterprise Data teams were brand new to Agile, the Scrum methodology and, having been formed specifically for this initiative, working with each other.

Prior to adopting SAFe, Enterprise Data developed a standard on-boarding approach and entrance criteria for standing up new teams. Additionally, external Agile subject matter expertise was brought in to train and work with the teams, and an Agile Mature Model (AMM) was created to baseline behaviors and practices, as well as identify areas for optimization.

Thereafter, once the decision had been made to adopt SAFe, the program began to work through the SAFe Readiness Checklist. The AMM was used to set target benchmarks that all program teams were required to meet in order to ensure there was sufficient capability in place from which to scale.

SAFe for Mortgage Financing

Challenge #2: At the outset of the Enterprise Data initiative, a Scrum team could only complete a single user story due to inflexible architecture, end-to-end testing challenges, and numerous build constraints. Further, it was typical for the work to be gated by subject matter expertise between developers who viewed data attributes as a data point, comprised of both sourcing and vending complexities, that could only be implemented sequentially.

In response, technical leads focused on eliminating constraints, reducing complexity, and optimizing workflow. Specifically, Technical Leads worked with the teams to leverage cross-functional team/paired programming constructs to augment technical expertise. As a result, the teams began to view data attributes not as a data point, comprised of both sourcing and vending complexities, but rather as having two distinct pieces of business value, specifically sourcing and vending.

Additionally, they made the effort to move system integration testing (SIT), as well as user acceptance testing (UAT), left into the Scrum team. As a result, and over time, each team began to complete multiple user stories within a given sprint. Additionally, the organization adopted an emergent design mindset, formed cross-functional Agile feature teams, and aligned to a common cadence that synchronized their activities (e.g. sprint planning, Scrum-of-Scrums, sprint reviews).

Challenge #3: At the outset of Enterprise Data’s journey, complexity was further complicated by the fact that teams were required to develop and integrate their code in the same mainline, thereby replacing branching as an accepted technical practice. Additionally, Fannie Mae required new release traceability management that would satisfy corporate and federal governance requirements.

To address these challenges, technical leads and shared services focused on building a continuous integration capability, across all teams, using the same codebase. The organization had always had application lifecycle management (ALM), however, it needed to re­think continuous integration to realize true efficiencies. Over the course of 10 months, the organization focused on leveraging automation to reduce the time to implement builds from once every six months to multiple times a day.

Additionally, Enterprise Data adopted behavior-driven development engineering practices for traceability, automated testing, and prototyping.

SAFe for Mortgage Financing

Challenge #4: Upstream technical dependencies specific to architecture, database design/modeling, and test data provisioning prevented the teams from completing a single user story within the two-week sprint cadence.

In addition to the technical challenges the teams were facing, there were also multiple upstream dependencies on architecture, data modeling, and test data management that they had to resolve before a User Story could be implemented by a team working in a two-week cadence.

Initially, working ahead of the teams, a group of business analysts were assembled and assigned to groom the program backlog sufficiently so that User Stories met, or exceeded, 80% of the sprint team’s Definition of Ready. Despite this focus, however, there was barely enough ready work in the program backlog for the teams to bring into their respective sprint planning. This was due to the lead times required to resolve upstream dependencies as well as the need to respond to continually changing requirements.

In preparation for scaling, Enterprise Data worked with their business stakeholders to create a roadmap of features spanning one business quarter. Simultaneously, they focused on optimizing backlog health, sufficient in depth to support the Agile teams, for at least two consecutive sprints. Additionally, adopting a system perspective, the entire value stream was analyzed to better anticipate, and mitigate for, internal/external technical dependencies.

Challenge #5: The organization’s culture was accustomed to working within a traditional implementation methodology.

At the outset, Fannie Mae had a traditional command and control culture, supported by a broader ecosystem of corporate functions that had to change to support Agile. Those leading the change made a significant effort to work with leadership and management to pivot from the traditional role of directing delivery to becoming Lean-Agile leaders and critical change agents, both supporting the teams as well as modeling the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto.

As already noted, leadership and management changed their focus to clearing impediments impacting the teams. Additionally, they influenced corporate functions to align in support of Agile, get the business integrated and involved, as well as to put the pieces in place to create an environment focused on continuous learning. “Historically we would have seen challenges as failures in requirements or development rather than opportunities to fail fast and learn, and improve,” Salam explains.

While still new to their roles, the Lean-Agile leaders infused a sense of purpose in the teams and gave them autonomy to implement the work while decentralizing decision-making and minimizing constraints.

SAFe: Agility. Visibility. Transparency.

Although Fannie Mae had pockets of Agile capability up to this point, leadership understood that a scaled Agile methodology was required to achieve their objectives. Fortunately, individuals within the company had prior success with large-scale Agile deployments using the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®).

Fannie Mae teamed up with an external Scaled Agile Gold partner to develop and mature its Scrum capability and then deploy SAFe. As the first to make the transition, the Enterprise Data division became the torch bearer.

“We had multiple waterfall efforts, third-party integration, and a hard regulatory mandate that made coordination and execution exceptionally difficult,” explains David McMunn, the Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile Center of Excellence (COE). “SAFe provided the agility, visibility, and transparency needed to ensure we could integrate with the numerous other efforts, get predictable in our delivery, and ensure timelines are met.”

Fannie Mae applied a dogmatic approach to ensure the organization was developing a consistent set of practices across multiple teams at the outset. External coaches delivered Agile, Scrum Master, Product Owner, Leading SAFe (SA), and SAFe for Teams (SP) training. The SAFe training was then mandatory for every new team joining the effort.

Fannie Mae launched its first Agile Release Train (ART) encompassing six programs, across 12 teams, with more than 130 people, in June of 2015. Admittedly, that first Program Increment (PI) offered some learning experiences.

“In spite of all the preparation that went into the backlog, setting expectations, confirming attendance from stakeholders, and the training prior to planning, the first PI was somewhat of a chaotic experience,” says Scott Richardson, Chief Data Officer at Fannie Mae.

Context setting provided by the business, product, and architecture leads took time away from team break-out sessions and, as a result, the teams struggled to resolve all of the open requirements and scope questions to complete their plans.

“But by the end of the second day,” Richardson continues, “we started to see progress.” The teams had mapped out their dependencies on the program board, resolved, owned, accepted, or mitigated (ROAM) all of the known risks in the PI and achieved a Fist of Five confidence score of 3.

“The session offered the very first opportunity for all stakeholders to work together on this multi-million dollar program.” Richardson adds. “A new way of managing large-scale integration efforts at Fannie Mae was emerging that would spread across the technology enterprise.”

Over the next few PIs, the organization knew more clearly how to prepare for the PI planning meeting and confidence scores began averaging 4 and higher.

Modeling Confidence in the New Methodology

SAFe for Mortgage Financing

During cross-team planning in an early PI, it became clear that several teams were not on track to deliver important capabilities within the targeted timeline. “Some of my best new Agile team leaders offered to throw more people at the problem ‘just this once,’ and crash the schedule like they did in the old days,” Richardson says. “It’s in those moments that you need to model confidence in the Agile method, to be the calm in the eye of the storm.”
Instead, the Agile team leaders were encouraged to go back to the Product Owners regarding the change in priorities and empower them to devise a new minimum viable product. “Within a couple of hours, everything was back on track with planning, and ultimately all the teams delivered, and the external customer delivery was on-time,” Richardson says. “Now they carry this story with them, and are empowered to solve problems and make decisions in truly productive ways. It’s part of the culture.”

Gains across the Board

Today, Fannie Mae has come a long way. 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.

Fannie Mae 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. They significantly mitigated the risk inherent in complex integration between legacy and new architectures/applications, as well as between internal and external systems.
  • Faster feedback cycles – Enterprise Data delivers system demos and integrated code every two weeks. 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.
  • Improved predictability – Teams, within the program and across the enterprise, integrate reliably every two weeks.
  • 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.

After the initial deployment, the division rolled out SAFe to the rest of the organization, training up to 600 people on Leading SAFe, SAFe Advanced Scrum Master, SAFe Scrum Master, SAFe Product Manager/Product Owner, and SAFe for Teams, depending on roles. Several employees went on to achieve their SPC certification.

Currently, Fannie Mae runs three ARTs. The Enterprise Data ART recently completed its 13th PI. Additionally, there are more than 200 Lean-Agile teams across Enterprise IT, encompassing over 3,000 people. Functional and business portfolios are adopting lightweight Lean-Agile values and practices as part of their day-to-day activities.

“This way of working has spread across the organization,” Salam says. “It’s changing the way we deliver for the customer, the way we hire and do our budgeting, and is continuously extending further and further into the business.”

Back to: All Case Studies

Suggested Case Study:

Dutch Tax and Customs Administration

Australia Post – Implementing SAFe in Delivery Services

Australia Post - Implementing SAFe in Delivery Services

“SAFe has really helped bring the organization along its transformation journey. Its real value has been in the way it links strategy with decentralized execution, using metrics to enable a high level of transparency and fact-based decision making to focus on achieving business outcomes.”

Natalie Field, Head of MyPost Consumer

Challenge:

Effectively deliver solutions that sustain and further enable Australia Post as a trusted services provider, and delight customers with personalized digital products and services.

Industry:

Delivery Services

Results:

  • 100-fold increase in yearly production deployments with 98% cost reduction, enabling iterative product development
  • 400% Agile Release Train productivity increase over 18 months
  • Strong overall delivery predictability of 80%+
  • First-Time Delivery rate improved by 7 percentage points
  • Net Promoter Score rose by 8 points
  • Increased employee satisfaction and engagement

Best Practices:

  • Establish a learning and improvement mindset – Place a primary focus on learning and continuous improvement across all facets of delivery to achieve consistent growth in maturity and effectiveness.
  • Measure outcomes – Enabling a metrics and measurement capability links teams to business strategy and is key to ensuring business outcomes are effectively achieved.
  • Align to DevOps principles – Building a strong technology delivery platform aligned to DevOps principles enables iterative and innovative product
  • Focus on the entire system of work – Build organizational advocacy and sustainability by facilitating change and enablement for shared teams that support and govern Agile Release Trains.

Introduction

Australia Post is Australia’s iconic postal services provider. For 208 years, the organization has been integral to how people and communities connect across Australia. Through a collective workforce of over 50,000 people, Australia Post serves communities, citizens, and businesses, from large corporations to government departments.

Australia Post - Implementing SAFe in Delivery Services

Like many organizations, Australia Post’s business has been disrupted and must transform to adapt to the digital era. Traditional business pillars such as letters are in persistent decline, while the company faces fierce competition, but also immense opportunity with the growth of ecommerce. For Australia Post, that opportunity lies in creating sustainable competitive advantage through trusted relationships between consumers, businesses, and government.

Given these forces, Australia Post needed a new way of working to both sustain and further enable the organization as a trusted services provider, and to delight its customers with personalized digital products and services.

SAFe: Driving Change with Lean Structure and Common Language

Over the past four years, Australia Post has invested in its technology, people, and culture to change the way it works to focus on customer experiences and continuous innovation. To help achieve this agility in business, Australia Post selected and adopted the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) not only as an operating model but as a tool for change. With SAFe, the organization aims to describe, communicate, and build an understanding of how to leverage Lean and Agile principles across the organization.

“The structure and discipline outlined in SAFe has been a powerful way to communicate a different way of working,” says Daniel Fajerman, Head of Digital Engineering. “Using an industry proven framework offered a strong basis to start the conversation about working differently, providing a common language and consistent base to work off.”

Achieving Sustainable Change

Australia Post - Implementing SAFe in Delivery Services

The goal at Australia Post is sustainable, lasting change that fundamentally shifts how the organization approaches and delivers against its strategies. To do so, Australia Post must equip its people with knowledge and the ability to advocate for and be a part of this new way of working.

A broad and comprehensive training and enablement strategy was rolled out across the organization to build experience and maturity. With help from Mark Richards of CoActivation, a Scaled Agile partner, Australia Post trained more than 900 people in Leading SAFe® and SAFe for Teams® courses. This included key roles across executive leadership, within business functions such as finance, risk, architecture, security, marketing and sales, and of course technology leadership and teams.

From the beginning, Australia Post applied a persistent focus on cadence and synchronization – keys to building alignment and embedding disciplined delivery practices across diverse teams. With all of Australia Post on the same sprint (and then Program Increment) cadence, scaling teams and ultimately forming these into Agile Release Trains (ARTs) became a natural evolution.

Achieving sustainable change focused on four key interrelated areas of emphasis across the organization:

  • Cross-functional, long-running teams – Moving from transient project teams to cross-functional, long-running teams aligned to customer experiences was a foundational, critical change to the way people work.
  • Culture – Australia Post invested significantly in evolving the culture of the organization to one where curiosity, innovation, and a learning mindset predominate.
  • Technology enablement – Beyond cultural and process changes, improving delivery flow and time-to-value requires an effective build pipeline and deployment infrastructure aligned to DevOps principles.
  • System of work – Implementing a new way of working spans well beyond delivery teams to every part of the organization that supports the delivery of business initiatives. The change team worked closely with shared services groups to tailor approaches to enable and meet their needs under the Framework, including new innovative funding and governance models.

This multi-pronged approach formed sustainable building blocks for change and enablement. With the goal of implementing Agile Release Trains (ARTs), the early focus was on long-running teams and culture to allow maturity to build and grow. The greatest traction came with the advocacy and leadership of business sponsors and leads, who understood the increased business opportunity and had confidence in the delivery model.

MyPost Consumer – Creating a Platform for Personalized Services

Australia Post - Implementing SAFe in Delivery Services

Today, five ARTs now support Australia Post’s value streams and associated enterprise strategies. One of those trains, the MyPost Consumer ART, sits within Australia Post’s Consumer market segment value stream. Established in 2015 to play a significant role in the shift toward customer centricity, MyPost Consumer is creating an omni-channel platform to offer personalized services to customers. The train’s primary focus: the parcel delivery experience, which sits at the heart of Australia Post’s business.

The train is made up of 110 cross-functional roles, with each team responsible for specific components of the parcel delivery experience. As a multi-channel, multi-technology program, only 30% of features are purely digital. The most impactful features require changes to multiple channels and enterprise technology systems.

“Getting the job done right is about focusing as much on how we work together, as what we are working on,” says Natalie Field, Head of MyPost Consumer. “We know there are many unknowns in achieving our program strategy and we don’t, and won’t, always get it right. However we also know that by respecting each other, and staying committed to rapid learning cycles, we will always come up with great solutions. “

The train has achieved strong outcomes over the past couple of years. Australia Post attributes the success of the train to several pillars:

Create a customer-centric culture
Building a customer-centric culture meant creating an environment that empowers the entire team to make fact-based, data-driven decisions and equipping everyone to be advocates for the customer experience.

Focus on metrics to drive business outcomes
A strong focus on measurement has resulted in significant positive impact across the organization’s primary success measures. To help achieve this outcome, teams are equipped with technology tools and the ability to collect and report on data. This empowers teams to learn fast about in-market feature performance and make changes when necessary. The result is a data-driven approach to how the train identifies, prioritises, implements, and learns from each Program Increment.

Improve continuously for greater predictability and performance
Success of the train hinges on an ability to improve continuously and focus relentlessly on evolving the experience to meet customer needs. The train adapts and responds to market demands, continually improving technology capabilities to advance the business across its digital channel, retail stores, delivery network, and call centre.

Raising Satisfaction and Throughput, with Lower Cost

A strong focus on measurement and learning to maximize business outcomes resulted in significant positive impact:

Australia Post - Implementing SAFe in Delivery Services
  • Improved first-time delivery – The First-Time Delivery rate jumped by 7 percentage points over 12 months.
  • Reduced cost – Australia Post reduced its infrastructure costs by 98%.
  • Predictability – The train consistently delivered on 80% or more of its objectives.
  • Customer satisfaction – The Net Promoter Score rose by 8 points over the course of one year.
  • Employee engagement – Employee satisfaction and engagement increased.
  • Industry accolades – The train was voted the Best Customer Centric Project in Australia / New Zealand by the CX Management Conference.

Australia Post continues to evolve and grow to meet the needs of its business. Its focus on continuous improvement means the organization ever challenges itself to create the next wave of trusted services for its customers.

“SAFe has really helped bring the organization along its transformation journey,” Field says. “Its real value has been in the way it links strategy with decentralized execution, using metrics to enable a high level of transparency and fact-based decision making to focus on achieving business outcomes.”

Back to: All Case Studies

Suggested Case Study:

Dutch Tax and Customs Administration

NHS Blood and Transplant – Adopting SAFe in Healthcare

NHS Blood and Transplant – Adopting SAFe in Healthcare

“Adopting SAFe has set in motion the skill development and mindset for successful organizational change even as we scale to new programs, release trains, and people.”

Gary Dawson, Assistant Director, Solutions Delivery

Challenge:

NHSBT sought to improve the business processes and the supporting IT environment in two major programs, and do so without adversely impacting its core business or service delivery to patients.

Industry:

Government, Healthcare

Solution:

SAFe®, Consulting and Coaching Service

Results:

In the first PI, NHSBT was able to deliver a committed, finite number of product features, as well as prioritize IT operations alongside the business part of the organization.

Best Practices:

  • Include all in the journey — The mutual understanding between IJI, managers and employee teams was critical. “It made the difference that we were bringing them on the journey—rather than telling them how we were going to impose something on them. It has been a key element in NHSBT’s success,” Dawson says.
  • Show and tell — “Show and tell” sessions (every two weeks) and then a mid-PI retrospective helped the business see the benefits of the change process and really feel part of it.

The partner that made it happen:

Introduction

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority that provides a blood and transplant service to the National Health Service—supplying blood to hospitals in England, and tissues and solid organs to hospitals across the United Kingdom. Each year, donors give approximately two million donations of blood and 3,500 organs—saving and transforming countless lives.

Safeguarding the blood supply and increasing the number of donated organs involves collecting, testing, processing, storing, and delivering blood, plasma, and tissue to every NHS Trust in England. NHSBT also matches, allocates, audits, and analyzes organ donations across the whole of the UK.

With an increased need for its services, the organization recognized that effective technology is crucial to the delivery of safe products and services for patients. While looking ahead to its corporate 2020 vision, NHSBT identified several goals: replace an aging IT infrastructure, migrate to SaaS cloud-based services, and replace the critical operational applications underpinning its activities while ensuring they remain compliant with external regulatory monitoring.

NHSBT sought to revolutionize the way it interacts with blood donors by taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded by digital technologies. That means careful consideration of the realities of existing interdependencies between the national databases and NHSBT services, systems, data, processes, and people.

Adopting SAFe in Healthcare

NHSBT identified the need to improve the business processes and the supporting IT environment in two major programs: ODT Hub and Core Systems Modernization.

“NHSBT was embarking on its most complex transformation program ever, initially focusing on the Organ Donation and Transplantation (ODT) area of its business,” notes Gary Dawson, Assistant Director, Solutions Delivery. “It needed to modernize a significant percentage of its core systems, platforms, and architecture along with re-aligning the infrastructure to more modern cloud-based technologies. The impact on the current business and practices couldn’t be underestimated across the organization—we were anticipating changes in how we work and how the system worked.”

It’s All About the People

NHSBT employees truly care about the organization and its work. Dawson, working with the wider NHSBT ICT organization, felt that it was important to correctly evaluate IT needs in line with organizational changes and be able to guide the system changes with the people using them.

“We recognized that both the overarching change and the adoption of a new technical platform and architecture—the effects on the culture of the organization—could, if not managed strategically, create a complex management problem and have an impact not only on the core business, but also the working relationships of the people within NHSBT,” Dawson says. “We needed a system and guidance to adapt and benefit from the changes and we were clear that the waterfall methodology that we had previously relied on wouldn’t support this change. We have dedicated and passionate people who work here, who really care about the cause and want to achieve the goals of the organization, but this change would only work if everyone was on the same page and we could go through the journey together.”

A New Approach to Adopt Change

The Chief Digital Officer had set the strategy for implementing Agile into NHSBT and brought on Dawson specifically with this in mind. From day one he worked extensively and closely with the Business, IT, and Program Delivery stakeholders to ensure cross-organizational support. After an initial meeting, they knew that an experienced consultancy like Ivar Jacobson International (IJI) would aim to understand NHSBT and work collaboratively to deliver solutions and training so that internal changes were manageable.

IJI suggested NHSBT use Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) to help support the governance and manage both the organizational and technical changes. The ICT Leadership Team immediately took the view that this was the right methodology to achieve NHSBT’s goals and looked for an appropriate vehicle in which to introduce it. They decided the Organ Donation and Transplant (ODT) Hub Program as the most appropriate place to start implementation. ODT was initializing a hands-on software delivery and its timeline aligned well with the cadence of delivery that the framework provided. In addition, funding was in place and all the teams involved were based in one location. It would act as an ideal start and pilot for other elements of the organization to observe.

Adopting SAFe in Healthcare

Because ODT was the first in a series of transformational changes, it would also be the model that other parts of the organization would take as an example, so it was crucial to get it right from the start. “IJI’s expertise with Agile transformation programs was a perfect fit with what we were aiming to do. Because we’d be working with new team groupings, we wanted to assist employees with transitioning to new working relationships and processes and also address the naturally risk-averse elements,” Dawson says. “We had to stay within regulatory standards. Rapid and vast change, if not done properly, has the potential to be disruptive, and actually hinder advancement. We chose Ivar Jacobsen International to provide company guidance, including coaching and training services, for the implementation of SAFe at NHSBT.”

A Proven Framework in SAFe®

SAFe offers a broad range of content and phased implementation for organizations looking to increase productivity, change system structures, increase employee training, add solutions-based management and develop greater efficiencies across company platforms and people.

Because proper preparation is critical to set the stage for smooth adoption, IJI delivered a two-day workshop, ‘Leading SAFe,’ that engaged managers interactively while explaining what SAFe was and how to implement it properly.

Meanwhile, Dawson and IJI also began to structure team units. They identified product managers and product owners working collaboratively to define their roles within SAFe and guided them on SAFe practices. Training roll-outs started with 10 or 12 courses, ranging from large-room sessions of 30-40 people for SAFe overviews and discussions of how it could work within NHSBT. These were followed over a two-month period by smaller and more interactively focused sessions for product managers and owners intended to further guide them and increase engagement. Sessions included six to 10 people with the appropriate attendees to maximize the interaction and cross-functional engagement—even at the point of training.

Meanwhile, program managers, with Dawson, started to work on organizational components, such as planning sessions across the organization (75 – 80 people). Planning included who would be involved, as well as logistical challenges. Dawson spent considerable time explaining the rollout and SAFe implementation to all levels of employees to facilitate understanding and new team groupings. IJI was on hand at all stages of implementation to guide, coach, teach, and assist teams to transition to SAFe, following a strategic Program Increment (PI) cycle that ensured SAFe was adopted by employees with secure checkpoints and feedback along the way.

Building Success

Adopting SAFe in Healthcare

Over the first Program Increment (PI), NHSBT’s ODT program came through on most of its deliverables. “It was amazing how much we were able to do in such a short time,” Dawson notes. “Now that we’ve done that, we can see what we need to do for future PIs and are continually able to refine and understand the teams’ velocity; it’s all falling into place and people really are committed.”

In that first PI, they were able to develop and learn to work effectively as a team and were able to deliver a committed, finite number of product features, as well as prioritize IT operations alongside the business element of the organization.

During the short introduction phase of three to four months, they were able to not only onboard and train all the teams aligned to the Release Train, they were also able to get the business component of NHSBT aligned with IT. There were challenges—such as integrating business managers into the teams and defining product owners—but “show and tell” sessions (every two weeks) and then a mid-PI retrospective helped the business see the benefits of the change process and really feel part of it.

“We would never have had that level of interaction in a waterfall delivery,” Dawson says. “To achieve the levels of understanding of both the technology and deliverables—along with all the interdependencies—would have taken months of calls, meetings, and discussions. We planned the next three months in just two days and now we retain that level of engagement on a daily basis.”

SAFe has become part of everyday procedures at NHSBT, with a series of checkpoints and loops that ensure communication is clear and efficient between teams and individuals. IJI understood that it was important to Dawson and NHSBT that change occurs but not at the cost of quality or control, and that value to the business should be equal to the ability of the organization to cope with the rate of change. NHSBT was able to build Agile confidence across the ODT program—senior stakeholders could support the cultural change because SAFe provides the governance required to build in the needs of Quality Assurance and regulators.

Successfully Scaling to New Programs

Having delivered the first MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of the ODT Program, it is clear that the introduction and embedding of SAFe within NHSBT has begun to provide early delivery of significant business benefits.

NHSBT has now run two SAFe big-room planning events for its Core Systems Modernization (CSM) Program, which is potentially a much larger program to replace its core blood offering system relating to blood, blood-derived products and tissues.

“We’re definitely not standing still,” Dawson says. “We are building momentum and will continue to run with the same rhythm that SAFe has provided us with our ODT program. Adopting SAFe has set in motion the skill development and mindset for successful organizational change even as we scale to new programs, release trains, and people.”

Back to: All Case Studies

Suggested Case Study: Royal Philips

pôle emploi – Benefits of Using SAFe in Employment Agency

pôle emploi - Benefits of Using SAFe in Employment Agency

Pôle emploi is the French national employment agency tasked with providing and processing benefits for the unemployed and seniors, helping the unemployed find jobs, and providing employers with recruitment resources. They employ over 54,000 civil servants through 900+ agencies, and publish more than 4 million job offers annually.

Industry:

Government

Overview

In 2014, the agency processed 8 million requests for financial aid, distributing $31.7 billion euros in benefits.

In early 2015, pôle emploi was asked to develop a new process for job seekers, no small feat given that the organization was operating in a legacy environment which included a 1600-member IT Department comprised of Scrum and waterfall teams, working with new technology as well as COBOL systems, and integrating work from several external suppliers

Benefits of Using SAFe in Employment Agency

They first met with key stakeholders to create the program context and agree on realistic scope, then explored options to fulfill the commitment, and sought a solution to meet the needs of these key areas:

  • What can we do to meet our commitments ?
  • What can we do to stay in sync?
  • What can we do to increase team collaboration?
  • What can we do to reduce integration risks on such a large scope ?
  • How can we maintain a good vision of the product?
  • How can we track the progress of so many teams?

In early 2015, they launched a SAFe pilot program to see how the Framework would work within their unique context. As part of this effort, they launched an Agile Release Train (ART) with 5 Scrum teams running on 3-week sprints, managing five cross-functional initiatives. Through Program Increment planning, they brought together all the key actors in the same room to identify key features that needed to be integrated, and dependencies between the different software components. They created a new role, Delivery Manager, to track overall progress, and used IBM’s Rational Team Concert (RTC) to track team progress.

After the first few months, they were able to identify where the Framework mapped easily to their context, where it didn’t, and how to reconcile some of those differences. For instance, they opted to move from the Delivery Manager role to a Release Train Engineer (RTE) role, as defined in SAFe, and began using SAFe-recommended templates to increase visibility on the new business requirements. They also decided to align the ART with their business program.

Today, the IT organization operates with both agile and non-agile teams collaborating, and is transitioning the non-agile teams to agile practices through their participation in the SAFe ART. They are working within the Framework to identify areas for continuous improvement and address questions such as:

  • How do we manage to take the business further within Agility?
  • Could WSJF help our prioritization process?
  • Who should assume the Product Management role in our organization?
  • How can we move forward with the system team?
  • Should we organize PO sync?
  • Who can be assigned the System Architect role?
  • Who should deal with the enablers and stories?
  • Will we be able to dissociate PI from our quarterly IT releases?
  • What do we need to do to move more teams to an agile cycle?

Get the rest of the story—including the update—below.

Many thanks to the team at pôle emploi for providing the study, and sharing your experience with the SAFe Community: Cécile Auret (SPC4), Methods Engineer, Jerome Froville (SPC4), Methods Engineer, and Michel Levaslot, Manager.

Back to: All Case Studies

Suggested Case Study:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services