Implementing Scaled Agile on Azure

How to Implement SAFe Practices Using Azure Boards and DevOps Pipelines

To address enterprise level of complexity via the same ethos and principles of Agile development we can look to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

SAFe is the world’s leading framework for scaling Agile across the enterprise.

Used by hundreds of the world’s largest organizations, SAFe sustains and drives faster time-to-market, dramatic increases in productivity and quality, and improvement in employee engagement.

Here they describe it’s role in implementing DevOps, based on a number of key foundations:

  • Culture of Shared Responsibility.
  • Automation of Continuous Delivery Pipeline.
  • Lean Flow Accelerates Delivery.
  • Measurement of Everything.
  • Recovery Enables Low-Risk Releases.

Scaled Agile provides a superset of Agile practices that enables an enterprise organization to expand and connect their DevOps activities to the broader needs of program and portfolio management. Practice elements like ‘Strategic Themes‘ allow for clear links between business objectives and Portfolio Epics and Program Visions provide context for the decision-making and budgeting associated with those objectives.

TechBeacon describes Four big challenges for SAFe implementation:

  • Identifying your initial epics.
  • Identifying value streams and your initial trains.
  • Executing a release planning session.
  • Ensuring code quality.

The first point mainly relates to understanding the concept of SAFe Epics and Value Streams and how to apply them, so the author sets out to clarify the how they work and how to use them, through some example scenarios. The third deals with organizations finding they lack the momentum they’d hoped for from SAFe implementation, and so Anthony suggests an approach for better galvanizing a kick-off event.

For the fourth point about code quality, he highlights that the quality of the foundational work practices is key, such as requirements gathering, architecture and testing. If these are poor then an Agile framework will simply speed them up, so it’s important the development of individual skill sets is part of this mix.

Scaled Agile on Azure

Microsoft is one example of a vendor who offers a solution for implementing these practices.

As they define here their Azure Boards service can be used for SAFe implementation, to configure them for SAFe portfolios. It is part of their DevOps suite, which also includes the DevOps Server, Continuous Delivery Pipelines, and Azure Repos, for private Git repository hosting.

Chevron offers a case study of a client implementing Scaled Agile on this platform. With 40 scrum teams moving applications to the cloud at high speed, global energy provider Chevron needed a way to integrate its multifaceted and cross-functional efforts.

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) methodology held the key to Chevron’s success, but only after switching to Microsoft Azure Boards could the company effectively use SAFe to build the scalable development framework it required. With Azure Boards, Chevron development teams now quickly deliver new business capabilities, keeping the company at the forefront of a fast-changing and increasingly demanding market.

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