Agility at scale is one of the crucial issues for large organizations, so we interviewed four experts in order to put together an ebook, allowing us to understand the contributions of agility at scale and SAFe. The following article is an extract from our ebook and allows us to understand what does scaled agile mean.

Laurent Charles
Laurent CHARLES, CEO and co-founder of Enalean (Tuleap)

“Scaled agile”, as it’s termed, involves scaling up agile approaches within an enterprise.

We might say that this scaling process can involve three different approaches:

  • Having an increasing number of agile teams in the organisation. This involves implementing tried and tested practices, typically with some pilot teams leading the way, so that more teams – or even all of the teams – take an agile approach.
  • Making projects more and more agile. This is a less well-recognised aspect of the scaling process as it’s probably less visible. Here, teams that are already agile increase the number of agile practices they deploy. This is a fairly natural development, since an agile approach naturally encourages progress and the implementation of new practices. However, we’re still talking about scaling up in this case, as extending the use of such agile practices involves more and more people, technologies, customers and suppliers, thereby complicating the smooth operation of an ideal Scrum team of seven people.
  • Implementing increasingly large-scale agile projects. Often the concept of scaled agile is used to refer only to this particular aspect, in terms of having 50, 100, 500 or 1000 people work in an agile way on the same project. And that is a real challenge. However, it’s interesting to note that success on this point often depends – or possibly always depends – on the progress made in respect of each of the other approaches. 

In fact, from my perspective, scaling up an agile approach actually tends to relate to iterations in any one of these three aspects, with the team then moving to another aspect, and then proceeding with iterations based on the context or objectives involved.

Alexandre Cuva coach agile
Alexandre CUVA, agile coach agile and manager of SoCraAgile

A scaled agile approach also enables different departments to become aligned…

such as any departments that share a common goal (for example IT, sales and support). Scaled agile doesn’t necessarily involve the application of a specific framework, such as SAFe, Scrum@Scale, LeSS or Nexus… You can scale up using basic practices like Scrum

jean-claude delagrange coach agile
Jean-Claude DELAGRANGE, agile coach

In addition, a scaled agile approach can be applied to an important project, an entire program, or even all or part of an enterprise.

Laurence Hanot coach agile
Laurence HANOT, agile coach at Zenika

Agility at scale as a multidimensional approach

Like Laurent and Alexandre, I see scaled agile as a multidimensional approach.
“Horizontally”, it enables multiple business units, departments and teams to collaborate on aspects ranging from gathering user requirements to delivering the systems or applications that meet those needs. Here, we can implement a number of practices, such as design thinking, lean startup, Kanban and/or Scrum, DevOps, and so on. 

Its “vertical” dimension comes in when we need to have a large number of teams collaborating so as to deliver a product. Here, scaled agile frameworks are a helpful way of embracing the complexity that Scrum alone cannot always address.

Finally, an enterprise-wide scaled agile approach will leverage these two axes at the same time, expanding the approach by also adding in the rest of the ecosystem, including: HR, finance, commercial, and so forth.

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