The Scaled Agile Puzzle? You’re missing a piece.

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I recently read an article titled Four Must-Have Rules for Scaling Enterprise Agile. It’s an excellent article. There is nothing in the article that I can argue with. It covers the fundamentals of most of the things a company needs to do in order to scale their agile development. The problem? It’s incomplete. There’s at least one more ‘must-have’ for scaling agile.

Recognize the importance of integration.

SAFe is hard. It requires quite a change of perspective.  Everyone is trying to scale Agile, but few are successful. Even those who are able to get some traction tend to struggle, because a piece of the puzzle is missing. And most enterprises don’t know that integration is the puzzle piece they’re looking for.

Most of the information available on Scaling Agile deals with the soft side of the issue. There’s the mindset, the people, the process–all vital to making this work. And there’s plenty of information out there  that covers these things. You can read about how to implement SAFe on the Scaled Agile Framework site. You can Google for training classes. Even the tool vendors are talking about SAFe. Here’s an example of information from Rally, and JIRA, and VersionOne. But notice that one important thing is missing.

How to integrate your tools and team. 

To build software, you need a multi-discipline team and a variety of tools–like RTC or JIRA for your engineering execution, CA PPM or HP PPM for your portfolio management, or Target Process or Aha! for your product road-mapping.

Even if you use the best tools on the market, you still need to integrate your tools and team to make SAFe work. Without an integration layer, your organization will drown in a sea of emailed requirements, spreadsheets of test results, and endless meetings to update statuses from one tool to another. And not only is that inefficient, it’s impossible to scale.

Personally, I find the silence around integration deafening. If I want to implement Getting Things Done, everywhere I look, there’s talk about the tools to use. Should I use EvernoteTodoistWunderlistMoleskin notebooks? There’s discussion and debate about what tool I should use. If I want to ramp up my data analysis practice, I can find great arguments for PythonExcelRTableauSAS, and others. But when it comes to integration tools needed for SAFe practices, there is a dearth of information. Why? 

Because not only is integration hard and, when done well, invisible, it’s also fairly new when it comes to Agile circles. 

So yes, it’s important to define what large-scale Agile means for your organization. It’s also important to evolve past waterfall habits… and recognize that Agile isn’t magic and that you need to put people first. But there is one more thing…

You need to add the missing piece–integrate your tools and team to allow automated communication–to complete the SAFe puzzle.