ESC Leads a Cultural Transformation
September 2016
A glance at the SAFe® 4.0 for Lean Software and Systems Engineering

The Enterprise Service Center (ESC) has recently begun an initiative to implement the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) for the enterprise. Robyn Burk, Director of the Enterprise Services Center and the ESC Leadership Team have established organizational goals of continuous improvement and learning. To that end, members of the ESC, organized a staff of SAFe, Agile Scrum, Kanban, and Lean experts and coaches to lead the charge as Change Agents. The initiative was planned over the past year but officially started in May of 2016. The agile coaches have since led efforts to train the ESC staff with a goal of 100% instruction for all ~1,200 ESC employees and contractors. To date, over 360 students have attended one or more of three courses designed for leaders, managers, and practitioners. There is also an industry recognized certification that each student may test for at the completion of each course. Over 21 courses have been instructed to date with more planned over the next several months until the saturation rate is achieved.

In order to keep up with ever changing technology (hardware and software), an organization must also relentlessly improve its way of working. Training is the first step in a multi-year effort to transform an organization’s culture to one based on the value system and principles of the SAFe and Agile Manifesto. ESC is leading that cultural transformation with a dedicated focus on relentless improvement. The patterns followed, or the “how we get there”, are all part of the SAFe implementation. To be successful, the ESC is relying on each of its amazing people to lead the transformation as Change Agents.

Examples of work produced from ESC’s “Product Backlog Workshop.”

The efforts of training on SAFe and Agile Scrum have already delivered value to the ESC organization. ESC agile coaches were able to facilitate a “Product Backlog Workshop” collaboration meeting, where staff members planned and mapped out dependencies for all major ESC initiatives and programs. The key output of the workshop is the “Program Board” with initiatives and programs that were analyzed for dependencies, risks, and planning requirements out to 2018. This Program Board was used as a key source for the ESC Technology Roadmap and as an input into strategic plans and program/team planning.

One of the Agile Release Train teams planning together in front of their iteration boards.
ESC conducted its first PI Planning event on October 13-14, 2016 with over 140 ESC staff participating! One of the primary outcomes was this Program Dependency Board.

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is the need to have face-to-face conversations. SAFe takes face-to-face conversation to the next level via Program Increment (PI) planning. PI planning is a routine event that occurs on whatever PI cadence (usually 8-12 weeks) the train selects.

The result of the planning event is a commitment to an agreed set of objectives for the next PI. The meeting is largely face-to-face. However, in geographically distributed Agile Release Trains (ART), the event may occur at multiple locations simultaneously, with real-time communication between the locations. PI planning requires preparation, coordination, and communication. Prior to the planning session, Product Management collaborates with agile teams, stakeholders, and customers to develop the roadmap, program vision, top features, and milestones. System Architects/Engineers prepare technical briefings and guidance to support planning. The Product/Solution vision and roadmap guides the delivery of features. The roadmap communicates the ART deliverables over a near-term time line—typically six months, or about three PIs. The roadmap provides visibility into the committed deliverables of the upcoming PI, and it shows forecasts, with medium confidence, for the following PI or two. Product Management develops and updates the roadmap, as the vision and delivery strategy evolve.

An example of ESC’s rigorous Program Increment Planning (PIP) schedule for day one of their two-day event.

ESC will continue training staff on the SAFe, the Agile Manifesto, and organizational agility. ESC begins its first program increment on November 1, 2016 where the 11 teams participating on the first ART will begin to execute the plans they created at the PI Planning event. The next PI Planning event is scheduled for January 25-26, 2017 where ESC plans to launch a second ART and continue planning together.

For more information about using the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) for your business processes, please contact or at (405)954-6550. To learn more about Scaled Agile Framework® and improving systems and software visit:

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