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Building a high performing technology function with SAFe

The client situation

Our client is an Australian icon in the finance industry and with nimble more Agile competitors changing the market dynamics it’s business and technology functions were constantly looking for new ways to go faster and to simplify software development. 

As part of its digital technology roadmap, the organisation wanted to adopt better Agile software development practices as a way to replace bimonthly software releases with continuous delivery of new features to market.

With the investment the organisation was making in terms of the resources to develop software to benefit clients, customers and employees waiting for a bimonthly software release was no longer an optimal business model.

The challenge

Our large finance client faced a unique challenge.

They had undergone several transformations attempts without success of making change stick within their business processes and were now under significant public and shareholder scrutiny.

There were also now additional pressures from new market entrants who had developed business models for a complete digital customer and employee experience.

Given the complexity of the marketplace challenge adopting agility that could scale was the only workable solution to remain competitive.

The group CIO was the champion for the complete shift to Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) methods and was determined to embed the change once and for all.

Having already completed several scrum-based Agile training programs as part of previous technology led transformation work, our client and their people were under a fair amount of training fatigue.

The solution

Our client sought to rapidly upskill its workforce in SAFe principles and techniques via an accredited program and recognised certification. We tailored the program, support and our coaching to their needs, training over 180 people to date.

Alchemy provided hands on practitioner experience and capability in utilising SAFe and technology function management to ensure our client felt safe in its rapid change ambition.

We started the engagement with a practical and open workshop, which we used to understand the lessons from part transformational change both positive and negative.

In discussion with our client, we adapted their SAFe program content to cover specific areas of concern; for example, we introduced some additional content to explain how a Program Increment (PI) workshops would work in a complete SAFe setting. 

We also augmented the existing team with Product Owners and Scrum Masters and revised the standard use case and roles to reflect a typical PI Planning event aligned to one that our client might run. This helped to facilitate learning and promote understanding by making the training more relevant to our clients people and their day job.

We also introduced a new post-training and certification steps to build on and consolidate the training, working with our client to devise content to develop story-writing skills and a workshop to explore how the stories could be broken down into smaller more manageable items.

We provided on the ground coaching and mentoring to those progressing through the program so that they could build confidence and gain practical hands on experience when it mattered most during their day to day work.

Lastly, we co-created a set of measurements that will truly drive the performance of all Agile teams and roles to continually improve and understand where blockers are impacting overall software delivery performance.

The results

Alchemy Solutions resources worked with our clients leadership and team to maximise the outcomes of the SAFe training and certification.

Alchemy successfully designed and continues to deliver the SAFe program content, and coaching.

As a result we have helped our client to effectively:

  • Ensure the SAFe program that was developed for our client was purpose fit and leveraged off the previous Agile investments and Agile change efforts.
  • Provide the practical and real life practitioner experience to foster positive mindsets and culture through real work examples of success.
  • Create the cross team and function synergies through cross-functional teams enablement and design, translating the desired agile culture into actions, building the right structures to support individuals,
  • Augment and support the internal and external teams to maintain and evolve their digital vision in an evolving market landscape.

As a strategic SAFe partner, we have been instrumental in helping our client work towards its organisational goal of adopting more Agile software development practices as a way to replace bimonthly software releases with continuous delivery of new features to market.

Together we have developed a formal set of key SAFe metrics that can be used internally and with external stakeholders, to continue to measure and embed best practice within software development lifecycles.

Our team continues to work with our client across the organisation and support the transformation agenda.

Final thoughts

Alchemy’s key sponsor wrote “I just want to say thank you. Alchemy brought an enormous amount of leadership to the roll out of SAFe within our organisation. Right from the beginning we all felt as a leadership team that our trusted advisor had arrived and this was replicated by each Alchemy resource involved. The work Alchemy did for us has been transformational.’’

Brining our real world experience in delivering a broad range of business and technology transformation projects, Alchemy have partnered with our client and delivered SAFe to transform the technology delivery of valuable customer and client software.

Alchemy’s leadership on the ground with sleeves rolled up provided support and leadership guidance to all people involved supported by the following Alchemy tools and techniques

• People First – Alchemy brings a distinct and holistic people, process and technology approach to each engagement which helps in identifying and remediating blockages to communication and process flows. The identification and prioritisation of customer and employee journey’s ensures line of sight to what’s important – People!

• Alchemy’s Ei5™ method – is designed to be engaging and clear for business and technology resources and identifies business ownership as critical to delivery success. The use of agile techniques, tools and rituals ensure that everyone understands their role and conflicts are resolved quickly.

• Partnering Framework – Alchemy’s partnering framework ensures a clear pathway for everyone involved to experience success. Alchemy’s people and culture transfer knowledge and provide a collaborative environment and tools for all parties to engage in a safe, visible and positive way.