Are We Spending Agile Funds Correctly?

As more and more organizations adopt a SAFe-based top-down approach to scaled Agile, discussions about value streams and return on the Agile investment are becoming more commonplace.

Many of the attendees we interacted with at the recent Atlassian Summit 2014 stopped by the cPrime booth to talk about identifying and tracking spending versus established strategy in an Agile environment. There are definitely a lot of questions surrounding that subject because most of the tools on the market don’t make this kind of tracking easy, and to many organizations, it’s breaking new ground.

One of the huge announcements at the Summit was the release of the JIRA Portfolio management add-on, which goes a long way to connect the dots for portfolio-level executives and managers who are working with large-scale business initiatives and epics, and also need to correlate their strategic decisions with financial resource allocation.

In many cases, as we’ve worked with various clients through Agile transformations or helped with troubleshooting after a transformation hit a roadblock, we’ve found that decision makers at the top of the organization seem to be flying blind when making investments that could number in the millions of dollars. They’re often shocked to find that where they estimated 80% of their investment was going directly to development and 20% to support services, the actual figures were in the reverse.

This kind of situation can spell disaster in the long run, even for large and well-established businesses. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been transitioning our training, coaching, and transformation models to more effectively promote a top-down approach to Agile adoption, starting at the portfolio level and drilling down to the program and team levels once strategy and appropriate financial goals are in place.

Doing so puts an Agile transformation on much firmer footing and paves the way for more effective evaluation of the value streams the business is investing in right from the start.

Case Study: Large Publishing House Optimizes Agile Spend

The publisher’s Director of Agile Practices and Transformation Program Management from this large company wanted “an IT organization that delivers consistently, faster, with quality, and can maintain a business-aligned economic view. To accomplish this we need tools that support a sound delivery process. We also need tools and processes that provide transparency in all aspects of our work (i.e., epics, features, stories, tasks, defects, spikes, risks, etc.).”

As we began working with this client, we realized they had a project-centric view of the world. Teams were having trouble sizing work. They were struggling with story estimates and were experiencing pain with basic release planning. Dates continued to slip and QA was outside the Scrum teams. A project-centric strategy was leading to unrealistic workloads. They needed to optimize their technology delivery in order to meet demand, deliver on time, keep teams motivated and excited about their work all while delivering consistent quality.

cPrime was engaged to create, test, and implement a JIRA SAFe solution that addressed the publishers challenges. cPrime configured JIRA Agile Boards to help manage work and bridge together the SAFe hierarchy for value-stream reporting. Additionally, we established a hierarchy of issues across Portfolio, Program, and Projects to ensure visibility and planning. This also allowed for reporting on all work across the organization.

“We needed a process to enable our teams to move faster – and confidently. Realizing that much of our cost is in labor and resources – we needed to be able to visualize and estimate our WIP thresholds, size our work accurately and consistently, and be ready to provide a true valuation of cost at every stage of development,” said their Director.

After moving to the SAFe framework, and experiencing their first Agile Release Train, (ART), they were able to see benefits from a program and portfolio level and understood much of their costs in labor and resources. They were able to determine a true valuation of cost at each stage of development.

Are you making the most of your Agile funds? Explore this case study , or contact us to duplicate this scaled Agile transformation success in your own organization.