Enterprise scale agile teams work on an aligned cadence: that is, all teams start and end their sprints at the same time, which allows them to plan, adapt and deliver together. This is critically important for several reasons: stable teams (those that stay consistent throughout sprints and releases) are more productive; a synchronised cadence establishes set routines, so that teams can better adjust to any unplanned changes; and planned timeboxes help batch and limit the
work in progress, making teams more predictable.
Release planning, or "Big Room Planning", is the key ceremony of enterprise scale agile. It brings the company vision and product roadmap into the same room with the people who will be executing on it -- which, at large companies, can be hundreds of people -- to plan the work for the coming time increment (typically a quarter, or 10 to 12 weeks.)
During big room planning, an executive sets the vision and context for the work to be done; delivery teams plan and prioritise their feature backlogs and slot stories into sprints; team leaders help surface and resolve any needed adjustments, risks and dependencies; and then everyone involved votes on their commitment to the plan. Companies that do big room planning this way deliver the right products to market more predictably, and with fewer risks.
3. How do you know if you are ready for enterprise agile?
You can start with enterprise scale agile from wherever you are now. Some organisations start by piloting an agile team or two and move to enterprise scale agile after they've mastered the fundamentals. However, we're seeing more companies using a "big bang" approach and implementing agile practices across an entire programme or department. With either method, you'll begin seeing enormous benefits with the very first big room planning session.
Scaling agile, especially in large enterprise companies, isn't just about adding more agile teams. Agile at scale requires integrating agile principles into your organisational structure, company culture, process, operations and strategic thinking. For the best results, you'll scale horizontally (coordinating and aligning teams of teams) and vertically (connecting development work to company strategy and portfolio initiatives.) That sounds big, but you can start small! By taking an agile approach to your agile adoption, you break things into smaller chunks, iterate and try things out, retrospect on how you did, and then use that feedback to improve.
If you're considering agile at scale, then it can be helpful to consider how you'd answer these questions: How does work flow to your teams? How far into the future do you plan? Do you include people from outside IT or engineering in your planning? What happens if the world changes after you plan? Your answers can help you gauge how well you're currently delivering on your company's strategy. And finally, you should ask yourself if you can afford to (not) adopt agile practices across your organisation. Are your current methods for working keeping up with the rate of change and disruption influencing you? Do you want to keep your business alive in the 21st century? If so, then you're ready for agile.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.