SAFe vs LeSS vs DAD: the Three Frameworks to Scale Agile

Thanks to the overall flexibility and increased performance that the Agile methodology enables, its area of application has expanded far beyond software development. For example, Scrum, which is usually mentioned as one of the major tools in the arsenal of any IT specialist, is widely used in construction, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and many other industries. Despite such popularity, Scrum has its limitations. Tasks that modern software development companies have to deal with become more and more challenging every year following the complexity of software systems. As a result, more sophisticated methodologies appear on the market. Large-scale Agile frameworks are an excellent example of how developers can deal with its problems when Scrum isn’t enough. Today, we’ll consider three major large-scale frameworks out there: SAFe, DAD, and LeSS.

How Agile Frameworks Help When It’s Time to Scale

Let’s imagine an average day in a company that provides custom software development services and actively uses the Agile approach. When you deal with a small or medium project, one or two Scrum teams can be enough. All involved specialists hold daily or weekly Scrum meetings to discuss the current progress and decide how the product should grow in the future. The process is well established, everybody knows what they have to do, collaboration and dependencies management goes like clockwork.

However, everything can change when you have to work on a large-scale project. In this scenario, the need for a complex software product to work and scale effortlessly requires a special approach regarding application architecture, database, and dozens of other aspects. Large-scale project development may involve ten or more teams, each comprising half a dozen specialists with unique expertise, preferences, and area of responsibility.

Read Also The Benefits of Agile Software Development

If a company follows the classical Scrum approach, each team can make their part of the product with no issues, but the problems may arise when they need to collaborate to understand how best to sew the individual parts of the project together. Agile teams have to plan not only each iteration but also the product and portfolio. This circumstance adds extra layers of complexity to the SDLC management process. To deal with the challenges these scenarios can lead to successfully large-scale Agile frameworks were invented.

Comparing SAFe, DAD, and LeSS Frameworks

SAFe

Scaled Agile Framework is designed for developers creating complex applications. The main idea behind its creation was to take the best concepts from the worlds of Lean and Agile and fuse them. SAFe describes core competencies that help Agile teams to boost the organization’s efficiency. The first one is called Lean-Agile Leadership. It reflects the leadership skills and the ability of team members to learn and guide their less experienced colleagues. This competency relates to the product as a whole, while the remaining four correspond to the specific levels. For example, Team and Technical Agility is related to the Team Level. It describes the tech skills that the Agile team members have and Scrum practices they must use to achieve their goals. DevOps and Release on Demand is a part of the Program Level. That’s where the familiar Scrum model reaches the next level. According to SAFe, this level implies five sprint cycles plus one extra sprint dedicated to innovative planning. During this stage, the development team can demonstrate their best qualities related to innovative thinking and problem solving.

Business Solutions and Lean System Engineering lays at the Large Solution Level. Its main purpose is to provide a recipe for adopting lean-agile methods without interfering too much with the natural course of things. Portfolio Level or Lean Portfolio Management Competency is the last one on this list. It’s required for enduring that the entire development strategy follows the Lean principles.

One of the major disadvantages of SAFe is that, despite allowing Agile teams to scale effortlessly according to the needs of a specific product, it limits their flexibility. Too much upfront planning is one of the main reasons SAFe is often considered not a 100% pure Agile approach. SAFe should be used by those who already have some experience with Agile and are looking towards a more deep organizational transformation.

DAD

Disciplined Agile Delivery looks pretty similar to the previous approach. It implies the use of both Lean and Agile elements. The major benefit of adopting this framework instead of relying on more traditional approaches is the ability to cover the needs of large-scale projects more efficiently. This approach recommends Agile teams to follow such phases as Inception, Construction, and Transition. Additionally, it provides six categories of life cycles the development team can use.

For example, the Construction phase for the Agile lifecycle must be completed in full accordance with Scrum. All the subsequent phases can be performed according to guidelines provided by DAD. We’ve already learned how this approach works in one of our previous articles, so we won’t dive any deeper into its specifics and focus on DAD’s primary advantages and disadvantages.

Read Also Major Principles and Benefits of Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)

A plethora of models that DAD provides enables more flexibility for any team that wants to scale with no problems. Wide possibilities allow adapting it to any type of software project. Instead of telling development teams what and how they should do, DAD provides them with guidance on tools and processes they might not want to use. Such a flexibility, however, can play a cruel joke on those who’s not so experienced with Agile and mostly work following more traditional models. DAD will better suit Agile teams that work on medium-sized projects since it scales to oversee the whole delivery cycle. Companies that already have Agile experience will face even fewer challenges if they decide to adopt DAD to scale their teams.

LeSS

Large Scale Scrum, in a few words, can be described as a good-old Scrum adapted to the specifics of big and comprehensive projects. For example, if you want to scale your team so that regular Scrum meetings will become suitable for LeSS, the backlog must follow only one definition of Done for all involved devs. In the beginning of each iteration, so-called Sprint Planning1 takes place. Its main purpose is to allow all involved specialists to divide their product backlog items.

The next step is Sprint Planning2. During this phase, developers outline the best possible solution for feature implementation. Each team works on a specific feature or set of features that they’ve chosen and coordinates with colleagues to ensure problem-free integration and shipment of the next product version. Agile teams that use Large Scale Scrum can’t rely on somebody who will coordinate their efforts. Instead, teams make it themselves during the Scrum meetings. After every increment, comes the Sprint Review that should be familiar to everybody who has a minimal experience with Scrum.

This Agile framework comes in two forms. LeSS will suit pretty well for any company that doesn’t plan to allocate project tasks among over eight teams, each including eight people max. LeSS Huge is for those who’re not satisfied with these limitations. It enables management of up to a few thousand developers working on one software product. LeSS is an Agile framework that can be a decent choice for companies that rely on multiple teams working together on the same software project. It will work well for small and medium-sized organizations as long as they pay due attention to product backlog coordination.

SAFe

DAD

LeSS

Based On

Agile Values

Agile Techniques

Scrum

Organization Size

Large

Medium

Medium

Communication Specifics

Defines communication up to the executive level

Defines communication between different teams and departments

Defines communication between teams and management

Routines

Scrum, Kanban, Custom Routines

Scrum, Kanban, Custom Routines

Scrum + Extra Meetings

Implementation Cost

High

Medium

Low

 

Conclusions

Day by day, the complexity of software we use increases. Following this trend, software companies scale up their development teams. The tricky part is that you can’t just add more developers in this equation to receive a result that will satisfy you and your customer. Extensive growth of development teams will only lead to chaos and confusion. Agile frameworks enable companies to scale up their teams smartly and manage their work efficiently. If your product is big enough and you value it enough not to give it away to just anyone, contact us and our team will be happy to discuss it with you.

Sergey Laptick

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