SAFe transformation in a large financial corporation

Abheeshta Putta*, Maria Paasivaara, Casper Lassenius

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

As agile software development is increasingly adopted in the software industry, the popularity of scaling frameworks supporting adoption in large development contexts is increasing rapidly. While several such frameworks exist, the most popular one at the moment is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Despite its popularity, there exists limited research on its usage and adoption. In this paper, we contribute by presenting a single case study in a large financial organization, studying the transformation reasons, transformation process, as well as the benefits, and challenges of SAFe adoption. We conducted 24 semi-structured interviews with 27 interviewees and analyzed the transcribed interviews using open and axial coding. We identified 17 reasons for SAFe adoption in this organization, of which the most salient ones were to shorten the time to market, improve collaboration, and use a well-described and comprehensive framework. An industry context-specific reason was the popularity of SAFe in the financial sector. The transformation in the case organization was top-down and proceeded step-wise. The most significant activities during the transformation were piloting, education, coaching, and the forming of agile release trains. Our case also implemented "Scrum tours" to increase the understanding of lean and agile principles. We identified 13 benefits of SAFe, of which improved collaboration, transparency, and shorter time to market were considered the most important. We identified a total of 16 challenges, with the most salient one being aligning the release trains with value streams. Failing with this led to cross-release train dependencies and coordination overhead, inhibiting agility. Further, the organization did not get rid of projects and project managers, which led to priority clashes and coordination overhead.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Volume29
Issue number1
Early online date16 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Benefits of SAFe adoption
  • Challenges of SAFe adoption
  • Reasons for SAFe adoption
  • SAFe
  • SAFe transformation activities
  • Scaled agile framework

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