Having a clear methodology and training in place has been very helpful when hiring people: Good developers expect a modern methodology. Being able to tell candidates that we take Agile principles seriously-by mentioning that we have trained and certified product owners and Scrum masters, and that we follow a clear Agile path-definitely makes a difference.

Walter Bauer, CTO, censhare

Munich-based censhare is an international software firm deploying innovative technologies that enable companies to master the next generation of digital communication. For more than 20 years, the company has offered comprehensive digital platforms geared to creating, shaping, and designing engaging customer experiences.

While censhare was not new to Agile principles, their experience was limited to locally developed interpretations of Scrum. That approach worked to an extent when the company was small, but not as well when it reached 150 people.

“I used to have regular personal contact with all people in the company, but now it’s even hard to keep this up within my own department,” explains Walter Bauer, censhare CTO.

Train, then Launch the Train

Bauer and a product manager attended Leading SAFe® training, where they discovered the thinking and practices behind scaling Agile via the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). Bauer saw how censhare could adapt the SAFe “Big Picture” to provide a flexible and scalable Agile way of working that would help not just development, but the organization as a whole.

Following training, the CTO decided to bring SAFe to censhare. The goal: solidify Agile across the organization and prepare it for future expansion.

With the support of Scaled Agile partner, Improuv, censhare followed the concept of “train everyone, then launch an Agile Release Train:”

  • Management
    Executive leadership attended a one-day workshop to discuss agility, scaling Agile, and to set and manage expectations. The leadership team bought into the approach and gave the green light to introduce scaled Lean-Agile practices.
  • Scrum teams
    Before focusing on scaling, censhare decided to further develop the core Agile strengths of their development teams. Scrum teams received training and coaching on Scrum and SAFe to help develop team potential and prepare them for working together at scale. All Scrum Masters received Certified Scrum Master training (CSM).
  • Product management
    Product owners and the Chief Product Owner attended the SAFe Product Manager Product Owner (PMPO) two-day workshop, becoming certified as SAFe PMPOs. This, along with coaching, helped product management prepare the overall backlog.

Kicking Off

In SAFe, the Program Increment (PI) planning meeting sets the objectives for the coming 10-week increment. To bring the organization up-to-speed before the first real PI planning meeting, Improuv organized a training session that simulated the event. This turned out to be key to the eventual success of the first planning sessions.

censhare then formed an Agile Release Train (ART) and launched it on a 10-week planning and alignment cadence. Within the 10 weeks, Scrum teams work in synchronized two-week sprints. The kickoff PI planning event followed the SAFe model.

The company introduced Scaled Agile portfolio management, aided by Portfolio-level Kanban, to add transparency to the Portfolio backlog and match demand with capacity. However, censhare is still implementing this level since there is currently a clear demand process—which is now matched to the capacity of the ART.

Improving Time to Market, Morale

The CTO points to a number of positive outcomes resulting from SAFe:

  • Faster time to market-censhare released a new version of its product to the market (something that would have been challenging had the company not adopted SAFe). The development and release of the product was significantly faster than previous releases.
  • Greater alignment—SAFe succeeded in improving alignment between product management and development teams. Cross-team dependencies are better managed and made transparent.
  • Common vision—The Agile Release Train and 10-week cadence helped the teams develop a product globally, rather than local team deliverables.
  • More team spirit—The “we are a censhare team” spirit improved through the development team-of-teams thinking. Teams feel more empowered and involved.
  • Enhanced employee satisfaction—An employee survey revealed that employees appreciate that censhare now has a more professional way of developing products.

“Having a clear methodology and training in place has been very helpful when hiring people: Good developers expect a modern methodology. Being able to tell candidates that we take Agile principles seriously—by mentioning that we have trained and certified Product Owners and Scrum Masters, and that we follow a clear Agile path—definitely makes a difference,” Bauer says.

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