Exploring Agile Enablers in the SAFe Framework
Agile enablers are items that play a role in creating a backlog. These items have both admirers and critics. Let’s take a closer look at what they are and how they relate to the SAFe framework.
SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is a unique framework that evokes a range of opinions—some people love it, while others express dislike. This sentiment extends to its practices, although some concepts within it can hold substantial value.
Enablers in Agile and the SAFe Framework
The concept of enablers gained prominence within the SAFe framework. While the term may vary, the idea serves as a solution for teams seeking to make their “user stories” more independent.
Enablers are Product Backlog Items (PBI) designed to support activities required to establish architectures for future functionalities. These items may encompass:
- Evolution of infrastructure
- Evolution of architectures
However, it’s important to avoid employing these enablers to plan out several months of user stories. Their purpose typically revolves around making user stories independent within the next sprint or the current one. Using them to chart the course for the next six or more sprints contradicts the principle of KISS (Keep it simple, stupid), which is recommended in an agile context.
Types of Enablers
Exploration Enablers: These items facilitate research, prototyping, and other activities aimed at gaining a better understanding of customer needs. Exploration may involve finding potential solutions or defining alternatives.
Architectural Enablers: These items contribute to building a more robust architecture for smoother and faster development processes.
Infrastructure Enablers: These items focus on creating, improving, and automating development, testing, and deployment environments. They enhance environments to enable swifter development, better quality testing, and more efficient continuous delivery.
Compliance Enablers: These items aid in managing compliance activities, including verification, validation, documentation, approvals, regulatory submissions, and approvals.
Enablers Beyond Simple Items
In Scrum teams, enablers are often straightforward items. However, in SAFe, they can exist at multiple levels. At the item level, SAFe suggests naming them “enabler stories.”
This framework introduces two additional levels within backlogs:
Enabler Epics: These epics are written in the “Epic Hypothesis Statement” format, akin to business epics. They cut across value streams and program increments (PI). To ensure their implementation, they incorporate a ‘Lean Business Case’ and are identified and tracked through the Portfolio Kanban. Enabler Epics can also be present at the Large Solution and Program layers of SAFe.
Enabler Capabilities and Features: These enablers are relevant at the Large Solution and Program layers of SAFe. Sharing the attributes of functionality or ability, they include:
- A statement
- An advantage hypothesis
- Acceptance criteria
They are designed to be executed within the same Program Increment (PI).
Concluding Thoughts on Enablers
While SAFe may incorporate enablers for advanced forecasting, their use is most recommended for the short term.
For traditional Scrum teams, adopting this concept is advised only if it genuinely aligns with their needs. While comprehensive, this concept can potentially complicate your Scrum processes.