Scaled Agile, Collaborative Work Management and the Path to Digital Maturity in Large Scale Project Management

Agile product development continues to make waves across enterprise organizations, delivering an unmatched ROI across large-scale and complex projects. In examining the merits of the methodology, a global study from Harvard Business Review found that some organizations using Agile are “achieving 60 percent higher revenue and profit growth.” Results like these are making the case for organizations to scale their Agile operations and embed them across the organization.

Here, we discuss Scaled Agile in detail, explore the impact that collaborative work management can have on scaling Agile, and share a real-world example of how an organization has applied it to significantly increase productivity and delivery.

What is Scaled Agile?

Scaled Agile refers to when an organization expands the implementation of Agile product development from one or a few teams to larger networks of multiple teams. Built on Scrum and Kanban foundations, Scaled Agile focuses on bringing larger teams together to align and collaborate across projects.

When looking to scale Agile, there are many Enterprise Agile Frameworks (EAFs) that can be used. Some EAFs are very rigid and defined, while others offer more flexibility and consist of collections of changing principles and processes. Some of the more popular EAFs include:

  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
  • Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS),
  • Scrum@Scale

While all these frameworks can generate success, most implementations require some degree of modifications to meet the needs of the adopting organization. 

Why are business groups using Scaled Agile?

Scaled Agile helps organizations move forward on the path to digital maturity by enabling efficient and effective management of large scale, complex enterprise projects. When successfully implemented, Scaled Agile helps business users within enterprise organizations: 

  • Align work to strategic business objectives
  • Manage and coordinate complex projects for synchronized delivery
  • Align teams on processes and strategies while addressing cross-team dependencies
  • Gain structure to make more informed decisions
  • Instill a framework that enables them to easily pivot and adapt to changing business priorities
  • Empower stakeholders and teams to accelerate and strengthen strategic decision-making

What can help an organization achieve Scaled Agile?

Successfully achieving Scaled Agile across an organization requires that the teams that will be adopting it understand Scrum and the foundational components of the selected Scaled Agile framework. From setting up training to providing teams with relevant educational materials, everyone involved should have a solid grasp of the approach. 

Gaining leadership commitment and backing is also key to ensure the efforts to scale are supported. One can achieve this by developing a leadership-approved vision and agreed-upon metrics that will guide and measure the success of the scaled implementation.        

While identifying your framework is an important step, it is equally important to identify the right solutions to enable the seamless collaboration across teams that is needed for Agile product development and ultimately, scaling. Emerging Collaborative Work Management (CWM) solutions  are a perfect fit because they not only act as a unified hub for project planning and execution, but also enable effective project orchestration across an organization.  

What is the impact of CWM on Scaled Agile?

Leveraging a collaborative work and project management solution to scale Agile ensures the deep collaboration, visibility and flexibility needed to support adoption and overall success. 

Organizations that utilize CWM solutions in their Agile product development: 

  • Align cross-functional teams on strategic objectives via a centralized and flexible solution that goes beyond basic project management
  • Gain real-time insights and collaboration across all phases of large-scale projects – from order to delivery
  • Empower more business users to better manage risks and improve strategic decision-making across the project lifecycle

More specifically, CWM solutions give teams a centralized hub for defining business plans and modeling projects and ensures a common view and structure across the organization. Multiple teams can plan, prioritize and execute on work together, sharing status updates and seeing dashboards in real-time. This means everyone has an accurate and up-to-date view of projects and plans at all times.

Selecting a composable CWM solution brings about enhanced business agility, allowing organizations to adapt to change, expand with ease, and build custom no-code applications, interfaces, and portals that meet the ever-evolving needs of each business user. This is a must-have element when scaling Agile to multiple teams and networks of teams. 

How is Scaled Agile Delivering Results? Real-World Example

Many organizations spanning many industries have found great success in using Agile product development and scaling it across teams and networks of teams. Here is one example.

The global vaccines unit of international pharmaceutical enterprise Sanofi, focuses on safely accelerating vaccine candidates into clinical trials and launching to patients faster.

Typical timelines for vaccine creation can be anywhere from four to fifteen years to develop a single vaccine. Bob Schrader, the Agile Transformation Leader and Coach of Sanofi Vaccines R&D, focused on continuous improvement and sought a solution that could enhance their daily processes, decrease timelines, connect the R&D team to the larger strategy, and scale across the organization.

One of their vaccine teams, named FluNXT, had a singular mission to leverage Machine Learning and traditional biological science to develop the Next Generation Influenza vaccines. They wanted to adopt an Agile methodology with a Scrum focus and needed an approach that could also be adopted across the organization by a broader network of teams. Focused on building better efficiencies and interactions, making more informed decisions and pointing everyone towards a common goal, they were confident in selecting a Scaled Agile approach. This approach would enable them to organize multiple teams and work streams under one project so that they could build with shared priorities and focus on what matters most.

Upon deciding to fully implement the Agile mindset, the team researched Agile focused solutions that met the team’s immediate needs and set the foundation for ongoing Scaled Agile initiatives across their enterprise. For flexibility, future functionality needs, and growth, they also sought a solution that would integrate easily and connect disparate applications in one platform and show the metrics needed to inform decisions. After much research, the team found that Leankor’s collaborative work and project management solution (natively built on the Salesforce platform) would be the perfect fit and deliver tremendous value.

 “You can keep adding multiple, disconnected spreadsheets or you can implement Leankor, a solution that updates all information and communications in real-time,” said Schrader.

FluNXT was the first to adopt Agile product development using Leankor and saw promising results almost immediately. Leankor’s ability to translate and adapt different project methodologies meant that FluNXT could implement an Agile/Scrum methodology on their terms. Schrader expanded, “They really demonstrated value when we needed to go from waterfall to Agile. This was a critical moment for my team since most of Sanofi R&D operates under a waterfall method.”

FluNXT was able to operate a daily Scrum effortlessly using Leankor cards and boards and unlocked new views of their work. This more detailed daily view eliminated previously persistent issues by easily allowing scientists to prioritize activities and get insights to assess strategic direction. Leankor also delivered great value to Sanofi stakeholders with real-time and actionable information that enabled accelerated and improved strategic decision-making. When roadblocks or risks were identified, Leankor streamlined communications and decision making by providing the context needed for immediate course corrections. 

FluNXT was working towards a goal of conducting one clinical study within a five-year span. Using the Scaled Agile approach, they were able to exceed that goal and bring four candidates safely to trial in four years. These results represent a significant productivity increase from their previous go-to-trial times and is an outstanding achievement in the world of vaccine development. “Leankor has allowed us to improve our team agility which has increased our project velocity. With the success that we witnessed with our new way of working, we knew it was time to scale,” said Schrader.

FluNXT has also been recognized by the broader R&D organization for implementing new ways of working that produce better and faster results.

Using the synergistic combination of Salesforce, Leankor and their Scrum@Scale framework, Sanofi’s path to digital maturity continues to progress. With integrated R&D teams spanning 3 levels of scrum, from team-level to executives, they are now one of the largest Scaled Agile R&D implementations in the industry. “I didn’t need my IT team to build out a solution for us to implement Scrum@Scale, which is a key component to making these efforts possible. As a business user, my team and I were able to work and create this model independently with guidance from Leankor,” shared Schrader.

Schrader continues to focus on widening adoption, including expansion to multiple international teams. Knowing that a phased approach is the best way to tackle large rollouts, Schrader is focusing the expansion on key groups. As this work progresses across the organization, Sanofi will continue to build a scaled network that can be duplicated and modeled for future projects. Schrader shared, “Leankor is a nimble canvas where we can see, organize, prioritize and collaborate on projects in real-time. It has not only continued to evolve with our brand and enable us to reinvent the way we work, but has also acted as the backbone that has empowered us to seamlessly continue to scale Agile across teams.” 

Using Leankor, Schrader has a near-term goal of scaling to the entire 200+ R&D team and would eventually like to achieve enterprise-level adoption where multiple levels of Scrum teams across the full life science value chain are in sync and sharing prioritized goals.