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When working with our clients we often see Agile methodologies used effectively to deliver working software releases, quickly and efficiently. However, when it comes to very large scale releases, clients still seem to fall back on traditional waterfall methods or hybrid Agile/waterfall methods. They don't see Agile as the right tool to get the job done. And it was to deal with this problem that Dean Leffingwell developed the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) over a decade ago.

Organisations often question how small team methodologies, such as Scrum, handle test governance, environment architecture and end to end integration for large scale deliveries. SAFe provides an answer by applying agile and lean methods at the programme and portfolio levels as well as the small team level.

In this approach, Portfolio Management decides where investment should be made and handles the large scale epics for both business and system architecture. It also provides a centralised strategy, funding, governance and programme management. Decisions on testing approaches, reporting, assurance and tools to be used within the program must be made here. This is essential if separate teams are to integrate and deliver successfully.

The Programme level manages the Agile Release Train (ART). The objective is for multiple agile teams to work together on large scale integrated releases. The release train enables this by synchronising individual team sprint and release schedules. It is at this level you will see roles not normally referenced in team-based Agile, such as System Architect, Release Management, Product Manager and the Release Train Engineer (the senior Scrum Master). SAFe does not explicitly mention the Test Manager role, but our experience is that it has a place at the Programme level to ensure pragmatic and efficient end to end testing on the integrated releases.

Just as the testing industry has had to evolve to work with Scrum and Agile projects, our experience with very large releases in the finance and telecom sectors shows that it now needs to adapt to deliver value in testing in large scale methodologies, such as SAFe.

For more information on testing and the Scaled Agile Framework (or other large scale testing approaches) visit The SAFe web site or contact Acutest.

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