SAFe® in Azure DevOps

This series is going to be a bit different from the rest. While the others tend to be brief and high-level, this one is going to go into some depth and be very specific. While the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) doesn't cater to any specific tool and the Agile Manifesto values individuals and interactions over tools, tools are still useful things. Unless you're truly in a 100% co-located face to face environment, you're going to need a tool. One of the more popular options is Azure DevOps (ADO).


There are many ways to configure ADO, each with their own strength and weakness. This is one approach to setting ADO up for ARTs and Teams in a SAFe manner. If you have a better recommendation, please let us know!


This will be the first of several in this series. This article will start with a little overview and then configure the SAFe® Process in the tool. Later articles will cover topics like Iteration Paths, Area Paths, and Teams.


For what it's worth, it took me under two hours to write this article, and that included not only executing all of the steps here but also taking the screen shots (sometimes multiple times) and writing what you see here. That isn't a lot of time for setting something up that can be used by your entire enterprise, so don't feel overwhelmed by all of the steps and pictures!


Introduction


Let's talk about Agile tooling. In particular, let's look at SAFe® in Azure DevOps.


In case you don't know, Azure DevOps is a sprawling tool with many potential addons and integrations. It's sort of Microsoft's Atlassian suite, especially when Sharepoint is used in a way that's analogous to Confluence. The Azure Boards functionality is, in many ways, a reasonable answer to Jira, and the pricing can be very comparable (although Test Plans can get expensive very quickly). ADO's approach to Boards isn't directly comparable to any of the other Agile Lifecycle Management tools. That is, it isn't a direct copy of Jira or Rally or digital.ai, although there are parts of it which will certainly be familiar to the users of those tools.


(Please note that people call the tool various things. Microsoft's site calls this module "Azure Boards." There are rumors of completely new branding in the next year or two. And Azure DevOps contains a large suite of tools, but most Agile people seem to refer to Boards as either ADO or AzDev even when they just mean the Boards functionality.)


Topics in this series will include building and configuring:


This is just one approach to configuring ADO for SAFe®. There are plenty of other options, and there isn't necessarily a "right" or "wrong" approach, but this is one that's been successful in a few places.


One nice thing about ADO is that you don't have to follow all of these steps to get going. It takes almost nothing at all for a single Agile team to start tracking its work in the tool. And when the time comes to scale, then you can follow these steps all at once or over time. And some of them, like Risks and PI Objectives, are truly optional, especially if you have something else that's already working for you.


Update:

While we've used several Microsoft articles to help create the configuration in this series, they do have some pretty good ones, including this specific one on SAFe in ADO. This series adds a few concepts which their article does not include and addresses a few "gotchas" which come from real world experience.

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