Planning in the pandemic world. Part 2

Eugene Shkoda, Certified Project Management Professional

September 13, 2021

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him”

-J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

What is SAFe?

In the product development process, what is more essential? Idea? Result? Or execution? It’s debatable, isn’t it? But we can’t deny, that execution makes idea turning into result. I’m happy to share my second hald of the remote planning best practices article. This time, I’m covering SAFe, which stands for Scaled Agile Framework.


In short – SAFe is a new and trending superpower! Isn’t that the reason you were looking for? (joking)

In fact, this is one of the greatest frameworks I’ve been working with. SAFe helps greatly to implement Agile at scale. At this moment, I’m not sure that I can name any other methodology or approach, that is applicable for the cases of rapid growth or high demand of scaling on a project, program or any other enterprise affair.

Rapid adaptation has become a critical factor for the IT industry. Moreover, we got the challenges in different forms, such as communication, schedule/quality/change management and many more. SAFe perfectly matches all of the above. Let’s see why.

SAFe killer features


Every management framework is about productivity. So is SAFe. Eventhough, SAFe is designed for big teams and programs, it’s still easy to measure productivity of the teams and eliminate unnecessary work. If set up right, you can be sure that it’s quite possible to identify and eliminate delays and keep continuously improving the delivery process.

High level of Business Representatives engagement

All of us know how challenging technical-business alignment is! We’re trying to evaluate a technical debt, refactor an architecture and at the same time our users are waiting for new features! Increase revenue, solve problems for users!

Sounds familiar, huh? And feels really challenging. Not with SAFe! One of the coolest benefits of SAFe is that Business and Technical parts of the team plan together. Every party is fully engaged into the discovery phases, eliminating dependencies and risks mitigation proactively. When do they do it and how? When preparing to PIPs, of course!


This, I truly believe, is the greatest superpower of SAFe. Behold, the Program Increment Planning!

A Program Increment (PI) is a timebox, during which an Agile Release Train (ART)delivers incremental value. The average length of a PI generaly is between 8 and 12 weeks.

When getting ready for a PIP, program management representatives (both Business and Tech) gather together with the teams, presenting goals for the next increment (mainly, quarter). You may consider your teams risks as resolved, if you have good Scrum Masters, which proactively facilitate dependency and impediments resolving.

The PIP process overall is straightforward, if the prerequisite were done prior to it. I truly believe that Risk/Dependency Management before PIP serves even better than during it. (Long live Scrum Masters!)

Apart from that, if the capacity calculation was done right, you shouldn’t worry about the outcome – you’ve done everything right before the PIP so why should you worry now? 🙂

A "remote" amendment

My article wouldn’t be full, if I did not mention the changes that COVID-19 has brought into our SAFe routine. One year and a half since the start of remote, we changed our offices to homes, but we’re still as effective as if we were in a single meeting room. (Check out our best practices in my previous article)

At a glance, it feels like all the communication we did verbally and face-to-face has turned into a lot of meetings, where you’re supposed to be all day long. So when can you actually work???

Good results require good communication. And communication management skills have become even more precious jewels in the crown of project management. Right people attend right meetings, which have agenda and goals clear for everyone.That’s only one of many ingredients of a “secret sauce”.

Another part of the right communication management – creating the right “communicational sequence”. You must make sure, that the right parties get the right information. By all means, avoid cases, when pure technical documentation gets straight to the business without any clarification or alignment with with business goals and vice versa.

Let’s not forget about PIPs. If you have right managers, the only thing you can help them with – is providing the right tools. This became even more crucial nowadays. Among all the tools we were testing, Miro is still the best for us. We cover everything: Teams alignment, online collaboration (50-100 ppl at a time), dependency management, capacity visualization. The last one is good for being ready to assist other teams, if they’re out of capacity etc.

Summing it all up

SAFe is great. Even staying fully remote it’s still good. Not all the tools and methods work as good as they did, but we’re still able to deliver at least 90% of our commitment.

It’s not a panacea from all the issues. The more you want SAFe the more you need to understand what problem it will solve. If it solves the problem – try! You’ll love it.

Don’t forget to stay safe and healthy!