“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” —Apple Computer
Role of SAFe Program Consultant (SPC)
SAFe Program Consultants are change agents who combine their technical knowledge of SAFe with an intrinsic motivation to improve their company’s software and systems development processes. They play a critical role in successfully implementing SAFe. SPCs come from numerous internal or external roles, including business and technology leaders, portfolio/program/project managers, process leads, architects, analysts, and consultants.
A Critical Role for a Critical Need
As we outlined in the Implementation Roadmap series, changing the development practices and behavior of an enterprise is a significant challenge. To achieve meaningful and lasting change, author John P. Kotter notes that a “sufficiently powerful guiding coalition” of stakeholders is needed.  Such a coalition requires:
- Leaders who can set the vision, show the way, and remove impediments
- Practitioners, managers, and change agents who can implement specific process changes
- Sufficient organizational credibility to be taken seriously
- The expertise needed to make fast, intelligent decisions
In enterprises new to SAFe, many of these attributes rest with trained SPCs.
As knowledgeable change agents, SPCs participate in many of the activities identified in the twelve ‘critical moves’ described in the SAFe Implementation Roadmap. Specifically, SPCs typically engage in many of the following activities:
- Reaching the tipping point: Communicate the business need, urgency, and vision for change.
- Train executives, managers, and leaders: They socialize the new concepts and provide orientation and overview training. SPCs teach Leading SAFe to leaders and stakeholders.
- Establish a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE): By creating or actively supporting the LACE, SPCs help establish and execute the transformation backlog.
- Identify value streams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs): Working with stakeholders to understand the flow of value, SPCs identify specific value streams and help target associated business challenges and opportunities.
- Create the implementation plan: Participate in creating a plan for the rollout, communicate upcoming changes, and establish metrics.
- Prepare for the ART launch: SPCs help establish the launch date and cadence calendar. They coach leadership and help facilitate the creation of new Agile teams. They also conduct or source training for executives, leaders, development teams, and specialty roles—such as Product Owner, Product Manager, Scrum Master and Release Train Engineer. And they assess and evolve launch and backlog readiness.
- Train teams and launch the ART: SPCs often directly plan and execute Quickstart or other rollout strategies to launch ARTs. They conduct or source training for teams, and participate in initial, critical events like Program Increment (PI) Planning, and Inspect and Adapt (I&A).
- Coach ART execution: SPCs coach leaders and stakeholders to build and maintain the Vision, Roadmap, and Program Backlogs. They coach teams, Product Owners, Product Managers, Architects and RTEs. They also participate in Scrum of Scrums and System Demo, facilitate I&A and follow-up on improvement items. Finally, they help teams establish the DevOps pipeline, culture, infrastructure, and associated Agile technical practices.
- Launch more ARTs and value streams: SPCs work to clone themselves to increase organizational capacity to support new value streams, launch more ARTs, and expand the reach of the LACE. They communicate progress and highlight early accomplishments.
- Extend to the Portfolio: Once Lean-Agile practices gain a foothold, SPCs can socialize and drive those practices to other areas of the company, including Lean-Agile Budgeting, Agile Program Portfolio Management, leaner approaches to CapEX/OpEx, and Agile Contracts. They also communicate the value of Strategic Themes.
- Sustain and improve: An enterprise can never be too lean. SPCs take a long-term view in advancing quality, fostering a Lean-Agile approach to human resources, supporting enhanced skill development with continuing education, and establishing Communities of Practice (COPs). They encourage self-assessments (see Metrics), and help perform value stream mapping.
How Many SPCs Do You Need?
At first glance, the list above seems daunting. Clearly, no single SPC could possibly accomplish all this alone. Viewed broadly, however, the knowledge and skills of an SPC can’t be limited to a few select people. Instead, many leaders across the emerging Lean-Agile business must master these distinctive new competencies. This means most companies will need to have a number of SPCs (perhaps as many as 3-5 per 100 development practitioners) to effectively drive and sustain the implementation.
Faced with these responsibilites, SPCs must be trained for their new role, acquiring the skills and tools neeeded to execute their responsibilites, as well as to coach and teach others to implement and support the change. The best way to achieve this is to take the Implementing SAFe 4.0 with SPC4 Certification class. This four-day course prepares SPCs to become the change agents who lead the transformation. Attendees learn how to effectively apply the principles and practices of SAFe, and organize, train, and coach Agile teams. They also learn how to identify value streams, how to identify and launch ARTs, and help build and manage an Agile portfolio.
Scaling Lean-Agile across the enterprise also requires training all the people who do the work. To make this practical and cost effective, Scaled Agile, Inc. supports a “train the trainer” fan-out model, licensing SPCs to teach SAFe courses that support the other key roles in the implementation. This provides an affordable training strategy and supplies the trainers needed to achieve the mission of company-wide change.
After passing an exam, attendees become certified SPCs, gaining access to a variety of helpful SPC resources used in the transformation. They will also be licensed to teach Leading SAFe, as well as other courses in the role-based curriculum. Currently, these include:
The curriculum is constantly evolving. Review other SAFe courses at ScaledAgile.com.
Learn More John P. Kotter, Leading Change, (Harvard Business Review Press, 1996.)
- Implementing SAFe with SPC Certification
- SAFe for Teams
- SAFe Scrum Master
- SAFe Product Manager/Product Owner
- Performance Toolkits (available to SPCs)
- View other SAFe courses at ScaledAgile.com.
Last update: 6 Feb 2017