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Beyond Essential SAFe: Using Portfolio for Jira at the Portfolio and Large Solution Levels

Atlassian, Jira, Software Solutions, Agile, SAFe

By Bob Wen

We've talked about using Jira to implement the Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe before.  On those occasions, when looking at the framework we've narrowed the focus to the Agile Release Train (ART) and the teams, commonly known as the Program level of SAFe.  But what happens if you're a business stakeholder looking to see when Features are committed?  Or what if your product is large enough that the work spans multiple ARTs, staying in close coordination?

Let's take a look at the other levels present in other SAFe configurations which connect to the Program level and drive the Features that the Agile Release Trains will work on.

Epic Proportions

At the top of all of the other SAFe configurations is the Portfolio level.  This level provides the strategy and investment funding for all the value streams that roll down to Agile Release Trains and agile teams.

At this level, new business initiatives are captured as Business Epics. Any architectural and technical initiatives needed to support new business initiatives become Enabler Epics. A Business or Enabler Epic, once prioritized using WSJF, can be broken down into Features for ART's to design, implement, and deploy.

We can set up these Epics in Jira with a SAFe Portfolio level project. The project will have only SAFe Epic issue types.

Connection of the SAFe Epic issue type with other issue types from other teams is accomplished by using Porfolio for Jira.  With Portfolio for Jira, you can set the hierarchy of issue types and set cross-project links so that the SAFe Epic issue type is connected to the issue types owned by Jira projects that model to the ART or the agile teams.

If you use the Portfolio for Jira hierarchy seen above, you must be aware that all Plans will need to adopt this hierarchy. This will pose problems if your Jira instance mixes together SAFe and non-SAFe projects and you want to use Portfolio for Jira to manage cross-project plans using non-SAFe issue types (e.g. Initiative).

Once you've added the hierarchy as well as the teams and releases to your Portfolio plan, you can create your SAFe Epics and child Features from a single spot: the Portfolio for Jira plan. To do so, go to the scope view of the plan as seen below, and click on the plus sign you see.

Working with Large Solutions

If the value stream requires close coordination between multiple ARTs, SAFe bundles those ARTs into a Solution Train in the same manner that agile teams are bundled into Agile Release Trains. Coordination of the Solution Train is handled at a Large Solution level found in two of the four SAFe configurations.

If the value stream is modeled using a Solution Train, the work that Solution Train creates based on a Business Epic or Enabler Epic is a Capability. A Capability outlines the work done by the Solution Train within a Program Increment.  Features break up the Capability to individual Agile Release Trains.

Modifying Portfolio for Jira requires a change to the hierarchy.

The Capabilities can be owned by a Solution Train project. Coordination between the Portfolio project, Solution Train project, and ART projects can occur from within Portfolio for Jira.

Managing JIRA at Scale White Paper

TAGS: Atlassian, Jira, Software Solutions, Agile, SAFe

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