SAFe, an Agile Framework enabling the Group Societe Generale’s teams to be aligned on a common approach
Feedback from the 2023 SAFe Summit, held in Prague on 16 and 17 May. Including technical presentations and client testimonials, the SAFe Summit provides insight into how companies like Societe Generale use frameworks such as SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework) to thrive in a changing world by practising agility. Emmanuel Dumont, Head of the Group Agile Centre (GAC), Societe Generale, and Philippe Renault, Head of Strategy, Societe Generale Securities Services (SGSS), spoke at the event about the alignment of strategy and execution, thanks to the implementation of Lean Portfolio Management within Societe Generale.
What are you seeing in terms of market trends?
In recent years, agile practices have continued to gain popularity in the software development industry. In the digital transformation era, this reaches into many sectors of project management, marketing and operations. These new ways of working, used to improve collaboration, flexibility and the quality of teamwork, are increasingly being adopted by companies on a large scale. As such, by forming tribes1 or trains2 (groups of agile teams) aligned with the business line's value chains, we foster adaptability and the rapid and industrialised delivery of value to clients. Over the last five years, many companies, even the most rigid, have rapidly transformed themselves, and caught up by transforming their operating model through setting up client-centric team tribes3, for which business lines and IT work together to develop and maintain products. Current trends also include the adoption of frameworks such as SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework), which has been the most widely used globally since 2018. More than 20,000 organisations in a variety of sectors have adopted SAFe®, with more than a million people trained4. This framework also tends to simplify and stabilise around something more virtuous.
How is Societe Generale positioned? How does Societe Generale set itself apart?
More so than principles, practices and even methods, it's important to consider that we're first and foremost talking about a state of mind. For a very long time, Societe Generale has made considerable progress in this area, where we've trialled most of the agility frameworks available on the market. Thanks to this, we've learned a lot from our successes and our mistakes, which has helped to develop our learning culture. Unlike some companies, Societe Generale doesn't adopt one single organisational agility model, instead preferring a patchwork of proven practices (listed in our agility at scale manual) based on shared values, enabling us to adapt to the various contexts that make up our Group. Societe Generale also sets itself apart in its desire to reconcile project management and agility. For too long, these two worlds have been opposed, whereas we have a hybrid model in which these practices are complementary and cultures must intermingle.
Why did you take part in this event?
Scaled Agile Inc. (SAI), the publisher of SAFe®, holds a summit at least once a year providing technical presentations and client testimonials, providing insight into how companies such as Societe Generale use this framework to thrive in a changing world by practising agility to build resilient cultures. In 2022, during the homogenisation work carried out by our agile community – the Group Agile Centre – on the practices of managing portfolios of initiatives (projects or products) within the Group, we shared the numerous trials carried out by SGSS with experts. Thus, we offered SAI our client testimonial for the next summit in Europe, to share our experience of agility within the Group, and more specifically to show how SGSS has developed its business agility, by integrating Lean Portfolio Management (one of the core competencies of the framework), which enables us to achieve significant improvements in results by aligning Strategy (OKR approach) with Execution. Just five client testimonials (us as Societe Generale, Amadeus, Bosch, Lufthansa, Vodafone) were selected at the summit in Prague! Participating in this event is an opportunity to promote the attractiveness of our expertise, demonstrate the vitality of the banking sector and enable Societe Generale to be represented by the business line and by IT. This summit brings together experts from the most widely-used knowledge base of proven and integrated principles, practices and skills to develop the company's agility.
What did you take away from the event?
A huge amount of discussions and enthusiasm from the event participants. The conferences are led by experts who support industries in multiple sectors (automotive, aeronautics, construction, finance, etc.) facing the paradigms of the software and digital age, and which are therefore undergoing far-reaching cultural transformations. Their expert testimonials at this summit included a variety of integrated topics in which it is essential to persevere: combining actively complementary key performance indicators (KPIs) with objectives and key results (OKRs) to achieve measurable business results on a large scale; reducing complexity to enable agile organisations to focus on the value chain; Lean Portfolio Management has become a predominant topic among the companies present at this summit (they are increasingly engaging in participatory budgeting events); adopt the ABC (Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud) to help identify value chains, for example; how do leaders play a key role in unlocking the workflow of teams; and how to build powerful, effective and client-centric product management teams.
A great strength of this framework is explaining simply the why and the what at all levels of an organisation. SAFe® enables business lines and IT to work together on the development and upgrade of products that deliver value to clients.
This "one team" mode is aligned with Societe Generale's team spirit, which is only possible if we share a common and simple vocabulary.
1 Tribe: Group of teams aligned on the same business sector, as autonomous as possible from other tribes to limit the impact of dependencies. Source: Societe Generale Group.
2 The Agile Release Train (ART) is a team of long-term agile teams that incrementally produces, deploys and often runs one or more solutions in a development value chain. Source: Societe Generale Group.
3 Source: https://scaledagile.com/what-is-safe/why-safe/ (2023)
4Source: https://scaledagile.com/safe-certification/ (2023)