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Though a lot of organizations are adopting Agile these days, a common complaint is that agile development doesn’t scale well. There are certain challenges that an organization may encounter when scaling agile principles and practices. That is why a lot of agile frameworks are now available for large-scale enterprise projects, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) being one of them. Given the growth in the fame of the Scaled Agile Framework, it should come as no surprise that this growth is also fueling an unprecedented demand for Agile Certifications. Here are the top 50 scaled agile interview questions that would help you get a step closer to your dream agile job role.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the most frequently asked questions in Scaled Agile Interview Questions.
For better understanding, I have divided the rest of the Scaled Agile Framework Interview Questions into the following sections:
Q1. What is Agile? Explain Agile in 2 min.
This is a tricky and controversial question since the definition of agile is not commonly agreed upon. Is agile a framework? Is agile a methodology?
Agile is a mindset, a philosophy, more like a way of thinking, a movement focusing on communication, team-thinking, intrinsic motivation, empowerment, innovative walks, flow, and value creation while developing a product.
Q2. List some popular agile frameworks that you have used until now.
Q3. What are some agile frameworks available for large-scale enterprise projects?
Q4. What is SAFe?
Q4. What is the Scaled Agile Framework?
Pioneered by Dean Leffingwell, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is an enterprise-scale development framework which uses a combination of existing lean and agile principles and combines them into a templated framework for large-scale projects. It is based on three primary bodies of knowledge:
Q5. What is the difference between Agile and SAFe Framework?
Agile is a mindset, a philosophy, more like a way of thinking, a set of principles for actions that keep a software development team organized and efficient. It is a broad term that covers a number of frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, etc.
On the contrary, SAFe is an acronym for the Scaled Agile Framework, which is an agile framework available for large-scale enterprise projects. It adds extra layers of communication and controls to allow people to use agile frameworks (like Scrum) with very large groups.
Q6. Name the four levels of the latest version of SAFe.
Q7. What are the different configurations of SAFe?
Q8. Are the core values and principles in safe lean based or agile-based?
Q9. What is an Agile Release Train (ART)?
An Agile Release Train (ART) is a long-lived, self-organizing team of Agile Teams., which, along with other stakeholders, incrementally plans, develops and delivers a continuous flow of incremental releases of value in a Value Stream.
Q10. What is Program Increment (PI)?
A Program Increment is a timebox during which an Agile Release Train (ART) delivers incremental value in the form of the working, tested software and systems. Just like how you have an iteration for the agile team, there is a Program Increment for ARTs. PIs are usually 8-12 weeks long. Generally, PI is of four development iterations and one Innovation and Planning (IP) iteration.
Q11. Who is the Release Train Engineer?
Release Train Engineer, is a servant leader and the chief scrum master for the Agile Train. The RTE facilitates optimizing the flow of value through the program using various mechanisms, such as the Program Kanban, Inspect & Adapt workshops and PI planning.
Q12. What is Iteration Review in SAFe?
Iteration Review is a cadence-based event in which every team inspects the increment at the end of every iteration to assess progress, and then adjusts the team backlog based on the feedback received in the meeting. All the work that is done during the iteration reviewed during the iteration review meeting.
Q13. What is the difference between a Capability and a Feature?
A feature is a service provided by the system that addresses stakeholders requirements. Each feature has two core concepts – a benefit hypothesis and acceptance criteria. It is sized as necessary and made ready to be delivered by a single Agile Release Train (ART) in a Program Increment (PI).
Capabilities are similar to features, however, they describe higher-level solution behaviors and often take multiple ARTs to implement. They are sized and broken down into multiple features to aid their implementation in a single PI.
Q14. Apart from Scrum, which frameworks can be used at the team level?
Usually, Scrum is widely used at the team level but it is not the only practice that is being followed in SAFe. The teams in SAFe can use the agile framework which works best for their team and the delivery. They can opt for Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum or even Scrum with XP (ScrumXP).
Q15. Describe team Kanban. How are they different from other teams?
Team Kanban is a method that helps teams facilitate the flow of value by visualizing workflow, establishing WIP (Work In Process) limits measuring throughput, and continuously improving their process. They are used at Portfolio, Large Solution, Program and Team levels of SAFe.
Unlike other frameworks, Kanban is described as a pull system. Teams “pull” work when they know they have the capacity for it, rather than having scope being “pushed” on them.
Q16. What are Stories?
Stories are a short description of a small piece of the desired functionality and feature, written in the user’s language. They are primary artifacts used to define system behavior in Agile.
Q17. What is the difference between User Stories and Enabler Stories?
User Stories deliver functionality directly to the end-user, whereas enabler stories bring visibility to work items needed to support exploration, architecture, infrastructure, and compliance. Sometimes teams also need to develop technical functionality that is needed to implement a number of different user stories or support other components of the system. Those are enabler stories.
Q18. When to use the Scaled Agile Framework?
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) can be used when:
Q19. Can you describe the four-tier hierarchy of artifacts that describe functional system behavior?
SAFe defines an artifact hierarchy of Epic, Capability, Feature, and Story.
Q20. Explain what is a scrum of scrums.
This is one of the commonly asked scrum master interview questions. For example, let’s say there is an active project with seven teams working on it. The number of members of each team is also seven and are responsible to lead their own scrum meeting. But, in order to coordinate and communicate with different teams, they need to organize a separate scrum meeting. This meeting is called the scrum of scrums. The responsible person from each team attends the meeting and discuss their work and progress.
Q21. How is Essential SAFe different from Portfolio SAFe?
The Essential SAFe configuration is at the heart of the framework and is the simplest starting point for implementing SAFe. Though it is the initial level for organizations opting to implement SAFe, it consists of the most critical elements needed to recognize the majority of the framework’s benefits.
Talking about Portfolio SAFe, it helps to align portfolio execution to enterprise strategy and provides the basic constructs for organizing the Lean-Agile Enterprise around the flow of value.
Q22. What is the difference between Customers and Business Owners?
Customers are an integral part of Lean-Agile development and are the ultimate economic buyer of every solution. Whether internal or external they are increasingly demanding and they have choices. They want more value and they want their solution providers to continuously improve the quality of their products and services.
Business Owners are a critical group of three to five (3 – 5) stakeholders who have shared fiduciary, governance, efficacy, and ROI responsibility for the value delivered by a specific Agile Release Train (ART).
Q23. What is a Value Stream in SAFe?
A value stream is a long-lived series of steps used to deliver value, from customer order to delivery of a tangible result for the customer. The image below illustrates the anatomy of a value stream.
An event triggers the flow of value, it could be a customer request or a new feature requirement. It ends when some value has been delivered like a shipment, customer purchase, or solution deployment. The activities in between are steps that enterprize uses to accomplish the task. So, basically, a value stream contains the people who do the work, the systems they develop or operate, and the flow of information and materials
Q24. Who are suppliers in SAFe? What do they do?
As you know the goal of Lean-Agile principles is to deliver value to their customers in the shortest possible lead time and with the highest possible quality. To achieve that they engage Suppliers to develop and deliver components and subsystems. These suppliers have unique and distinctively competent skills and are experts in their technology.
They play a key role in SAFe and can have a large impact on lead time and value delivery of the Enterprise’s Value Streams. To achieve the optimal results Suppliers become an extension of the culture and ethos of the enterprise, they are treated as a true partner.
Q25. What is the relationship between Value Stream and Agile Release Train (ART)?
Agile Release Train (ART)
A Value Stream is a long-lived series of steps that provide a continuous flow of value to the customer
An Agile Release Train is a long-lived, self-organizing team of Agile Teams that delivers a continuous flow of incremental releases of value in a Value Stream.
Q26. What is Architectural Runway in SAFe?
The Architectural Runway consists of the existing code, components and technical infrastructure necessary to support the implementation of prioritized, near-term features, without excessive redesign & delay. It supports the continuous flow of value, provides the necessary technical foundation for developing business initiatives and implementing new features.
Q27. What are the advantages of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)?
Advantages of using SAFe are as follows:
Q28. How is the Continuous Delivery Pipeline associated with the Agile Release Train (ART)?
The Continuous Delivery Pipeline (sometimes just referred to as just ‘pipeline’) represents the workflows, activities, and automation needed to develop a new piece of functionality all the way from ideation to an on-demand release of value to the end-user. The pipeline consists of four elements:
Q29. What is the final element of the Continuous Delivery Pipeline?
The final element of Continuous Delivery Pipeline is Release on Demand. It is the ability to make the value available to customers all at once or in an ad-hoc fashion, based on the needs of the market and the business.
Q30. What is the need for Solution Demo?
Solution demo is where the results of combined development efforts of multiple Agile Release Trains (ARTs) along with the contribution from Suppliers are shown to customers and other stakeholders. It is a very critical meeting for support train, an opportunity for objective evaluation and feedback. Also, a moment to celebrate and encourage team on their efforts of the latest PI.
Q31. What is the Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration in SAFe?
An important aspect of SAFe is continuous improvement. which is achieved through periodic Innovation and Planning sprints. IP iteration provides a regular, cadence-based opportunity for teams to work on activities that are difficult to fit into a continuous, incremental value delivery pattern. These may include:
Q32. Is customer a part of Value Stream?
Yes, the customer is a part of Value Stream. Customers are of two types:
Customers support for Lean and Agile principles and their active and continuous participation in the Solution definition, planning, demonstrations, and evolution are essential to successful execution.
Q33. What are Epics?
Epics are defined at Portfolio Level and they are containers for significant initiatives that help guide value streams toward the larger aim of the portfolio. There are two types of epics: business epics and enabler epics, each of which may occur at the Portfolio, Large Solution, and Program Levels.
Q34. Have you ever worked in an Agile environment? What do you think are some issues that organizations face when scaling agile principles and practices?
Be honest and let them know if you have worked with Agile or not. If not, there is nothing to panic, smoothly convey the same to the interviewer. A common complaint with agile development is that it doesn’t scale well, for reasons like:
Q35. SAFe is based on Lean Product Development. What is the goal of Lean thinking?
The goal of Lean is to deliver maximum customer value while minimizing waste and providing the highest possible value to the customer and society as a whole. To accomplish this:
Q36. Does SAFe follow Agile Architecture or it does it have its own model?
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is based on Agile Architecture which applies to all the levels in SAFe. It is based on nine immutable, underlying Lean-Agile principles:
Q37. What are Product Managers responsible for in SAFe?
Product Manager has content authority at the program level and is responsible for Program Vision and Program Backlog. Listed below are the primary responsibilities of the Product Manager in the context of a single Agile Release Train.
Q38. What are the roles and responsibilities of a Release Train Engineer (RTE)?
The core responsibilities of the RTE are as follows:
Q39. What do you know about Value Stream Level of SAFe?
Value stream layer was introduced between the ART and Portfolio layers as part of SAFe 4.0. It is intended for builders of large and complex solutions, that typically require multiple ARTs as well as the contribution of Suppliers. Value Stream Level is optional and the primary purpose of this level is to apply Lean-Agile approaches to define, build, and deploy large, mission-critical solutions. Building such solutions requires additional constructs, artifacts, and coordination. This level contains
Q40. What are the Shared Services and how can the SAFe framework benefit from them?
Shared Services are special roles that are necessary for the success of an Agile Release Train (ART) and Solution Train but that cannot be dedicated full time. Potential members of shared services typically include:
Since they are special roles, often single-sourced, and typically quite busy, each ART and value stream must plan to engage the resources they need, when they need them.
Q41. What is the purpose of Portfolio Level?
The Portfolio is the highest level in SAFe. It provides constructs like principles, practices, and roles organizing the Lean-Agile Enterprise around the flow of value via one or more Value Streams. The portfolio has a bidirectional connection to the business:
Q42. What are the responsibilities of a System Team?
A System Team is a special Agile Team on the Agile Release Train (ART). They assist in building and supporting the Agile development environment infrastructure, including continuous integration, build environments, testing platforms and testing automation frameworks, and integrating code from Agile Team. he primary responsibilities of the System team include:
Q43. Explain the program level roles in SAFe?
The new redefined role structure at the program level is as stated below:
A System Team is a special Agile Team on the Agile Release Train (ART) who assist in building and supporting the Agile development environment including continuous integration, build environments, testing platforms, and testing automation frameworks, and integrating code from Agile Team
Product Managers are responsible for identifying Customer needs, prioritizing Features, guiding the work through the Program Kanban and developing the program Vision and Roadmap.
System Architect is an individual who defines the overall architecture of the system, help define nonfunctional requirements, determine the major elements and subsystems, and help define the interfaces and collaborations among them.
Release Train Engineer (RTE)
The Release Train Engineer is the Chief Scrum Master, who facilitates program-level processes and program execution, escalates impediments, manages risk, and helps drive program-level continuous improvement.
Release Management Team
The release team looks after the process of managing, planning, scheduling and controlling a software build through different stages and environments; including testing and deploying software releases.
Q44. What are the five dimensions of Built-In Quality?
Built-In Quality ensures that every element and every increment of the build are up to the same high standard of quality throughout the development lifecycle. Quality is very important, without it, the organization will likely operate with large batches of unverified, unvalidated work. Five dimensions of built-in quality are shown below.
The first one, Flow speaks to the fact that built-in quality is mandatory to achieve continuous value flow. The other four describe quality as it applies to the system itself.
Q45. How is the Solution Train different from Agile Release Train?
The Solution Train is the organizational construct that is used to build very large and complex solutions that require the coordination of multiple Agile Release Trains (ARTs), as well as support from the contributors of Suppliers. It aligns all these ARTs with a shared mission using the solution vision, backlogs and roadmap, and an aligned program increment.
The solution train provides additional roles, events, and artifacts needed to coordinate the building of some of the world’s largest and most important systems and solutions. The failure of such solutions, or even a subsystem, has unacceptable economic and societal consequences.
Q46. What are the roles present in the Solution Train?
Solution Train Engineer (STE)
STE is the servant leader of the team & they make sure the smooth running of the train and manage the delivery of the solution with the Release Train Engineers.
They represent the customer’s overall needs to the Agile Release Trains. They collaborate with the product management of each ARTs to define capabilities & break them into features.
They define the technology and architecture that connects the solution across the ARTs
They are the ultimate buyers of the solution and are involved at every level of SAFe
It is a special Agile Team on the Agile Release Train (ART) who assist in building and supporting the Agile development environment infrastructure
They are special roles that are necessary for the success of an Agile Release Train (ART) and Solution Train but that cannot be dedicated full time
Q47. What are the responsibilities of the System Architect/Engineer?
The SAFe System Architects/Engineers are the individuals and teams who have the technical responsibility for the overall architectural and engineering design of the system and solution, respectively. Some of their responsibilities include:
The role of an Architect is very common in software development and has been included in SAFe as one of the critical roles at the program and portfolio levels.
Q48. How does SAFe supports alignment?
Alignment is necessary to keep up with rapid change, disruptive competitive forces, and geographically distributed teams. More importance should be given to enterprise business objectives over team goals. SAFe supports alignment in the following ways:
Q49. How is decentralized decision making important in SAFe?
The primary intention of decentralized decision making is to deliver value in the sustainably shortest lead time. Waiting for the approval of the decision from higher authorities introduces a delay and can decrease the fidelity of the decision, due to the lack of local context, plus changes in fact patterns that occur during the wait time. decentralized decision making reduces delays, improves product development flow, and enables faster feedback and more innovative solutions.
Q50. What are the disadvantages of adopting SAFe?
Although SAFe brings many benefits to the table, it also comes with its own drawbacks, like:
Well, that’s it! We have reached the end of the Scaled Agile Interview Questions Article.
I hope the questions listed in this “Scaled Agile Interview Questions” help you crack your interview. Happy learning!
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