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How to Overcome Challenges in Your SPC Certification Journey

overcome spc challenges
The pursuit of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), SAFe Practice Consultants (formerly called SAFe Program Consultant), in short called SPC is a transformative journey for many professionals in the Agile space. The SPC is a highly respected certification that underscores one’s expertise in implementing SAFe, coaching teams, launching Agile Release Trains (ARTs), and aiding in an organization’s transformation. Yet, like any meaningful journey, it is dotted with challenges. Recognizing and navigating these challenges is crucial for success.

I am going to split these challenges into 2 parts.

  1. Becoming SPC certified
  2. Practicing SAFe as SPC

 Becoming a certified SAFe Practice Consultant

  1. Attending SPC certification

Challenge: Finding 4 days to attend SAFe Practice Consultant training itself is a big deal for many people. I see many colleagues of mine want to get SPC certification and change their careers but they don’t get 4 days to attend the certification training.

Solution: Well in advance, block the calendar for 4 days. In Indian timing,

Challenge: Preparing for the SPC certification can be time-consuming, especially for professionals balancing work, personal commitments, and study time.

Solution: Plan ahead and block your seat for SPC training. In India, there are classes conducted between Thursday and Sunday. If you think you won’t be able to spend 4 working days, this option of spending one of the weekends would help save 2 days.

  1. Hands-On Training

Challenge: Many people struggle with grasping concepts through reading or self-study.

Solution: Learning SAFe by self is just impossible. Consider enrolling in official SAFe training courses. These courses are facilitated by experienced SAFe professionals and provide hands-on, interactive learning experiences. They also offer the chance to discuss challenges and solutions with peers.

  1. Many training institutes, am confused

Challenge: There are many training institutes. I am not sure which one is better.

Solution: SPC is an expensive course. It’s important to do a thorough study of each training institute and decide which one is better. Many trainers have predominantly conducted training for many years. Here are a few pointers to validate the trainer experience in SAFe.

  1. How many complex SAFe implementations that the trainer was involved in?
  2. What are the results achieved in these transformation assignments?
  3. When was the last that the trainer was part of a complex SAFe transformation?
  4. Was the trainer involved in LPM implementation OR Large Solution implementation?
  5. Is the trainer still practicing in the latest version of SAFe?
  6. Exam Pressure

Challenge: The SPC certification exam is rigorous and can be daunting. Some people fail the final exam.

Solution: Yes, the exam is not that easy because it is one of the highest levels of certifications in SAFe. However, with good preparation, passing chances are very high.

Here are a few tips for exam preparation.

  1. Understanding the concept first is very important. If you understand the concepts well in the 4-day training, exam preparation would be bit easy.
  2. Go through the SPC workbook given to you, at least twice before attempting the practice test OR final exam.
  3. Take multiple practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions.
  4. Create a calm exam environment, ensuring no distractions.
  5. Some of the exam questions are twisted. Hence, focus on comprehension, not memorization.
  6. Don’t be in a hurry to take the exam just after the 4-day training. Take time for preparation.
  7. Don’t postpone the exam till the last date. It adds unnecessary pressure to clear the exam. In my view, 2 weeks after the training completion is a good time for taking the exam.

Practicing SAFe as SAFe Practice Consultant

Now, let’s step away from the exam point of view. Let’s look at the challenges you may face as a SAFe Practice Consultant during your practice journey.

  1. Understanding the Depth and Breadth of SAFe

Challenge: SAFe is vast, encompassing everything from team-level practices to portfolio management. A common pitfall is underestimating the scope and depth required. Just completing the SPC certification will introduce you to the concepts, but won’t take you in depth.

Solution: Being a consultant demands a thorough knowledge and understanding of the framework. Dive deep into all the SAFe principles, roles, events, and artifacts. Utilize resources like SAFe’s official website, online forums, and study groups. You can’t just skim the surface; a deep understanding is necessary. For that, continuously practicing as an SPC is crucial.

  1. Real-World Experience

Challenge: KNOWLEDGE IS NOT UNDERSTANDING. Theoretical knowledge is just a starting point, but applying SAFe principles in real-world scenarios can be vastly different.

Solution: Work on SAFe implementations or join teams practicing SAFe. If you’re in an organization that hasn’t adopted SAFe yet, consider proposing pilot programs or collaborating with companies that have implemented it. Hands-on experience is invaluable.

Find some opportunity to work in SAFe that will provide immense experience to learn.

  1. Balancing SAFe with Other Frameworks

Challenge: Some professionals find it challenging to balance SAFe principles with other Agile frameworks they might already be using.

Solution: Understand the essence of SAFe. It’s designed to be flexible and to work in tandem with other Agile frameworks. If you have noticed, SAFe is in-built with Scrum and Kanban. In fact, SAFe is a beautiful amalgamation of Lean, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, Design Thinking, Lean Startup, etc. Best of all the worlds are put together in this framework.

  1. Continuous Learning

Challenge: After achieving the SPC certification, the learning shouldn’t stop. However, many fall into the trap of complacency.

Solution: Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning. Continue attending workshops, renew your certification when required, attend webinars conducted by LeanWisdom, be part of our community, and always be open to new ideas and approaches within the SAFe community.

  1. Staying Updated

Challenge: We are in the digital age. The Agile space is dynamic, with continuous evolution. SAFe is no different.

Solution: Yes, the Agile space is dynamic in the digital age. SAFe framework releases a new version every 2-3 years. Hence, it’s important to stay updated with the latest version of SAFe. Stay connected with the community. Engage in forums, join webinars, read relevant articles, and participate in local Agile groups. Regularly visit the official SAFe website to keep abreast of updates.

  1. Networking

Challenge: SAFe is as much about people and interactions as it is about processes. However, many often overlook the importance of networking.

Solution: Join SAFe and Agile communities, both online and offline. Engaging with like-minded professionals can provide insights, different perspectives, and solutions to challenges you might face. Moreover, networking can open doors to real-world SAFe implementation opportunities.

  1. Keeping the Momentum Post-Certification

Challenge: Once certified, some professionals struggle with how to leverage their SPC certification effectively.

Solution: Offer to lead SAFe transformations within your organization. You can also consider consultancy roles or provide training to budding SAFe enthusiasts. The certification is just a start; using it to foster SAFe principles in real-world scenarios is where the true journey begins.

Conclusion

The SAFe Practice Consultant journey is experiential, fun, and a thrill ride as you are going to transform a large enterprise. Hence, it’s not going to be that easy. The road to SPC certification is indeed paved with challenges, but with determination, a keen sense of purpose, and the right strategies, these challenges can be surmounted. Embrace the journey, learn from every experience, and remember that every challenge faced prepares you to be a more effective SAFe Program Consultant. Your transformation impacts not just your professional journey, but also the broader organizations and teams that will benefit from your expertise.

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