How Schneider Electric Scaled Agile Development With Helix Plan (Formerly Hansoft)

To accelerate the development lifecycle for its complex projects, the Buildings division of Schneider Electric migrated to an Agile methodology based on two common scalable Agile frameworks —SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) and LeSS (Large Scale Scrum).

After evaluating 13 project management tools — including Microsoft TFS, Atlassian Jira, Rally (CA Agile Central), and VersionOne — Schneider Electric chose the tool that could accommodate their scale and customization: Helix Plan (formerly Hansoft).

Why Helix Plan?


Helix Plan could handle many users, many projects, using scaling Agile frameworks.


Ease of Use

They needed a tool that team members at all levels of the company would adopt.



Helix Plan was easily customized for Schneider Electric’s tailored Agile implementation.

Our development has become more flexible.

It is easy to modify and redirect. Lead times have been shortened considerably.”


Staying Competitive

Schneider Electric is a French multinational company with 150,000 employees. Its products and services help customers improve energy efficiency in their homes and businesses. One of its five main divisions, Buildings, develops systems for energy management of large buildings — integrating subsystems such as lighting, access control, cooling, and electricity distribution. 

Like many industries, the energy management industry is increasingly software-driven. What that means is that Schneider Electric, historically a manufacturing company, is now competing with a very different generation of companies. Google’s Nest division is one example. To maintain competitiveness, the Buildings division reevaluated how to manage their complex portfolio of software projects in order to release products faster and better match customer demands. 

Their new approach is based on Agile methodologies. It’s a custom approach, with elements from SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) and LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) combined to better fit the complex software development at Schneider. 

With a method in place, the company needed to find a project management tool that could handle its framework across its teams of teams, and also be quickly adopted by all product leaders, project managers, and developers. 

Letting Teams Choose From 13 Different Tools

Schneider Electric evaluated 13 candidate tools, including Microsoft TFS, VersionOne, and Atlassian Jira, judging them on many criteria. After whittling them down, the selected two finalists for an in-depth, hands-on trial: CA Rally and Helix Plan. 

Twelve users were selected to do the in-depth trial of the two finalists. During the trial period, they used one tool for one project, then switched to the other tool for their next project. In this way, they could evaluate the full spectrum of characteristics they required in their next tool. These included criteria as simple as user satisfaction, general usability, and performance to more technical requirements, such as SAFe support, support for both hardware and software teams, and data access.

Helix Plan was new to all of the testers, while four of the testers had prior experience with Rally. 

Three out of four of them preferred Helix Plan. As did all of the remaining testers.

That came as a surprise.

“We were really surprised about the strong developer support,” said Patrik Hartlén, Software Development Manager. “We expected stronger support for the familiar tool among existing users.” 


Mixing Methods for an Easy Transition

Part of the success of Helix Plan at Schneider Electric is that they could structure the backlog to support their transition from Waterfall to Agile methods. 

“When testing the tools in real projects, it became clear that the ability to support mixed methods was essential. It allowed a smooth transition from Waterfall to Agile methods and still provided a way for hardware and software teams to work together, in the same tool, towards their joint releases. That, together with the superior ability to restructure a backlog and support continuous improvement, has made us really happy with the selection,” explains Henrik Olsson, VP Operations, Schneider Electric Buildings. “This is a tool I gladly take to the rest of my organization. The whole company benefits from working the way we can.” 

With added flexibility, teams at Schneider Electric have delivered considerable business results. 

“Our development has become more flexible. It is easy to modify and redirect and lead times have been shortened considerably,” continued Olsson. “What has been the biggest challenge? It’s the big change. We have spent a lot of time creating understanding across the organization.” 

“SAFe and LeSS provided a direction once we got started in the tool, but reality required us to tweak it to some extent. Helix Plan could easily be configured for that. The other tools we looked at would not have allowed us to do that.”

Patrik Hartlén 
Software Development Manager


Fast Facts

Size — 30 development projects run simultaneously in Helix Plan. 

Organization — Primarily used by software teams applying Agile practices, but also by hardware teams.

Helix Plan Setup — Allows all users to see all projects for transparency and collaboration. 

Power-ups — Uses the SDK to run some data synchronization tasks that support the last details of SAFe.

Bringing It All Together

Selecting the right Agile planning tool and implementing it properly is no simple task. At Schneider Electric, they put the tools to the test and picked the one that best fit their organization, a solution that scaled their way and was liked by employees. 

Patrik Hartlén, Software Development Manager, reflects: 

“Implementing SAFe and LeSS is a challenge in any solution, and all the ones we were looking at had strengths and weaknesses. But looking back, I realize that the flexibility [Helix Plan] gives us makes it the only tool that could do the job. With any other, we would most probably have ended up throwing our first setup away to start over from scratch. I cannot say how much that saved us, but it isn’t hard to figure out that our original objective of having strong buy-in by all employees would have failed.” 

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