The Scaled Agile Framework®(SAFe®)is a set of organizational and workflow patterns for implementing agile practices at an enterprise scale.The framework is a body of knowledge that includes structured guidance on roles and responsibilities, how to plan and manage the work, and values to uphold.
SAFe promotes alignment, collaboration, and delivery across large numbers of agile teams. It was formed around three primary bodies of knowledge: agile software development, lean product development, and systems thinking.
As businesses grow in size, SAFe provides a structured approach for scaling agile. There are four configurations in SAFe to accommodate various levels of scale: Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe, and Full SAFe.
Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo released SAFe in 2011 to help organizations design better systems and software that better meet customers’ changing needs. At that time, teams used traditional project management processes to deliver software. But as the need to rapidly respond to changing market conditions increased, new frameworks emerged to help businesses improve solution delivery across their enterprises, and SAFe was born. Today, SAFe is one of the most popular scaled agile delivery frameworks, and SAFe’s worldwide community of practitioners continue to evolve it.
Core principles and values
SAFe’s core values describe the culture that leadership needs to foster and how people should behave within that culture in order to effectively use the framework.
SAFe requires that companies put planning and reflection cadences in place at all levels of the organization. With these in place, everyone understands the current state of the business, the goals, and how everyone should move together to achieve those goals. By synchronizing people and activities regularly, all levels of the portfolio stay in alignment. Information flows both upward and downward in a timely fashion, unlike traditional top-down, command and control structures.
In the SAFe framework, agility should never come at the cost of quality. SAFe requires teams at all levels to define what “done” means for each task or project and to bake quality development practices into every working agreement. According to SAFe, there are five key dimensions of built-in quality: flow, architecture and design quality, code quality, system quality, and release quality.
SAFe encourages trust-building behavior, including planning work in smaller batch sizes so problems can be surfaced sooner, providing real-time visibility into backlog progress across levels, and inspect and adapt rituals.
Program execution is the heart of SAFe and powers everything else in the framework. Teams and programs must be able to deliver quality, working software and business value on a regular basis.
SAFe requires lean-agile leadership behavior because only leaders can change the system and create the environment necessary to embrace all of the core values.
The Scaled Agile Framework’s principles are meant to improve the company as a whole by inspiring lean-agile decision making across functional and organizational boundaries. The principles are intended to influence the decisions of not just leaders and managers, but of everyone in the organization and condition their mindset to shift from traditional waterfall thinking to lean-agile thinking, where practices like Lean Portfolio Management are applied.
Principle #1 Take an economic view
Inspired by the theories on product development flow from Donald Reinertsen's best selling books, achieving the shortest sustainable lead-time requires each individual in the decision-making chain to understand the economic implications of delays. Delivering early and often isn’t always enough. According to SAFe, sequencing jobs for maximum benefit, understanding economic trade-offs, and operating within lean budgets are all responsibilities that need to be shared throughout the organization. Many of the concepts and tools are drawn from Reinertsen’s theories on product development flow.
Principle #2 Apply systems thinking
SAFe encourages people using the framework to apply systems thinking to three key areas: the solution itself, the enterprise building the system, and the value streams. Solutions can refer to products, services, or systems delivered to the Customer, whether they are internal or external to the Enterprise.
Large solutions have many interconnected component parts, so team members should have a higher-level perspective on how their part fits into the bigger picture. When thinking about the enterprise building the system, people following SAFe should consider the organization’s people, management, and processes. So, if an organization is looking to optimize the way people work, it may need to eliminate silos, become cross-functional, and form new working agreements with suppliers and customers. Finally, the enterprise should clearly define how value flows from concept to cash in the solution development value streams. Leaders and management need to maximize the flow of value across functional and organizational boundaries.
Principle #3 Assume variability; preserve options
By default, designing systems and software is an uncertain exercise. This principle addresses uncertaintyby bringing in the concept of set-based design, which calls for retaining multiple requirements and design options for a longer period in the development cycle. The set-based design also relies on empirical data to narrow the focus on the final design option further in the process.
Set-based design helps inform decision-making during times of uncertainty by identifying the options and intended outcomes, much like a strategic bet. The concept of integrating “learning milestones”, which refers to adeadline for a decision, is instrumental to set-based design. The more teams learn over time, the more choices they can eliminate. The more choices they eliminate, the easier it is to identify the best path forward and produce the best possible outcome for customers.
Principle #4 Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
Similar to Principle #3, this principle addresses risk and uncertainty through learning milestones. It is not enough for each component part of the system to prove functional, the whole system must be considered to assess the feasibility of the current design choices. Integration points must be planned on a regular cadence to accelerate faster learning cycles. These integration points are an example of Walter A Shewhart’s plan-do-check-adjust cycle, a framework for continuous quality improvement and mechanism for controlling the variability of development. Shewart's work and the work he inspired are often within SAFe.
Principle #5 Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems
Demonstration of an actual working system provides a better basis for decision making than a requirements document or some other superficial evaluation of success. Including stakeholders in those feasibility decisions early on supports trust-building and systems thinking.
Principle #6 Visualize and limit Work in Process (WIP), reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths
Limiting work in process helps stakeholders see exactly how work is playing out.
The three elements of this principle represent the primary ways for maximizing throughput and accelerating value delivery - or in other words, implementing “flow”. As the saying goes "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."
When you apply this to software development, this means limiting the amount of overlapping work , the complexity of each item of work, and the total amount of work tackled at a given time. Small batch sizes allow for constant validation that work is headed in the right direction. And managing queue lengths ...
This principle seeks to offer guidance on optimizing for this for the best results.
Principle #7 Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning
Agile teams naturally apply cadence through sprints or iterations. Creating a cadence for all possible matters reduces complexity, addresses uncertainty, builds muscle memory, enforces quality, and instills collaboration. Synchronizing these cadences enables the people and the activities to move like cogs in the wheel where learned information informs decisions and incremental planning.
Principle #8 Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
Inspired by influential management consultant Peter Drucker and author Daniel Pink, this principle is one of our favorites! It's about unleashing the potential of teams and helping leadership take the perspective of coaching and serving their teams over a command-and-control mindset.
Principle #9 Decentralize decision making
Reducing queue lengths and taking an economic approach by decentralizing decision making, gives teams the autonomy they need to get work done. Leaders should preserve their decision-making authority for topics of strategic importance and enable teams to make informed choices on everything else.
How does SAFe Work?
Organizations that are ready to implement SAFe usually have executive-level sponsorship,a strong purpose for change, and a foundation in Scrum.
Scaled Agile, Inc. provides a SAFe implementation roadmap that contains detailed steps on how to get started and set up the organization for widespread adoption across portfolios. The 12 steps for implementing SAFe include:
- Reaching the tipping point
- Train lean-agile change agents
- Train executives, managers, and leaders
- Create a lean-agile center of excellence
- Identify value streams and ARTs (Agile Release Trains)
- Create the implementation plan
- Prepare for ART launch
- Train teams and launch the ART
- Coach the ART execution
- Launch more ARTs and value streams
- Extend to the portfolio
- Sustain and improve
How does SAFe compare to other scaled agile frameworks?
Although Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is widely adopted across enterprises with large software development teams, other scaled agile frameworks have gained traction over time. All frameworks for scaling agile share five main components: inspiration from the 12 Agile Manifesto principles, cadence, synchronization, Scrum, and quality development practices. Understanding other frameworks’ origins, core differences, and the conditions for their successful application can help organizations choose which framework best suits their needs.
Want more background on some of the top scaled agile frameworks? Check out the Agile at scaleoverview page on the Agile Coach.
SAFe vs. Scrum@Scale
In Scrum@Scale (S@S), everyone is part of an interchangeable Scrum team. Depending on their goals, networks of Scrum teams come together to form an ecosystem. The purpose of S@S is to create a network of Scrum teams through a ‘scale-free architecture,' meaning, basic Scrum roles and events are linearly scaled without introducing new process dynamics. For example, one Scrum of Scrum (SoS) may not be enough for a very complex product with 25 Scrum teams, so a Scrum of Scrum of Scrums (SoSoS) with a Scrum of Scrum of Scrums Master (SoSM) may be needed.
Although S@S is generally less prescriptive, it does offer one guiding question to help organizations determine whether they’re ready to scale: If you add more people to the system does performance increase exponentially or does productivity suffer?
Similarly to SAFe, S@S does offer reference content online including an extensive Scrum@Scale guide which is increasing in popularity.
S@S is most successful when
- The technology stack is object-oriented (i.e. vertical user stories can actually be delivered in two weeks)
- An organization’s feature teams have T-shaped skills, product-centric values, and minimum bureaucracy
- An agile or Agile Lifecycle Management (ALM) tool is not required until practices are second nature
- The executive team is willing to practice scrum and remove impediments for the organization
SAFe vs. Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS)
Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) takes a minimalist approach to roles, structure, and artifacts. Where SAFe offers four configurations toaccommodate teams of greater and greater size and with increasingly complex solutions, LeSS offers two configurations: LeSS for two to eight teams and LeSS Huge for more than eight teams. LeSS also differs in its stance that product owners should have complete content authority and strategic influence, where SAFe encourages a more democratic approach. And while in SAFe many factors inform strategy, LeSS places an emphasis on a customer-centric approach focused on paying customers.
Similar to S@S, LeSS scales from Scrum events, artifacts, and roles. And both SAFe and LeSS emphasize systems thinking, lean thinking, and similar guiding principles. LeSS, however, places a heavy focus on waste reduction across the organization, with the goal of continuous improvement.
LeSS is most successful when
- Scrum teams have mastered Scrum
- Leadership is willing to continuously restructure and experiment for the greater good
- There is alignment on the definition of the product
- There is alignment on the definition of done
- External coaches are working with organizational, team, and technical groups
- There are feature teams versus component teams with T-shaped skills
- The organization is willing to get rid of project management paradigm completely
SAFe vs. DA
Unlike the rest of the frameworks described, Disciplined Agile (DA) is a toolkit that enables organizations to decide what way of working makes the most sense to fit them. It offers lightweight agile governance which is rooted in Scrum and Kanban, along with transformation knowledge in areas like HR and finance, governance, DevOps, portfolio management, and more. DA involves situationally employing different levels of scale for each project and places an emphasis on decision-making enablement to help guide strategic direction.
DA is most successful when
- Organizations want to define their own scaled agile path(s)
- Organizations want to remain flexible across the enterprise
- Organizations want to preserve process and/or framework choices
SAFe vs Spotify
The Spotify “model” is a people-driven, autonomous set of practices that can be applied for coordinating agile teams. It was never intended to be a model or framework, but some businesses have adopted it as such. Spotify places an emphasis on self-organizing, cross-functional, and co-located teams called "squads" (the equivalent of a scrum team). Comparatively, SAFe has no such stipulation on the co-location of teams, for PI planning it is encouraged.
Squads are organized into larger units called "tribes". Dependencies between squads are few and handled through Scrum of Scrums when they occur. Knowledge sharing is enabled through "chapters" and "guilds," informal groups organized based on skill sets and interests.
Compared to other examples, where online resources, training courses, and certifications are available, resources on the Spotify model are limited to a publicly available blog and other companions pieces developed by its pioneers and fans. The model is growing in popularity, so it’s likely we’ll see more on this in the future.
Spotify is most successful when
- Applying the ideas in your own business context
- The organizational culture focuses on learning, allowing for mistakes, and taking controlled risks
- Teams and products are “loosely coupled, closely aligned” to avoid dependency conflicts
A central tenet of SAFe is that it continues to evolve in collaboration with its community of practitioners around the world. Most recently, Scaled Agile, Inc. launched the 5.0 version of SAFe. Key changes included the addition of a 10th principle, "Organize around value," and changing Step 12 from “Sustain and improve” to “Accelerate.” But there’s much more involved. Curious to learn more? Check out our What’s new and what’s changed in SAFe 5.0 blog.
Frameworks like SAFe and the ones discussed above provide a viable option for helping businesses effectively scale agile within their organizations and achieve their business outcomes. But just as important are the tools you choose to help you amplify existing practices and realize the full benefits of those practices. Enter, Atlassian’s Jira Align, an enterprise agile planning platform built for SAFe. Using Jira Align you can improve visibility, strategic alignment, and enterprise adaptability in order to accelerate your digital transformation.
Jessica Piikkila has been in the agile transformation business for over 10 years with deep roots in product management and agile coaching across multiple industries and capacities. The agile mindset has gotten her through tough personal challenges in life and fosters her love of learning. You will see her cracking the enterprise agility code with our customers.
How do you explain a SAFe? ›
The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a set of organizational and workflow patterns for implementing agile practices at an enterprise scale. The framework is a body of knowledge that includes structured guidance on roles and responsibilities, how to plan and manage the work, and values to uphold.What is SAFe vs agile? ›
So, the main difference between Agile and Scaled Agile is that Agile was designed for small teams with specific roles, whereas Scaled Agile is designed to scale all the way up to the enterprise. Get to know more about agile vs traditional project management.What are the 4 levels of SAFe? ›
SAFe Full Configuration consists of four levels: Team, Program, Large Solution and Portfolio.What is SAFe vs Scrum? ›
In simple words, Scrum is basically used to organise small teams, while SAFe®️ is used to organise the whole organization. Moreover, Scrum tends to miss many important aspects that SAFe®️ manages to contain. While Scrum is an Agile way to manage software development, SAFe®️ is an enterprise-level establishment method.What is the ultimate goal of SAFe? ›
The goal of SAFe is to synthesize this body of knowledge, along with the lessons learned from hundreds of deployments. This creates a system of integrated, proven practices that have improved employee engagement, time-to-market, solution quality, and team productivity.What are the core values of SAFe? ›
The four Core Values of alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution represent the fundamental beliefs that are key to SAFe's effectiveness. These guiding principles help dictate behavior and action for everyone who participates in a SAFe portfolio.What are the 3 C's in SAFe? ›
The 3Cs: Card, Conversation, Confirmation
Card – Captures the user story's statement of intent using an index card, sticky note, or tool. Index cards provide a physical relationship between the team and the story.
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is the most popular as well as the most complex and comprehensive scaled Agile framework right now. 29% of respondents in the Annual State of Agile Report claim that they use this framework in their organizations. In turn, there are many SAFe project managers in the market.How do you implement SAFe? ›
- Identify the why. ...
- Train your executives, managers, and leaders. ...
- Identify Value Streams and ARTs. ...
- Create the Implementation Plan. ...
- Prepare for ART Launch. ...
- Train Teams and Launch the ART. ...
- Coach ART Execution. ...
- Launch More ARTs and Value Streams.
Levels of SAFe Certification
In scaled agile frameworks, there are four levels: team, program, portfolio, and significant solution level.
Does SAFe agile work? ›
SAFe is not Agile
By now many of the ways SAFe is inconsistent with an Agile mindset should be pretty clear. It's plan focused, bureaucratic, complicated, includes a lot of often unnecessary process, dis-empowers team autonomy, and more.
Details. Most Agile Teams use SAFe ScrumXP as their primary method to deliver value. However, some teams have a rapid and uneven arrival of work and fast-changing priorities that lowers the value of detailed planning. These teams often choose SAFe Team Kanban as their operating model.What are the cons of SAFe agile? ›
- Too many jargons. The Scaled Agile framework depends on technical terms. ...
- Startup averse. SAFe was developed for large-scale industries. ...
- Top-down proposal. ...
- Define Epics incorrectly. ...
- New processes, activities, and terms. ...
- Not suitable for small teams. ...
- Forming the appropriate choice for SAFe.
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
The Scaled Agile Framework encompasses a set of principles, processes, and best practices that helps larger organizations adopt agile methodologies, such as Lean, Kanban, and Scrum, to develop and deliver high-quality products and services faster.
SAFe stands for “Scalable Agile Framework.” It defines an approach for scaling Scrum to make it work for bigger enterprises that has much bigger teams working on the same product then what Scrum recommends.What is SAFe's first Lean agile principle? ›
Therefore, SAFe's first Lean-Agile Principle is to take an economic view. It is Principle #1 for a reason. Economics should inform and drive decisions at all levels, from Portfolio to Agile Teams. While many factors can contribute to failed solutions, poor economics is one of the most common.What are the 7 competencies of SAFe? ›
- Lean-Agile Leadership.
- Team and Technical Agility.
- Agile Product Delivery.
- Enterprise Solution Delivery.
- Lean Portfolio Management.
- Organizational Agility.
- Continuous Learning Culture.
- 1) SAFe Lean-Agile Principles. ...
- 2) Real Agile Teams and Trains. ...
- 3) Cadence and Synchronisation. ...
- 4) Programme Increment (PI) Planning. ...
- 5) Customer Centricity, DevOps and Release on Demand. ...
- 6) System Demo. ...
- 7) Inspect & Adapt. ...
- 8) IP Iteration.
SAFe Agile Certification empowers you by making you a person with the skill to lead transformation, gives you a skill enhancement relevant today, provides globally recognised certification, ATC seamlessly delivers the course to you, and the course results in substantially increased market value.What is a bug in Scrum? ›
Bug is something that doesn't work. Often, you don't know why it doesn't. It can take 5 minutes, or it can take hours. You can't just size it as a story, you first need to look into the code and investigate what's wrong.
What is the rule of three in SAFe agile? ›
The Rule of 3 is a very simple way to get results. Rather than get overwhelmed by your tasks, you bite off three things you can accomplish. This puts you in control. If nothing else, it gives you a very simple frame for the day.Is SAFe Agile push or pull? ›
4. Pull, Don't Push, Work. Agile organizations need to balance push (the investors, sales, competitors, market conditions and others creating demand) versus the pull (which is constrained by limited capacity, skills, time, costs, etc).Is SAFe Agile same as Scrum? ›
The main difference between Scrum and SAFe® frameworks is their approach. While Scrum is used to organize small teams, the SAFe® framework is used for organizing a whole organization. A Scrum framework puts more focus on iterative development.Is SAFe a framework or methodology? ›
The Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe, is an agile framework developed for development teams. Most importantly, SAFE's foundation consists of three metaphorical pillars: Team, Program, and Portfolio.How are the 5 Whys used SAFe Scrum? ›
Once a cause is identified, its root cause is explored with the 5 Whys technique. By simply asking 'why' multiple times, the cause of the previous cause is uncovered, and added to the diagram. The process stops once a suitable root cause has been identified and the same process is then applied to the next cause.What are the 3 phases in Scrum? ›
- Initiation. The initiation phase of a Scrum framework is the period in which you create a vision for your project. ...
- Planning and estimation. ...
- Implementation. ...
- Reviewing. ...
A team's success with scrum depends on five values: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.Where do I start with SAFe agile? ›
Getting Started with Implementing SAFe:
They must identify Value Streams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs), implement a Lean-Agile portfolio, build quality in, and establish the mechanisms for continuous value delivery and DevOps. And, of course, the culture must evolve as well.
SAFe describes it as follows: The Roadmap is a schedule of events and Milestones that communicate planned Solution deliverables over a planning horizon. Roadmaps are the glue that link strategy to tactics.How much is the SAFe practitioner exam? ›
Exam cost – First exam attempt is included as part of the course registration fee if the exam is taken within 30 days of course completion. Each retake attempt costs $50.
Is the SAFe exam difficult? ›
How difficult is the NMLS SAFE Act exam? Passing the exam is not easy… in fact, according to NMLS SAFE test passing rate, the first time pass rate is 54%, and only 46.7% for subsequent attempts.Is SAFe certification worth it? ›
25% more hike in salary :- SAFe® Agilist certification will ensure that you will get a pay hike in your current or new job. SAFe® agilist teaches you niche skills that SAFe® certified professionals get 25% more hike than their non-certified professionals.IS SAFe certification in demand? ›
Globally Recognized Accreditation
With a SAFe certificate in hand, you can find your dream job in your dream country/organization. This certification is recognized worldwide and highly sought after. The Scaled Agile Certification is one of the highly in-demand certifications as more and more organizations adopt SAFe.
SAFe solves the problem of large teams or multiple teams that have functional dependencies between them.Does SAFe have a scrum master? ›
In SAFe, Scrum Masters assist their teams in meeting delivery goals. They coach teams in self-organization and self-management and help them coordinate and participate in Agile Release Trains (ARTs) events, increasing the effectiveness of SAFe across the organization.How many sprints are in SAFe agile? ›
This is called a Program Increment (PI), and it consists of five full iterations (sprints) — 10 weeks by default. Just like agile teams, the ART has a set of ceremonies that happen on a predetermined cadence throughout the PI.What are the 3 S's in kanban? ›
Name 3 S's in Kanban Board
The simplest basic Kanban board example has three sections: Backlog, Work in Progress, and Done.
Agile process focuses on constant communication whereas Kanban process have shorter sprint lengths forced to break up items to fit within sprint boundaries. Agile process allows Iterative Development whereas Kanban process does not allow Iterative Development.What is the difference between SAFe and Scrum Master? ›
Understanding of Lean and Agile
The SAFe® Scrum Master is supposed to enable the agile team in its SAFe® adoption, and they also learn a variety of Lean techniques/tools to improve the flow of value in their agile teams. A Scrum Master has focused only on the Scrum framework.
The key difference between Agile and Scrum is that Scrum is a highly successful methodology for delivering software to a customer, while Agile is a philosophy about how to deliver software to a customer.
What are the 6 Scrum principles? ›
- Control over the empirical process. In Scrum, the empirical process is based on observation of hard evidence and experimentation rather than theory. ...
- Self-organization. ...
- Collaboration. ...
- Value-based prioritization. ...
- Time-boxing. ...
- Iterative development.
Scrum has three roles: product owner, scrum master, and the development team members.Why do companies use SAFe? ›
The biggest advantage of SAFe is it's suited for enterprise problems. It keeps the size of the teams in mind as it helps increase productivity, make efficient project framework planning, and quicker codification of agile practices.Why scaled agile does not work? ›
Here are some common problems with scaled Agile approaches that could arise in your company. Lack of Flexibility – Of the Agile approaches, SAFe is one of the more rigid. There is little room for adjustment to the approach, making it difficult to adapt the framework to any specific needs your organization may have.Why is SAFe anti Agile? ›
In short, SAFe is not agile.
They require alignment on customer success, not a predetermined set of features. They require a continuous discovery process that inevitably leads to unplanned course corrections. These corrections would “derail” a Release Train in no time.
- Talk about “safe” and “unsafe” touching rather than “good” or “bad” touching. ...
- Use age-appropriate wording. ...
- Teach the difference between healthy and unhealthy secrets. ...
- Have your child name five people that they could talk to if someone was touching them in an unsafe way.
Explain to children that when you remove a splinter, you're doing so to keep them healthy, which makes it a safe touch. Unsafe touches. These are touches that hurt children's bodies or feelings (for example, hitting, pushing, pinching, and kicking). Teach children that these kinds of touches are not okay.What are the key terms for a safe? ›
- Investment or Purchase Amount. The investment or purchase amount is the amount of money the investor pays to the company upon entering into the SAFE. ...
- Conversion Event. ...
- Valuation Cap. ...
- Termination. ...
- Other Terms. ...
- Key Takeaways.
First means preceding all others in time, order, or importance. So to put it together.....”Safety First” means to put the condition of being safe from harm, injury or loss before other matters; making safety of considerable importance.