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Scaled Agile Framework

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a tailored solution to aid larger organisations in resolving the problem that jeopardises project success. To make the Scaled Agile methodology work for larger teams, it modifies the best practices of Agile Project Management. Large enterprises can use SAFe as a framework to improve their agility and accelerate the time to market for their deliverables. Want to know how this Framework can become beneficial for organisations? Read this blog to get an overview of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), including its history, guiding principles, why to use it, and its benefits. By the time you finish, you'll have a great understanding of the Scaled Agile Framework and know how to use it in an organisation.

Table of Contents

1) What is SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)?

2) History of SAFe

3) How does SAFe work?

4) Why use Scaled Agile Framework methodology?

5) Scaled Agile Framework principles

6) Benefits of SAFe?

7) SAFe vs. Scrum

8) Conclusion

What is SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)?

The Scaled Agile Framework, also known as SAFe, is a collection of organisational and workflow principles created to deploy Agile practices at the enterprise level. A body of knowledge that includes structured instructions on duties and tasks, how to organise and manage work, and upholding suitable values makes up the structure. 

Agile development, Lean product development, systems thinking, and DevOps are four disciplines that SAFe integrates.  

To develop and deliver high-quality goods and services more quickly, larger organisations can implement Agile approaches like Lean, Kanban, and Scrum with the support of the Scaled Agile Framework. Complex initiatives with several large teams at the project, program, and portfolio levels are particularly well suited to SAFe. The framework gives organisations a direction on how to collaborate across these levels. 

SAFe offers larger enterprises a more scalable way to utilise the advantages of Scrum and Kanban. It provides a means for stakeholders from many groups to provide quicker input, enabling larger businesses to manage projects in a more agile manner. This expedited feedback loop results in higher engagement, greater productivity, improved job satisfaction, and better work quality.

Moreover, the Scaled Agile Framework includes organisational patterns, practice guidelines, workflows, and concepts for implementing Agile approaches in larger businesses. The body of knowledge comprising roles and responsibilities, managing work, and applying suitable values is included in the SAFe framework structure.

Skillsets in SAFe methodology

Large teams handling complex projects at many levels, including program, portfolio, and project levels, should use the SAFe methodology. The popularity of SAFe is a result of its organised and systematic approach. 

According to the 12th Annual State of Agile Report, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is the most widely used technique for scaling agile, with nearly 1/3 (29%) of people admitting that SAFe is the method they need to follow closely. 

The SAFe technique primarily focuses on five skills that assist firms in adapting to fluctuating market conditions, consumer demands, and developing technologies:

a) Lean-Agile leadership

Agile leaders may help people and teams achieve their objectives and promote organisational change and its effectiveness.

b) Technical agility and teamwork

To create quick solutions, the agile team should adhere to the Lean-Agile approach and possess necessary skills. The team's technical expertise is also essential because they are responsible for the finished product that is provided to the clients.

c) Lean Portfolio management

A comprehensive organisational plan considering key factors, such as compliance management, portfolio management, and financial concerns, is crucial for the successful implementation of the SAFe methodology.

d) Business solutions

Lean-Agile practices are supported by organisations to assist the creation, development, and deployment of the complete project.

e) DevOps on demand

For value creation to the needs of the customer, a constant and ongoing pipeline delivery for deliverables is crucial.

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History of SAFe  

The original version of SAFe was created in the field and released in 2011; it was later expanded upon by software experts Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo.  

The original version of SAFEe was "The Agile Enterprise Big Picture" or SAFe 1.0. Over the next nine years, it evolved into SAFe 2.0, 3.0, LSE, 4.0, 4.5, 4.6, and 5.0, which is the version that is currently in use. 

How does SAFe work?

The SAFe framework operates on certain core values that leaders must be successfully demonstrate at the workplace and promote the ideology of how employees need to work together to implement the framework effectively. Now SAFe requires organisations to invest their time and effort in planning and reflecting their cadences across all levels and departments.

Additionally, everyone needs to move together and mutually be on the same page with the project’s current state. What matters is that all members and activities are in regular synchronisation on a daily basis and the portfolio is in proper alignment. This also entails that the information flow is occurring upward and downward in a disciplined manner.

SAFe is built on the robust foundation of quality, which means that at no point must the process be compromised. Teams can ensure this by defining exactly what a completed task means to them, which is known as a task’s built-in quality. Such quality comprises of parameters such as flow, architecture, quality of code, system and release quality and the design quality.

More importantly, transparency is second to nothing in the organisation. Fostering trust is an absolute definitive throughout the levels and teams and could be nurtured out in small-sized employee batches so problems can be addressed rapidly. Such a measure provides teams with real-time visibility into the progress of their backlog progress across every level in the organisation.

One vital aspect which must not go unnoticed, is that program execution segment of the SAFe framework. Teams and programs need to ensure that they deliver the optimal quality as or more than desired, as part of a functional software on a regular basis. What all this basically means is that SAFe needs teams to practice and demonstrate excellent lean-agile leadership behaviour as  it will take only seasoned leaders to bring about a rift in the system and cultivate the environment needed to inculcate all the scaled agile framework core values.

Why use Scaled Agile Framework methodology?

For the following well-established reasons, enterprises employ the SAFe methodology worldwide:

1) It raises productivity and quality

2) Expands the number of workers engaged in product delivery

3) Enables a faster time to market

The following situations will help you understand when to apply the SAFe methodology:

1) When the team desires to operate independently while applying an Agile methodology to numerous team projects and portfolios

2) While implementing Agile, the team runs across delays, setbacks, and challenges

3) When the team wishes to scale Agile across the organisation but is unaware of the new roles to be formed, what modifications must be made to the current roles, and how the modifications should appear

4) To improve the company's product development methods

5) When attempting to scale agile throughout the organisation but running into challenges establishing a unified and consistent strategy across diverse department

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Scaled Agile Framework principles

The Scaled Agile Framework also lists 10 principles for Agile teams which are as follows:

1) Take an economic view

A key component of Lean methodology is sound economics. The SAFe methodology advocates using an economics foundation and distributing content frequently. This helps to save expenses by reducing delays and lengthening lead times. Additionally, every individual needs to understand the economic consequences of delays in order to achieve the shortest possible sustainable lead-time. A safe delivery on a regular basis usually does not suffice and so jobs need to be sequenced for maximum benefit, economic trade-offs must be understood and operations on a lean budget must be shared across the organisation. Many of the tools and techniques are derived from Donald Reinertsen’s theories on the flow of Product Development.

2) Apply systems thinking

Three fundamental ideas are part of systems thinking- the solution is a system, the organisation creating the system is also a system, and the optimisation of the entire value stream. SAFe offers a comprehensive overview of solution creation by simplifying these ideas. Now the SAFe framework encourages people to utilise the framework for applying the idealogy of systems thinking to three key areas, namely the solution, the enterprise that builds the system and the value streams. It is important to note that the solutions can refer to products, services or systems that are delivered to the customer, regardless if they are internal or external to the enterprise.

3) Assume variability; preserve options

Agile must deal with variation. Instead of avoiding it, developers ought to learn how to manage it well and maintain options by adopting a set-based structure. This entails starting with a large number of design options, frequently assessing them, and then removing them, as necessary. Now organisations must understand that the design of systems and software is an activity involving uncertainty. This principle that assumes variability and preserves options, goes to address uncertainty by bringing forth the concept of set-oriented design. Such design requires the retention of various requirements and design options to result in a longer period in the development cycle. Set-based designs also depend significantly on the empirical data for narrowing down the focus on the final design option in the process.

4) Build incrementally with fast integrated learning cycles

This idea seeks to lower risk by first producing a variety of design possibilities rather than just one. The solution can be built up gradually during the development process, with each timeboxed period getting better than the last. Quite similar to the third principle, this principle discusses the risk and uncertainty involved while learning the project milestones. It does not suffice if every part of the system proves itself functional, but rather the whole system needs to be considered for the assessment of the feasibility of the current design choices. Moreover, integration points also need to be planned on a frequent basis to help catalyse the process of learning cycles.

5) Base milestones on an objective evaluation of working systems-

Teams can make better judgments and manage their milestones appropriately by using a working system as a model. Design, development, and testing are a few examples of milestones. Here, regular stakeholder involvement is important to maintain a high ROI potential. More importantly, a thorough demonstration of a system in proper working condition provides teams with a better basis for making business decisions, as opposed to a requirements document or any other superficial forms of evaluation of the project’s success. Moreover, it is vital to involve the stakeholder in the decisions pertaining to the project’s feasibility early on during the phase as it helps foster strust and a perspective of systems thinking.

6) Visualise and limit work in progress, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths

SAFe suggests the three items mentioned above to improve workflow. To boost visibility, teams can utilise a Kanban board. They can also break up large batches into smaller ones to save holding and transaction expenses. 

7) Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning

The development process will become regular and structured with the addition of a "rhythmic pattern of events." Multiple events may take place simultaneously when these cadences are coordinated, adding a range of views to aid in decision-making.

8) Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers

Using the SAFe model, managers may inspire their teams by allowing them autonomy in their work, taking into account the role that money plays as an incentive, and listening to and providing regular feedback.

9) Decentralise decision-making

Leaders should still make strategic decisions, but team members can take up other decisions. Leaders can concentrate on more prominent issues by letting the team manage any frequent and time-sensitive decisions.

10) Organise around value

Enterprises may quickly generate deliverables and respond to shifting consumer demands by utilising the unique organisational patterns described by SAFe. This methodology strives to improve value delivery and provide the Agile environment better structure.

When scaling Agile at the enterprise level, the aforementioned Scale Agile Framework principles can serve as a helpful guide for teams.

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What are the benefits of SAFe?

Agile teams can gain a plethora of benefits from the Scaled Agile Framework's rich knowledge base and assistance. The four key values—better alignment, high-quality goods, increased transparency, and successful execution—cover some of these. Other benefits are:

1) Better Engagement- SAFe facilitates the productive collaboration of numerous Agile teams on a single project, enhancing employee productivity and engagement.

2) Simplified Structure- The SAFe model's precise definitions and boundaries provide organisations a sense of structure.

3) Faster Time to Market- The SAFe method is used to reduce lead times and speeds up product delivery by optimising value flow.

SAFe vs Scrum

Organisations must note that both SAFe and Scrum are methodologies in Agile for developing innovative and optimal solutions. On one hand, SAFe is a framework that intends to scale conventional Agile principles throughout large-scale organisations, whereas Scrum is meant for individual teams.

Now consider an example of Scrum, where standup meetings are scheduled on a daily basis along with development sprints held in an incremental fashion. SAFe is one step ahead with its implementation of project increments. This is what SAFe refers to as a ‘timebox’ during which an Agile Release Train (ART) delivers value in an incremental manner with tested software and systems.

While choosing between both frameworks, organisations need to understand their team setting, project size and schedule so that the chosen framework is best suited to their software development life cycle.


Team leaders should be proficient in implementing and utilising SAFe given its popularity. When a company is hiring for an agile team leader or agile coach position, certification demonstrates to organisations that you have SAFe qualifications that have been independently verified.

Furthermore, demand is high and will continue to be high for the foreseeable future because agile is thought of as the new norm. So, if you want to learn the Lean-Agile principles and practises of SAFe and are searching for a stable profession with high earning potential, check out our Lean Portfolio Management SAFe leading course today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and how does it differ from traditional Agile? faq-arrow

The traditional Agile methodology is built on the conventional Agile principles, and the Scaled Agile Framework is designed to be a scaled-up version of the conventional Agile principles. Additionally, there is no structure of hierarchy in Agile teams because their aim is to pay attention to accomplishing small tasks, one at a time. On the other hand, SAFe frameworks are built on Agile Release Trains (ART) which are virtual groups of Agile teams working collaboratively on the same project timeline to achieve their goals. Moreover, team members are encouraged to make their decisions independently, whereas in the SAFe framework, decisions can be made at either the team level or the level of the whole enterprise, based on the problem’s scope.

What is the primary need for SAFe in scaled agile? faq-arrow

The ultimate goal of SAFe is to promote alignment, a mindset of collaboration and optimal delivery across large numbers of Agile teams. The framework was built on three key bodies of knowledge, namely Agile Software Development, Lean Product Development and Systems thinking. Moreover, as businesses expand in size, the framework offers them with a proper structured approach to scale their Agile approaches. These approaches typically encompass four key configurations, namely Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe and Full SAFe.

Is SAFe suitable for all types of industries and organisations, or is it more tailored to specific sectors? faq-arrow

The SAFe framework, also known as the Scaled Agile Framework, is designed to guarantee improvement in project outcomes with thousands of users. The improved outcomes include enhanced organisation, better coordination, better consistency and good quality governance. In addition to these improvements, the choice of priorities and project progress is also made visible to all involved stakeholders.

Now the Scaled Agile framework has encompassed within it, ten practices which are as follows:

a) SAFe Lean-Agile principles

b) Agile teams and release trains

c) Program Increment (PI) planning

d) System demonstration

e) Intellectual Property (IP) iterations

f) Leadership based on Lean-Agile

The SAFe Agile framework additionally offers organisations with the necessary guidance, such as a three-layered model comprising of teams, program and a portfolio group. These three key layers aid the orgaisatiojn in managing their investments. Experts and advisors recommend that the SAFe Agile framework be rolled out at the rate of one release train at a time.

Now the framework is practically based on the foudnation of three key principles, namely Transparency, Alignment, and Program execution. Although similar to the Scrum framework, organisations must understand that they need to chart out their team’s communication, coordination, predictability and pace. They more importantly, need to figure out their problem statement and what parts of the SAFe Agile framework could be utilised in combination to help solve it.

What are the other resources and offers provided by The Knowledge Academy? faq-arrow

The Knowledge Academy takes global learning to new heights, offering over 30,000 online courses across 490+ locations in 220 countries. This expansive reach ensures accessibility and convenience for learners worldwide.  

Alongside our diverse Online Course Catalogue, encompassing 17 major categories, we go the extra mile by providing a plethora of free educational Online Resources like News updates, blogs, videos, webinars, and interview questions. Tailoring learning experiences further, professionals can maximise value with customisable Course Bundles of TKA.  

The Knowledge Academy’s Knowledge Pass, a prepaid voucher, adds another layer of flexibility, allowing course bookings over a 12-month period. Join us on a journey where education knows no bounds.

What are related Agile courses and blogs provided by The Knowledge Academy? faq-arrow

The Knowledge Academy offers various Agile courses, including Agile Project Management Foundation & Practitioner, Certified SAFe for teams, Agile Project Agile. These courses cater to different skill levels, providing comprehensive insights into Project Management methodologies.

Our Project Management blogs covers a range of topics related to PRINCE2, offering valuable resources, best practices, and industry insights. Whether you are a beginner or looking to advance your Project Management skills, The Knowledge Academy's diverse courses and informative blogs have you covered.



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