Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

A comprehensive & popular framework

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is the most comprehensive framework for adopting Agile development practices and principles at enterprise scale. It is continuously updated with new and different components, resembling a software product with versioning and backward compatibility.

The framework is used by 29% of the respondents in the Annual State of Agile Report, making it the most popular framework for Agile today.

The newest version of SAFe, version 5.0, places significant emphasis on the concept of Business Agility, engaging the entire organization. In earlier versions focus was on technical development, but it became clear that in order to deliver business solutions fast and frequently, all aspects of the organizations need involvement.

Key Purpose
& Core Principles

Scaled Agile Framework
(SAFe)

Fast, frequent & sustainable value

SAFe facilitates the creation and continuous improvement of a Lean Enterprise that delivers value fast, frequently, and sustainably. Their platform, scaledagileframework.com, provides an extensive knowledge base of best practices, competencies, and proven principles.

The SAFe framework revolves around 10 SAFe Principles, which in nature are similar to other Lean and Agile Principles:

  1. Take an economic view
  2. Apply systems thinking
  3. Assume variability; preserve options
  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
  5. Base milestones on an objective evaluation of working systems
  6. Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths
  7. Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
  9. Decentralize decision-making
  10. Organize around value

An Introduction to Key Elements

Core Values

A set of Core Values serves as guidance of the Agile transformation:

  1. Alignment is about continually communicating the mission, portfolio strategy, and solution vision.
  2. Transparency is about openly visualizing all relevant work.
  3. Built-in quality is about delivering through practices that ensures quality throughout the life cycle, e.g. by reducing technical debt and investing in maintenance work.
  4. Program execution: Participate as business owners in PI execution and establish business value. Ensure that the scope is aligned with demand and capacity. Aggressively remove impediments and demotivators.

The Big Picture

To visualize the framework’s different components a “Big Picture” graphic, showing how work flows from product management through governance, program and development teams, out to customers. The “Big Picture” shows the two levels of SAFe 5.0: Essential, including Agile teams and team of teams, and portfolio.

Essential level

On the essential level, multiple teams are part of an Agile Release Train (ART) working towards delivering a Product Increment. Teams are working in iterations and applying the roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner, and team members, supported by the program level roles like the Release Train Engineer, System Architect, and Product Management.

Portfolio level

On the portfolio level, the execution of deliverables is aligned with the strategy of a specific business area, organizing development around a number of value streams in an organizational unit. The key focus is to deliver budgeting and governance to ensure the right things are built in order to meet strategic business objectives.

Core Competencies

Finally, SAFe defines seven core competencies of the Lean Enterprise, each of which represents a set of related behaviours, skills and knowledge, enabling organizations to grow:

  1. Lean-Agile Leadership is the leadership style of Lean-Agile Leaders, who continuously apply the Lean-Agile mindset, values, and practices, while being change sponsors and supporting the people in the organization.
  2. Lean Portfolio Management is about applying a lean approach to strategic funding on senior management level in order to align execution and strategy.
  3. Organizational Agility is about adopting an organization-wide and cross-functional Lean-Agile mindset, driving optimization of business processes and strategies, and a truly flexible and agile organization.
  4. Enterprise Solution Delivery is about applying Lean-Agile principles and practices on a large scale; to develop and operate complex solutions in an ever-changing market.
  5. Agile Product Delivery is a way for teams to continuously and flexibly deliver value to the end-users of their products by taking a customer-centric approach.
  6. Team and Technical Agility is about adopting the critical skills, principles, and practices for the high-performing teams, in order to deliver value to their end-users.
  7. Continuous Learning Culture is about encouraging the people of the organization to learn and innovate by committing to continuous improvement practices and promoting a culture where failures are considered valuable lessons.

In doubt which agile framework to choose?​