Better SAFe Than Sorry

As noted by nearly everyone who has taken the time and invested the effort into implementing the Scaled Agile Framework for the Enterprise (SAFe), the single most powerful benefit the framework brings is a level of alignment across departments and teams that would otherwise be impossible.

While individual teams that take on the challenge of going Agile can see benefits internally, and can even have a positive impact on external stakeholders, it’s become obvious over the years that the true value of an Agile transformation only becomes apparent when the entire enterprise is aligned to make the most of it.

And that’s where SAFe truly shines.

Alignment at the Portfolio Level

The portfolio level is responsible for large scale strategic decision making involving budgetary and business objectives. These will affect the projects the company chooses to undertake and their priority within the organization. As decisions are made regarding business direction, time frames, and budgets, the portfolio level develops “business epics” (over-arching initiatives that outline how the company is planning to reach certain business goals) and “architectural epics” (initiatives outlining technology or infrastructure required to support the business epics).

These epics are used to create individual stories in the portfolio backlog, which offers a long range strategic to-do list for the program level to work from.

Alignment at the Program Level

Product and Release Managers at the program level use the portfolio backlog to inform the program backlog, a repository of more specific program level objectives, which are then filtered down to individual development teams according to a set cadence that works within the larger business epic.

The program level of an Agile enterprise is responsible for keeping the “release train” moving, ensuring that development, testing and every iteration completed at the team level in short Sprints can be completed and released on a cycle that complements portfolio level goals.

Serving as necessary middlemen, the program level serves as the conduit between development teams and executives. If the program level loses touch with either the team or portfolio level, the entire process can fall apart.

Alignment at the Team Level

However, if the program level serves its communication role effectively, the individual development teams are able to begin each Sprint with a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished and how their efforts fit into the larger picture of strategic business objectives.

This way, all three levels stay aligned with each other and work together successfully toward beneficial business goals.

If you’d like to see alignment as described here in your own organization, take a look at our series of training programs designed to customize SAFe to your unique organization’s needs and objectives. As a SAFe Gold Partner, we’re ready willing and able to help you take full advantage of the framework for success.