Do Frameworks Like SAFe, DevOps, ITIL and CMMI Compete or Complement?

When you’re getting an enterprise to function in a more lean and efficient way, there are several frameworks like SAFe, DevOps, ITIL, and CMMI that you can use to get there. But, initially, it may be unclear as to whether these frameworks work together synergistically and complement each other or whether some compete with each other. You may have questions like:

  • How do these frameworks fit together?
  • What are the dynamics between frameworks?
  • Are there relationships between frameworks and, if so, what are they?
  • What are the approaches behind each framework?

In Cprime’s webinar “Do Frameworks Like SAFe, DevOps, ITIL and OMMI Compete or Complement?” two of our subject matter experts Chris Knotts and Alan Koch have a quick review of each framework and discuss the relationships. We have 5 takeaways from their discussion that, hopefully, will clear up your questions.

Quick Review

First, let’s revisit each framework.


SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) allows you to apply the same Agile structure as you use with software development teams to an enterprise by scaling Agile on a larger basis for the enterprise level. If you have many Agile teams, SAFe gives a single view to the entire process in that it provides a structure around them by which the teams can coordinate with each other. Ultimately, by using SAFe, the organization becomes more nimble.

SAFe requires program and portfolio levels of management to be a part of the process. These layers of management must be aligned in the goals and processes across the enterprise in order to achieve optimal results.


DevOps isn’t a framework really; instead, it is a change of culture that focuses on empowering the frontline workers. The DevOps solution establishes cross-functional teams made up of all stakeholders and encourages communication throughout the cycle. A primary goal of DevOps is quick deployment of applications that add value to the customer. Using DevOps, the way to shorten development and release cycles is through automation, in particular in the testing. The deployment pipeline stays full due to automating the testing of smaller pieces.

DevOps is about changing how people work and relate to each other through the process. DevOps requires management to enable the workers to learn from failures and experimentation. There is no “one size fits all” with DevOps because the framework brings together a looser set of principles and, therefore, is integrated depending on the organization’s needs. Each organization decides what is appropriate based on its needs.

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)

ITIL has been around since the 1980’s and there have been several iterations through the years, with the last being in 2006. The focus of ITIL is on the operational side of organizations rather than application development. ITIL is a framework of best practices instead of being a prescriptive solution.

The 5 categories that are addressed by ITIL are all service-related:

  • Service Strategy – addresses strategies for service based on what an organization does and provide services to customers
  • Service Design – focuses on designing services including defining service providers
  • Service Transition – solves getting the services into operational use, includes mitigating risk through change management procedures
  • Service Operations – addresses servicing customers on a daily basis
  • Continual Service Improvement – focuses on the ongoing improvement of the services the organization provides


CMMI, Capability Maturity Model Integrated, an older model, addresses engineering work of all kinds. It defines the structure of a maturity model. In other words, there are certain things in place at your organization that have been there for a while. As you put more systems in place, you gain higher levels of maturity. CMMI allows your organization to highlight specific processes that represent higher levels of approaches.


And, here are our 5 important takeaways from the discussion between our two subject matter experts:

Takeaway #1: The Difference between Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment

Using Jez Humble’s description, “continuous delivery” means that the software is always in a deployable state; whereas, “continuous deployment” defines the timing of “deployment” as strictly a business management decision.

Takeaway #2: Introducing a New Framework

If your organization is in the initial stages of getting lean, use one of the newer frameworks such as SAFe or DevOps. However, if your organization has been using an older framework like ITIL or CMMI, don’t throw away what you have been using. You can look at SAFe or DevOps in light of what you want or need in efficiencies with the newer models. Find out which frameworks provide the efficiencies you need. Adapt and be sure to look beyond what the model says.

With CMMI and ITIL, the business requirement is the goal. Practices are not required; they are expected. So, practices are flexible to meet the goal through newer frameworks.

Takeaway #3: Implementing a Framework

The frameworks above are providing the concepts and logical frames for guidance and should not be prescriptive. Typically, management has a proclivity toward being prescriptive. However, implementing a framework needs creativity and problem solving. It is crucial to get the people doing the work involved since these workers have the best understanding of the work.

Takeaway #4: Predicting the Goals

Usually, predictions that are made upfront are not correct. False assumptions are made regarding what the customer wants. Sometimes the customer doesn’t even know what he/she wants. So, throw out predictions; get the products to the customers in order to find out what they need or want. This is best accomplished using a framework like DevOps that allows experimenting, finding the least costly way to develop products, and working more efficiently. Note: Most functionality, especially from predictions, is never used.

Takeaway #5: Using Frameworks – Compete or Complement?

Final takeaway: these frameworks compete when people take them literally and use prescriptive solutions. However, they are complementary when used as guidelines for setting goals and creating best practices.

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Catherine Perry
Catherine Perry