SAFe 4.6 – 4 Interesting Things You May Have Missed

SAFe 4.6 – 4 Interesting Things You May Have Missed

In November of 2018, Scaled Agile Inc. released the latest revision to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), v4.6, which included a few minor changes to the previous release (v4.5). I noticed a few interesting changes that may appear insignificant on the surface but might actually be quite meaningful. I would like to share a few of these in case you didn’t have time to study all the articles in detail.

Change #1 – Support for Government Customers

In this release, SAFe specifically calls out the “Government” as an entity and important customer, which makes sense given that adoption of SAFe has accelerated rapidly within the Government space in recent years. According to the article, “In the last five years, an increasing number of government agencies have also adopted SAFe as the process model for technology development for all the same reasons as their commercial counterparts. Practitioners who have used SAFe in both contexts have reported that there are far more similarities in development between industry and government than there are differences.” I found this to be interesting given the common perception that commercial/industry and government domains are vastly different in how product solutions are built. According to Scaled Agile, there are now “hundreds of programs” in government organizations worldwide practicing SAFe; this may be surprising to many Agile practitioners that may have believed that Government teams are still operating in the “old world”.

Change #2 – Team and Technical Agility

In 4.6, SAFe puts more emphasis on technical practices for the Agile teams, which were mentioned previously relatively generically as “XP”. In 4.6, specific articles were added to clarify the detailed practices related to Test-Driven Development (TDD), Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), and Agile Testing.

Change #3 – Lean Budget Guardrails

In this update, SAFe provides an elaboration of the principles of lean budgeting by providing specific tools to help practitioners adopt lean budgeting processes. These tools are named “guardrails” and consist of elements such as: (1) Guiding investments by horizon, (2) Optimizing value and solution integrity with capacity allocation, (3) Approving significant initiatives, and (4) Continuous Business Owner engagement. All these tools enable resource budgeting and allocation across the program as well as the Program Increment.

Change #4 – New Implementation Roadmap

Arguably, the single biggest change to SAFe in 4.6 is the refinement of the SAFe Implementation Roadmap. This guidance has been updated to include additional training course offerings such as SAFe DevOps, SAFe Agile Software Engineering, and SAFe System & Solution Architect (Beta) courses. This change enables additional roles within the Agile Release Train to obtain specific, targeted training that should improve the overall effectiveness of the Train.

In summary, while it is increasingly difficult to keep up with the changes in SAFe, if your team is currently utilizing SAFe, or considering it, it’s important to maintain some general understanding of how this framework is evolving; such changes may offer you additional tools that will help you immediately, or possibly further down the road when the time is right.

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Eugene Lai
Eugene Lai