What is SAFe®?
We have compiled a list the the most frequently asked questions about the Scaled Agile Framework and provided
answers from our subject matter experts!
Diving Deeper into SAFe
Learn more about SAFe
Agile development at the team or small organization level has emerged over the last 20 years as a powerful way to improve software delivery time, improve overall quality while increasing user engagement and satisfaction. Scaling agile to medium and large organizations in a successful and repeatable manner has remained a challenge, though. The Scaled Agile Frameworktm (SAFe) has emerged as the leading solution to that challenge and was created by Dean Leffingwell from Scaled Agile Inc., in collaboration with others. SAFe is a freely available knowledge base, a collection of principles, structures, and practices that has been shown to consistently and successfully scale Agile practices and deliver the benefits of Agile to organizations that had been previously working in waterfall or ad-hoc methodologies.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, Scaled Agile’s mission is to help large enterprises achieve better outcomes, increase employee engagement, and improve business economics through adoption of Lean-Agile principles and practices based on the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). Scaled Agile supports tens of thousands of practitioners of the Framework through training, certification, consulting services, and a global partner network that reaches over 35 countries and 350 cities.
The Big Picture is an idealized map of the structure of an organization using SAFe. It is hyperlinked (clickable) to allow a users to drill down into detailed information about each aspect of the model. In general, it maps the flow of information of work down and to the right from strategic planning to execution via groups of teams collaborating in an ‘Agile Release Train’ (ART). At each level, there’s a schematic map of the practices SAFe uses to enable a flexible, coordinated flow of value creation.
SAFe is based on proven Lean and Agile principles, which have changed the face of modern business. They provide a value-driven (both in terms of human and economic values) model which leaders can use to guide themselves toward building effective organizations.
The explicit SAFe Principles that are the foundation of SAFe practices are:
- Take an economic view
- Apply systems thinking
- Assume variability; preserve options
- Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
- Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems
- Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths
- Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning
- Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
- Decentralize decision-making
Value Streams and SAFe
While SAFe 1.0 was released in 2011, there were informal implementations in the years leading up to that. We are currently on Version 4.5, which was released in 2017.
Studies consistently show that in typical organizations with more than 100 contributors working in software development, IT struggles to meet expectations around schedule, quality, and cost; that what is delivered is not always what the ultimate customer wants; and that the process of delivery is so long and inflexible that it is increasingly difficult for these organizations to respond to market changes. SAFe was designed to solve these problems – not by making people work harder, but by making organizations as a whole work smarter and in accordance with basic proven principles of Lean and Agile management.
SAFe changes the focus of an organization away from siloed delivery of work to the coordinated delivery of value. It does so in a way that permits the largest organization to be more responsive, effective (as opposed to just efficient) and to do so by unlocking the motivation and capabilities of the people working in the organization. What does this look like? Faster delivery that delivers more value to customers. Employees who participate in decisions about work, and who collaboratively plan for its delivery. As a result, SAI represents improvements in the area of 10-50% more employee engagement, 30-75% faster time to market, 20-50% increase in productivity, 25-75% defect reduction. Our experience is consistent with these levels of improvement.
10 SAFe Essential Elements to Achieve the Benefits of SAFe
SAFe is optimized for Systems Development (including software development), and can be used across the entire enterprise (including non-IT) by standing up multiple instances of SAFe. There are four basic versions: Essential SAFe, which defines the ART and related team practices (ideal for groups of 75 – 150); Portfolio SAFe, which adds strategic Portfolio practices – those that connect strategic decision-making to budgeting and work definition – to Essential SAFe; Large Solution SAFe, which adds methods for coordinating the work of multiple ARTs delivering one integrated solution to Essential SAFe; and Full SAFe, which adds Portfolio practices to Large Solution SAFe.
Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS)
is a lightweight agile framework for scaling Scrum to more than one team. It is “Scrum applied to many teams working together on one product.” It was extracted out of the experiences of Bas Vodde and Craig Larman while scaling Agile development in many different types of companies, products and industries over the last ten years. LeSS consists of the LeSS Principles, the Framework, the Guides and a set of experiments. The LeSS framework is divided into two frameworks: basic LeSS for 2-8 teams and LeSS Huge for 8+ teams. LeSS’s approach to scaling agility is centered around anchoring on key agile practices and letting the organizational structure emerge around them. It provides a very minimalistic framework that enables empiricism on a large-scale which enables the teams and organization to inspect-adapt their implementation based on their experiences and context.
Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)
Disciplined Agile Delivery, developed by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines, is similar to SAFe in that it recommends using existing lean and agile techniques. DAD, however, aims to address areas that aren’t thoroughly covered in smaller-scale agile frameworks. For this reason, DAD’s strengths are in providing more guidance in the areas of architecture and design (inception) and DevOps (transition).DAD also provides flexibility in suggesting different process guidelines for four categories of lifecycles: agile/basic, lean/advanced, continuous delivery, and exploratory. The Construction phase of agile/basic is scrum, but DAD, as in each of the four lifecycles, adds recommendations for the Inception and Transition phases. The lean/advanced lifecycle uses processes similar to Kanban, maximizing flow and minimizing work in process. The continuous delivery lifecycle focuses on mature DevOps, continuous integration, and deployment processes for projects that require frequent delivery to stakeholders. The exploratory lifecycle minimizes early planning in favor of fast delivery, gaining feedback, and incorporating that feedback into the next delivery.
Nexus is Scrum.org’s framework for scaling Scrum. It is intended for 3-9 Scrum teams. It incorporates an “Integration Team” that focuses on dependencies, interoperation, and integration of code between Scrum teams. The Nexus Integration Team is composed of individuals who are skilled in the use of tools and practices associated with scaled development work. Nexus is a process framework for multiple Scrum Teams working together to create an Integrated Increment. Attention is paid to dependencies and interoperation between Scrum Teams, delivering at least one “Done” Integrated Increment every Sprint.Nexus is heavily focused on this integration/SOS role and does not seem to cover other organization considerations, such as organizational structure. The Nexus framework is light on details and biased toward Scrum.
The Spotify model is often cites as an ‘organic’ model for organizational agility – in which teams – ‘squads’ in Spotify parlance operate with a high level of autonomy, guided by both the team-of-teams they work within – ‘tribes’ – and specialist communities of practice – ‘chapters.’ The key is loose product coupling, and a high level of culture-driven alignment. Recently, leaders from Spotify have pointed out that the ‘Spotify model’ is really a manifestation of the culture that was organically created by the leaders there.
SAFe does not need to be limited by the software used by your teams. Bridging technology with process is the core of cPrime’s value. We are also a Scaled Agile Gold Partner and an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner. As such, we have pioneered the implementation of SAFe in Atlassian software.
cPrime’s JIRA SAFe product blends Atlassian’s ALM Platform with the Scaled Agile Framework to develop a tool and process configuration for clients. The JIRA SAFe solution provides a critical component to technology transformation, providing one single ALM tool for all teams, enabling easier training effort and comprehensive rollup reporting giving them the ability to understand the total cost of ownership. It brings end-to-end visibility of epics, features and stories and provides a single source of Agile data, reducing the labor need for reconciling, standardizing and normalizing.
We can also bring SAFe processes to life in other software. Contact us to learn more.
Dean Leffingwell, creator and chief methodologist of SAFe, recently announced his CALMR Approach to DevOps in SAFe. In summary SAFe promotes continuous integration, continuous deployment and release on demand. C – Culture. A shared responsibility for development and operations. A – Automation. Automate the CD pipeline, dynamically spinning and tearing down development environments that emulate production, test automation, and deployment automation. L – Lean flow. General push for smaller batch sizes of software delivery, limit WIP, provide real-time visibility of software. Increase predictability, accelerate feedback, reduce rework, increase release frequency and lower costs. M – Measurement. Measure flow through delivery improvement. For example, use Kanban to map out the entire delivery pipeline, measure cycle time, lead-time, and use telemetry for all applications and servers. R – Recovery. Enable real-time monitoring, enable faster recovery. Redundancy, and scalability. Learn more about DevOps and SAFe.
Webinar: Live Virtual Panel Discussion on DevOps in SAFe 4.5
These companies have successfully scaled with SAFe: Fannie Mae, Astra Zeneca, TomTom, Nordea, SEI, Valpak, John Deere, Lego, Capital One, Intel, Fitbit, Northwestern Mutual, Philips, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Sony, Vantiv, Air France/KLM, Amdocs, NHS, Swisscom, Elekta, and lots more
Our SAFe Customer Successes
Success at large health insurance company with BlueKit
Duration varies substantially with the ability of the organization to adapt – which is driven by culture, structure, history, as well as other organization-specific characteristics. The ‘norm’ for an agile team to move from initial change to functional performance (not necessarily the high performance that comes with maturity) is three iterations – three cycles through the process to understand and internalize roles and ceremonies. That applies as well to larger teams of teams, and it typically takes three program increments (ART or team-of-teams iterations) of three months each – or nine months in total – to achieve stable and solid competence. As maturity advances, so will performance.
The key variable for an organization is how many teams to transform and at what rate, which ties to the maturity of the overall transformation team – internal and external. CPrime specializes in establishing, directing and supporting internal ‘centers of excellence’ that lead transformations, and wean off organizations of external vendors as quickly as feasible.
Today’s knowledge workers thrive on challenging work, seeking meaning and purpose in their careers while taking active responsibility for their own growth and development. Individuals shape their careers by accessing knowledge resources, attending learning sessions, and building networks that reflect their personal desires.
Scaled Agile, Inc. offers a catalog of role-based courses and certifications which we teach here at cPrime. Knowledge workers attending Scaled Agile courses are able to customize their Lean-Agile career journey while avoiding limiting options of preset career models. Discover the myriad of certification options available with SAFe below.
In this five-day course for Lean-Agile change agents implementing and applying the principles and practices of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), as part of an enterprise Lean-Agile transformation, attendees will master SAFe concepts and learn the behaviors and practices it takes to not only operate a SAFe organization, but to transform an organization into a SAFe one. It a step on the journey to becoming a professional change agent, either within an organization, or – like our team – within an organization dedicated to change. SAFe 4.5 Program Consultants (SPC) become trainers with SAFe courseware, coach teams, launch Agile Release Trains (ARTs), and enable a Lean portfolio.
SAFe Scrum Master (SSM Certification):
In this two-day course, attendees will gain an understanding of the role of a Scrum Master in a SAFe enterprise. Unlike traditional Scrum Master training that focuses on the fundamentals of team-level Scrum, the SAFe Scrum Master course explores the role of the Scrum Master in the context of the entire enterprise, and prepares attendees to successfully plan and execute the Program Increment (PI), the primary enabler of alignment throughout all levels of a SAFe organization. This includes learning the key components of Agile at scale development, how Scrum is facilitated throughout the enterprise, and how to execute Iteration Planning.
This two-day course prepares current Scrum Masters for their leadership role in facilitating Agile team, program, and enterprise success in a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) implementation. The course covers facilitation of cross-team interactions in support of program execution and relentless improvement. It enhances the Scrum paradigm with an introduction to scalable engineering and DevOps practices; the application of Kanban to facilitate the flow of value; and supporting interactions with architects, product management, and other critical stakeholders in the larger program and enterprise contexts.
During this two-day course, attendees will gain an in-depth understanding of the Agile Release Train (ART), how it delivers value, and what they can do to effectively perform their role. Develop the skill sets needed to guide the delivery of value in a Lean enterprise—and learn about the activities, tools, and mechanics used to manage backlogs and programs.
During this three-day course, attendees will gain an in-depth understanding of the role and responsibilities of an RTE in the SAFe enterprise. Attendees explore the skills needed to facilitate and enable end-to-end value delivery through Agile Release Trains (ARTs)—and learn how to build a high-performing ART through servant leadership and coaching.
During this two-day course, attendees will gain an in-depth understanding of the ART, how it delivers value, and what they can do to effectively perform their role using Scrum, Kanban, and XP.Build the skills needed to become a high-performing team member of an Agile Release Train (ART)—and learn how to collaborate effectively with other teams—by becoming a SAFe® 4 Practitioner (SP).
SAFe DevOps (SAFe DevOps Practitioner – SDP Certification):
This two-day course provides a comprehensive overview for understanding the DevOps competencies needed to accelerate time-to-market by improving the flow of value through the Continuous Delivery Pipeline. Attendees will map the current value stream through their delivery pipeline from idea to cash, and identify practices that will eliminate bottlenecks to flow.
Remember that “if artifacts and tools would make you Agile, owning gym equipment would make you fit” – so use artifacts to guide you and shape behavior and action, but don’t over-rely on them. Start with the SAFe website and use the Big Picture (the map of a SAFe organization) on the homepage there. Notice that the icons are all clickable and lead to explanations that will guide you in understanding the framework. There’s a good book list on the Scaled Agile website. Once you’ve spent some time there, I’d look at a great 2018 article in the Harvard Business Review for a broader view of Agile at scale. Over the next month or so, we expect to add our own recommended book list on this page.
The SAFe journey starts with training and education. The place to start is here – signing up core change agents and leadership stakeholders to be trained in SAFe and the lean-agile concepts it is based on. Once they have been trained and understand the journey, they can work with experts – like us – and design a transformation roadmap and start the journey to improving delivery.