What is SAFe? The Scaled Agile Framework explained

0 Posted by - 2nd September 2019 - Technology

Larger organizations tend to move more slowly than smaller, more nimble competitors, and are more change-resistant. Much of this can be chalked up to the more deep-rooted cultural issues of being a larger incumbent, and to policy- and process-based barriers, as bureaucracy tends to flourish in broader corporate environments.

Still, many larger organizations seek to capture the benefits of agile development, for which they may not be naturally suited. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a powerful tool that can be adopted to help larger organizations overcome issues that negatively impact project success.

SAFe offers large organizations a framework for becoming more agile so that their deliverables can reach the market faster. Here is an overview of SAFe and its benefits and principles, as well as tips on how to effectively implement the framework and its methodologies.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) definition

The Scaled Agile Framework encompasses a set of principles, processes and best practices that helps larger organizations adopt agile methodologies, such as Lean and Scrum, to develop and deliver high-quality products and services faster.

SAFe is particularly well-suited for complex projects that involve multiple large teams at the project, program, and portfolio levels. The current version, SAFe 4.6, focuses on five core competencies that help enterprises to “successfully navigate digital disruption and to effectively respond to volatile market conditions, changing customer needs, and emerging technologies,” according to Scaled Agile, the framework’s provider.

These five competencies are:

Lean agile leadership: Leaders should drive and support organizational change and operational effectiveness. Ultimately, it is the leadership team that has the authority to influence individuals and teams to achieve their potential.

Team and technical agility: Teams must possess certain vital skills and adhere to Lean agile practices to create well-designed solutions quickly. Ensuring the technical agility of teams is especially important as they are the ones who ultimately perform the actual work that will be delivered to your customers.

DevOps and release on demand: The establishment of a continual, ongoing pipeline for deliverables is vital for creating value to meet your customers’ needs.

Business solutions and Lean systems engineering: The more organizations facilitate Lean agile practices to drive blueprints, development and deployment, the more innovative they can be.

Lean portfolio management: A sound organizational strategy that includes financial considerations, portfolio management and compliance-related aspects is essential to SAFe success.

Benefits of SAFe

SAFe provides larger organizations with a way to leverage the benefits of Scrum and Kanban in a more scalable way. It enables larger organizations to manage projects with a higher degree of agility, offering a way for stakeholders across multiple groups to get feedback faster. This accelerated feedback loop leads to higher engagement levels, increased productivity and job satisfaction, and improved work quality.

SAFe vs. DAD vs. LeSS

While SAFe focuses on alignment, teamwork, and provisioning across a large number of agile teams, there are other popular frameworks for scaling agile at larger organizations, including Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD). It is important to understand each of these frameworks so that your organization can select the best option for your projects.


Practitioners created the Scaled Agile Framework by investing in three main bodies of knowledge: agile software system development, systems thinking and Lean product development. It has been a well-recognized approach to scaling agile practices.

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)

DAD is focused on the end-to-end lifecycle of products, from inception to delivery. It is driven by seven principles: delight customers, be awesome, pragmatism, context counts, choice is good, optimize flow, and enterprise awareness.

Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS)

LeSS focuses on getting all teams seeing the entire product rather than taking the view from a “my part” perspective.

For a deeper comparison of these and other scaling agile frameworks, see “SAFe vs. LeSS vs. DAD vs. LeadingAgile.”

SAFe Principles

SAFe is built on nine key principles derived from existing Lean and agile principles:

  1. Take an economic view to allow for optimal lead time while providing the best quality and value.
  2. Implement systems thinking into all facets of development.
  3. Assume market and technical variability by preserving choices and encouraging innovation.
  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles that allow customer feedback and reduce risks.
  5. Base milestones on objective estimation and evaluation of working systems to ensure there is an economic benefit.
  6. Limit the amount of work in progress, decrease batch sizes, and manage queue lengths to enable continuous flow.
  7. Apply cadence (timing), synchronize with cross-domain formation to recognize business opportunities and allow for corrective action as needed.
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers to reach their unseen potential.
  9. Decentralize decision-making to become more agile and effective.

Implementing SAFe

read more at https://www.cio.com.au/tax/news/ by Moira Alexander