Mar 22nd, 2024

What are Enablers in SAFe? How To Create & Manage Enablers?

Ashwinee Kalkura
Ashwinee Kalkura

He is SAFe® Premier Trainer, SAFe® SPCT, AHRA (Agile HR Enabler), and an experienced Agile Coach,... Read more

Just imagine a garden without proper soil preparation and nourishment—no nutrients, no structure. Now, without a well-prepared foundation, the seeds face a tough journey to sprout and grow into strong, healthy plants. 

Let's switch gears to the Agile world. That garden? 

It's like the challenges we face when enablers are missing. Enablers are the real MVPs here, kind of like the soil in our story. They set the foundation for successful product development, bringing flexibility and adaptability and keeping the whole project healthy.

Most people think the enabler came from Agile. But why? People believe it's from Agile, not SAFe, perhaps because Agile came first, and many ideas and terms from it shaped SAFe. 

So, even though SAFe uses the term "enabler," people link it back to Agile because that's where they first heard about it. It's like saying the older sibling (Agile) introduced the term, and the younger one (SAFe) picked it up.

However, the concept of “enablers” gained more prominence within the SAFe framework. In SAFe, “enablers” support activities needed to extend the Architectural Runway, which is pivotal for future business functionality.

Let's dive into the world of Enablers and learn how they play a crucial role in driving organizational agility and accelerating value delivery.

What Are Enablers In SAFe?

Enablers play a crucial role in delivering value to end users. They are categorized into four types: exploration enabler, architecture enabler, infrastructure enabler, and compliance enabler. 

Enablers support activities essential for expanding the Architectural Runway, which is crucial for future business functionalities. 

Enablers are a type of backlog item that requires sufficient capacity for implementation and should be clearly visible in the backlog. 

These activities are considered value-added development tasks subject to estimation, visibility tracking, work-in-progress (WIP) limits, and feedback processes.

What Are The Types Of Enablers In SAFe?

Enablers in SAFe projects come in various types, each serving a specific purpose. Here are the common types of enablers:

1. Exploration

Exploration Enablers are activities that help Agile teams better understand user needs and possible solutions. They are used when some research or experimentation is needed early on to explore what the product requirements should be.

The goal of using Exploration Enablers is to add knowledge and clarity when starting a project. At first, the team may not fully understand what to build or what options exist. Enablers give a way to investigate requirements so clearer, and designs can take shape over time.

For example, the team might not know the best interface or technology for a product idea. They can prototype and experiment with different options instead of guessing. This exploration turns unknowns into knowns and risks into informed decisions as the project progresses.

In essence, Exploration Enablers inject helpful research and learning upfront to make product development less uncertain. They provide the insight needed to focus on the product intent and technical execution.

2. Architectural  

Architectural Enablers are tasks or activities that focus on enhancing the overall system architecture to support the development of new features and capabilities. These enablers address architectural concerns and ensure the system's scalability, performance, and long-term sustainability.

Architectural Enablers are crucial in establishing what SAFe calls the "Architectural Runway." The Architectural Runway represents the foundation and infrastructure needed for smooth and efficient development, allowing Agile Release Trains (ARTs) to deliver value more effectively.

These enablers contribute to the overall agility and effectiveness of the development process within the SAFe framework.

3. Infrastructure

Infrastructure Enablers in SAFe are activities or tasks that focus on supporting and optimizing the technical and operational aspects of a project. 

These enablers contribute to creating and maintaining a robust infrastructure that facilitates the development, testing, deployment, and operation of software solutions within a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) context.

Infrastructure Enablers can include tasks related to setting up, enhancing, or maintaining the technical environment necessary for software development and delivery.

Infrastructure Enablers are crucial in creating a stable and efficient foundation for development teams to work on. 

By proactively addressing technical and operational aspects like development and runtime environments, tools and automation, integration and deployment, performance and scalability, and monitoring and logging. 

SAFe organizations can enhance their agility and responsiveness in delivering high-quality software solutions.

4. Compliance

Compliance Enablers in SAFe are like guides that help Agile teams follow rules and regulations. They focus on making sure the work meets certain standards or requirements. 

These enablers help manage specific compliance activities, such as Verification and Validation (V&V), audits, approvals, and policy automation.

For example, when a project needs to follow specific industry or government regulations, Compliance Enablers ensure that the work aligns with those rules. They act as a support system, helping the team navigate and fulfill compliance tasks.

In simpler terms, compliance enablers are like rule keepers who ensure that the project follows all the necessary laws and standards, ensuring a smooth and compliant development process.

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How to Create Enablers in SAFe?

Creating enablers involves breaking down the process into different levels of abstraction, including Enabler Epics, Enabler Features, and Enabler Stories. Here's a simplified guide:

  1. Enabler Epics: Enabler Epics are high-level initiatives representing a group of related enablers. Start by identifying the broader areas where enablers are needed, creating Enabler Epics to encapsulate these themes.

  2. Identify Enabler Features and Capabilities: Break down Enabler Epics into smaller components called Enabler Features and Capabilities. These represent more detailed aspects of the enabler initiatives. Features focus on the what, while Capabilities highlight the how.

  3. Create Enabler Stories: Develop Enabler Stories as the smallest units of work. These are actionable tasks that contribute to achieving Enabler Features and Capabilities. Each story should be clear, specific, and achievable within a single iteration.

What Are The Advantages Of Enabler In SAFe?

  • 1Faster Adaptability: Enablers help prepare the groundwork for upcoming features or projects. This proactive approach allows teams to adapt more quickly to changes in requirements or priorities, enhancing overall agility.
  • 2Reduced Risks: Enablers help mitigate risks associated with architectural, infrastructure, and compliance aspects early on by addressing these aspects. This proactive risk management contributes to a smoother and more predictable development process.
  • 3Improved Collaboration: Enablers often involve cross-functional collaboration. Teams working on enablers, such as exploration or architectural enhancements, collaborate closely to ensure a shared understanding of requirements and design, fostering stronger teamwork.
  • 4Enhanced Visibility: Including enablers in the backlog provides visibility into the preparatory work required for upcoming features. This transparency enables better planning, resource allocation, and coordination across teams.
  • 5Efficient Resource Allocation: Enablers allow teams to allocate resources effectively. By identifying and working on necessary activities in advance, teams can streamline their efforts, preventing bottlenecks and optimizing available resources.
  • 6Quality Assurance: Compliance enablers ensure that the work aligns with specific standards, regulations, or policies. This emphasis on compliance contributes to higher-quality outcomes and reduces the likelihood of issues related to non-compliance.
  • 7Continuous Improvement: Iteratively creating and managing enablers provides opportunities for continuous improvement. Teams can gather feedback, evaluate the effectiveness of enablers, and make adjustments in subsequent iterations, enhancing the overall development process.
  • 8Strategic Planning: Enablers support strategic planning by addressing foundational elements necessary for future business functionalities. This strategic approach ensures that the development process aligns with the long-term goals of the organization.
  • 9Cost Savings: Proactively addressing architectural and infrastructure needs through enablers can lead to long-term cost savings. It helps avoid issues caused by neglecting these aspects and prevents the need for major rework or corrections later in the development cycle.
  • 10Customer Satisfaction: Enablers contribute to the overall quality and adaptability of the product. By addressing foundational elements, teams can deliver features more smoothly, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction.

Build Agility With The Right-Scaled Agile Framework Enabler

Hope this post has shed some light on Enablers, their significance, and potential implementation methods. Though many leaders and stakeholders place Enablers in the "low priority" category, 

Enablers help to avoid issues or save long-term expenditures and are therefore extremely valuable. The Developers must later deliver the results of their efforts on the Enablers to management regarding the advantages received, such as cost savings, improved customer experience, or measurable improvements in product quality.

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The Agile Release Train (ART) and Solution Train are responsible for identifying and prioritizing Enablers in SAFe.

Yes, Enablers can be developed concurrently with business features to ensure that technical dependencies are addressed.

No, Enablers can also include non-technical initiatives such as compliance efforts or market research.

Failure to address Enablers can lead to technical debt, increased development time, and decreased product quality.

Ashwinee Kalkura

He is SAFe® Premier Trainer, SAFe® SPCT, AHRA (Agile HR Enabler), and an experienced Agile Coach, Consultant, and passionate Trainer (SAFe®, IC Agile, and Axelos Accredited) with a demonstrated history of working in the Retail, Mobile, Industrial Automation, Banking, and Networking industries. Strong engineering professional skilled in Agile Methodologies (SAFe®, Scrum, XP, Kanban), Technical Practices, Test Automation, and Stakeholder Management. Trained over 2000 people on Certification-based training.

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