Dec 13th, 2021

How do you implement SAFe® agile in your organization?


Agilemania, a small group of passionate Lean-Agile-DevOps consultants and trainers, is the most tru... Read more

Scaled Agile Framework® has taken the corporate world by storm. The keyword shows 44,30,000 results on Google. That’s a lightning jolt!

A decade ago, when Dean Leffingwell introduced SAFe® to the world, little did he know that he would be creating a phenomenon. But how has it managed to stay in the limelight for over a decade?

Here’s an answer to that question. 37% of the respondents reported that their organizations used SAFe® to scale agile.

Source: 15th State of Agile Survey But, is there a prologue to SAFe®’s popularity? There surely is! So, let the percentages do the talking.

  • 46% of the organizations reported they are inconsistencies in practices and processes
  • 43% attributed cultural clashes
  • 42% gave the reason that general organizational resistance to change
  • 42% stated that lack of experience and skills
  • 41% proclaimed the absence of leadership to be the main problem
  • And, lastly, 40% indicated Inadequate management support and sponsorship.

This is how SAFe® came to be known as the dark horse among agile frameworks. It’s now time to delve into SAFe® as a framework.

We request you stay with us for 6 minutes and in return, you will gain valuable wisdom. That’s a promise!

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Scaled Agile Framework®: What is it?

Scaled Agile Framework® is a knowledge base of proven, integrated principles, and competencies for attaining business agility using Lean, Agile, Systems Thinking, and DevOps. SAFe® endorses alignment, collaboration, and delivery among large agile teams.

The groundwork for SAFe was formed in 4 knowledge areas - agile software development, lean product development, systems thinking, and DevOps. SAFe® contains a combination of principles, processes, and best practices that help large organizations in the easy adoption of agile frameworks including Lean, Kanban, and Scrum.

It was developed to suit difficult projects that contain numerous large teams at the project, program, and portfolio levels. You can better understand SAFe® when you go through its core values-

  • Alignment: Alignment is needed to match steps with the rapidly changing, disruptive competitive entities, and geographically spread teams. Alignment occurs when everyone is working towards a common goal. It promotes empowerment, autonomy, and Decentralized Decision Making permitting people who apply value to make better local decisions.
  • Built-In Quality: Built-In Quality is instrumental in ensuring that all elements and increments of the solution mirror quality standards throughout the development process. Ensuring quality is an innate characteristic of Lean and Flow. Deficiency in Building quality will lead enterprises to function with large batches of unverified and unevaluated work. Built-In Quality is centered on 5 aspects-
    • Flow
    • Architecture and Design Quality
    • Code Quality
    • System Quality
    • Release Quality
  • Transparency: SAFe® promotes trust to ensure transparency. Work happens in small planned batches so that problems can be resolved quickly. This also gives an insight into the product backlog progress.
  • Program Execution: Program Execution is the jugular vein of SAFe®. Teams should deliver quality output consistently. The Business outcome is the priority here.
  • Leadership: SAFe® inculcates the Lean-Agile mindset which is necessary to become a Lean-Agile leader. Only they can embrace SAFe® values and principles and bring about a change.

How does SAFe® compare to other scaled agile frameworks?

SAFe® is the popular scaling agile framework but let’s see how it compares with other scaling agile frameworks

SAFe® vs. Scrum@Scale

SAFe®: SAFe® is the most popular framework after Scrum. SAFe® is preferred by large enterprises. It is a system for applying agile, lean, and DevOps at scale. SAFe® has a highly structured framework to adopt and deploy an agile value stream in an organization.

Large organizations have the privilege of sticking to the original organizational structure while enjoying the benefits of a decentralized Agile method. SAFe® falls short when it comes to customization as Scrum@Scale is clearly at an advantage.

Scrum@Scale: Scrum@Scale is a new entrant among the scaling agile frameworks. It was introduced in 2014. It is not preferred by large organizations. The USP of Scrum@Scale is that it is suitable for organizations of all sizes. It is a miniature model of the Scrum framework and follows the Scrum guide. It can solve complex problems and consistently deliver high-quality deliverables.

SAFe® vs. Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS)

SAFe®: SAFe® works wonders in large organizations. There’s certainly no doubt about it. Even with hundreds of teams. It provides a secure and reliable method for highlighting, performance, and delivery through Agile Release Trains. ARTs function on a smooth flow of Program Increments from 8 to 12 weeks.

LeSS: LeSS is the large-scale implementation of necessary principles and elements of Scrum exceeding cross-cultural teams. It contains frameworks where it has 8 or more teams.

Both frameworks depend heavily on the Product Owner. LeSS uses fewer processes and procedures to accommodate numerous Scrum teams working together.

SAFe® vs Spotify

SAFe®: SAFe® is a heavyweight network. It is comprehensive and its main con is that it is jargon-heavy. Terms like release trains, program increments, guardrails, enablers, and spikes, etc.

Spotify: Spotify came into being in 2012. It is a people-driven and autonomous approach for scaling agile that stresses the significance of culture and network. The Spotify model isn’t a framework but it has helped organizations around the world improve productivity and foster innovation by concentrating on autonomy, communication, accountability, and quality.

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Steps to apply a Scaled Agile Framework® in your business

Implementing SAFe® can be a trainwreck if it doesn’t involve baby steps. The Structural change that has been followed for years cannot be changed overnight. You need to factor in the consensus of senior management and be embraced by managers, technical team leaders, and other employees.

4 step process to ensure that SAFe® implementation will happen without hiccups.

  • 1Chart your processes’ Value Streams- Value Streams are the series of steps organizations use to apply solutions that provide a continuous flow of value to a customer. They are basic constructs for understanding, organizing, and delivering value in SAFe®. Value Streams are the lifeline of your business and knowing it by heart is a recipe for building a unique mindset to achieve organizational goals. Understanding value streams is necessary to propagate agile concepts in the company.
  • 2Coach your employees to use Agile methods and techniques -SAFe® adoption will be a success only when training is imparted to change agents in agile management frameworks and lean-agile principles. This includes leaders, managers, and executives. This needs to be done so that there can be a knowledge hub for organizations to refer to agile and lean management methods.
  • 3Test launch the execution of ARTs- Once the Agile culture has been welcomed, the value streams, training, qualification, and enabling agile agents have charted out, it's time for the teams to perform. ARTs are the central component of SAFe®. They are cross-functional teams that come together to work towards a common goal.
  • 4Expand your portfolio- Now that your entire staff is trained, it's time to expand your fleet and launch more ARTs.

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Top reasons for adopting SAFe® in an organization?

  • 1Cross-Team Dependencies- Cross-team dependencies become a source of constant pain. Overdue deadlines, express meetings, disorderly change in context. This is where dependency management comes to the rescue. Dependency management is the method of actively analyzing, measuring and working to reduce the mess created by intra-team or cross-team dependencies.
  • 2Optimum Quality- Organizations can only thrive if they can compete in the competitive market and cater to the constantly changing needs of the customer. One of the core values of SAFe® is built quality. It flows through all levels. A secure environment is conducive for large enterprises without quality assurance, superfluous rework and snail paced velocities will fetch mediocre results.
  • 3Amplifies Productivity - SAFe® ensures collaboration which fosters transparency thereby having a clear understanding of the deliverables and meeting the expectations of the stakeholders.
  • 4Fosters Team Unity -Agile teams are cross-functional and they consist of members from different departments. Transparency, collaboration, and coordination ensure that the team is aligned towards a common goal.
  • 5Facilitate team planning- Team planning is a major challenge that organizations grapple with. SAFe® offers a solution in the form of PI planning. Program Increment (PI) planning is a meeting of numerous teams that are part of an Agile Release Train (ART) where they gather to plan the roadmap, work on features and additions, and recognize cross-team reliance.
  • 6Enable enterprise-wide visibility: Agile lifecycle management solutions represent and connect the different backlogs and Kanban teams. This helps them manage their local work and provide enterprise-wide visibility.


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