Aug 18th, 2023

Is SAFe® for Scaling or Business Agility

Ashwinee Kalkura
Ashwinee Kalkura

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

Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe® as the name suggests one of the very well-known Scaling Framework. The scaled Agile website mentions, “SAFe for Lean Enterprises is the world’s leading framework for business agility”. Let us explore now what we would use SAFe® for, Scaling or Business Agility.


SAFe® provides four configurations out of the box.

  • Essential SAFe® contains the set of roles, events, and artifacts required to deliver solutions via Agile Release Train (ART)
  • Large Solution SAFe® provides a similar guideline to run multiple ARTs as a Solution Train
  • Portfolio SAFe® helps align the Strategy and Execution thereby helping deliver the flow of value through one or more Value Streams
  • Full SAFe®, which is a combination of all three configurations, helps the organization with the required strategy and coordination

The above configurations looked at from a factual lens, are tactical in nature and help the organizations a much-needed first step/guideline when there is a problem of Scale in terms of the number of people, the systems, tools/technology, and customers expectations.

SAFe® manages these expectations of Scaling extremely well with well-articulated roles at the Train and Portfolio level. There are also useful guidelines on the duration/content of events too. Keeping Agile and Lean frameworks/methods the same at the team level, SAFe addresses the complexities at the scaled levels of Programs (ART) and Portfolios. Also, every article on the SAFe® website provides guidance on Scaling Agile, Lean, and DevOps practices throughout the enterprise.

Recommended reading: Roles and Responsibilities of a SAFe® Agilist

Business Agility

SAFe® defines Business Agility as the ability to compete and thrive in the digital age by quickly responding to market changes and emerging opportunities with innovative, digitally enabled business solutions. If we look closer at the intent of the Framework, we see the Core Values and SAFe’s ten Principles designed around Value Delivery and not just the execution focus.

Achieving customer delight in the digital era requires validating the hypothesis, often collaborating with the customer, and persevering or pivoting. Many technological advances are putting every organization to be a “software organization,” where software is no more just an enabler for them. While every leader/organization understands the need to transform, that cannot be achieved by the current system/infrastructure and culture. The design of reliability and efficiency has to include speed as well now.

This is the exact sweet spot SAFe® operates as a Dual Operating system, as explained by John Kotter in his book XLR8 (known as Accelerate). SAFe® helps organizations to seamlessly integrate Efficiency with Value Stream Networks. The central idea is to recognize the need for stability and the need for entrepreneurial spirit in the organization. The coexistence of Efficiency and the ability to Organize and Re-organize around the value is central for any organization to survive and thrive.


Involvement of “not just IT” but every part of the organization working together for a common goal / common north star and along the way, providing the customers with innovative business solutions require Strategy and Execution both to play synchronously. While SAFe® big picture helps us with patterns, practice, roles, and events, these are targeted towards achieving a state of Business Agility.

The seven core competencies of SAFe® revolve around Customer Centricity and focus on constantly measuring and growing toward Business Agility. While we can argue on Scaling or Business Agility aspects, one is not independent of the other. A Framework is always a set of guidelines to inspect and adapt. SAFe® helps build the dual operating system for Business Agility.

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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