Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

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Larger organizations evolve slowly and are more change-resistant than smaller competitors. Much of this can be ascribed to deep-rooted issues of process- and policy-based obstacles often found in sprawling corporate environments.

There is a downside to this as businesses slow down, become inflexible and fail to respond to challenges in time, ultimately setting themselves up for losses. That is why larger establishments are waking up to the advantages of Agile development.

This is where Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) comes in handy. It's a robust tool that can help your organization overcome problems that adversely impact the success of your projects. SAFe offers big enterprises a framework to become more Agile, helping them get the deliverables to the market faster.

If you want to ensure effective project delivery, reduced time-to-market, and amplified stakeholder worth, implement the Scaled Agile Framework for stellar results.

Let's explore what is Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), its principles and advantages, and how to execute its methodologies effectively.

What is Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)?

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) refers to workflow and organizational patterns for executing Agile approaches at an enterprise level. This framework is a form of information that comprises structured guidance on responsibilities and roles, how to manage and plan the work, as well as the values to uphold.

SAFe encourages collaboration, delivery, and alignment across big Agile teams. This plan revolves around three central bodies of knowledge: lean product development, systems thinking, and Agile software development.

The SAFe Scaled Agile Framework also allows companies to design better software and systems that effectively meet their customers' evolving needs. As businesses scale, SAFe offers an organized approach for ascending Agile without compromising on the processes or policies of the organization.

There are four SAFe configurations to accommodate different scale levels: Large Solution SAFe, Essential SAFe, Full SAFe, and Portfolio SAFe.

While teams can also leverage conventional management processes to deliver the product, the requisite to quickly respond to the shifting market conditions necessitates novel frameworks like SAFe emerged to improve solutions and deliverables across enterprises.

SAFe is one of the most robust and well-known scaled Agile delivery frameworks today, and its worldwide community of experts continues to progress.

What are the Principles of SAFe?

Software development teams have substantiated that executing Agile frameworks, like Kanban and Scrum, allows them to deliver solutions to their customer base faster and with more predictability, giving them the ability to respond quickly depending on the new information.

Applying Agile principles at the individual level in a team is relatively straightforward—the advantages are clear, and there are resources abound. However, the challenge lies in expanding it across various groups in a big organization: executing Agile at scale.

Fortunately, a growing body of knowledge makes this process smoother and more manageable for enterprises. It comprises Agile methods and principles, system and lean thinking, Lean techniques, and product development practices.

Building enterprise-level cyber-physical systems and software is one of the most complex challenges that the industry faces.

The software is more distributed and bigger than ever, and the companies that build these systems are also becoming progressively more sophisticated. Acquisitions and mergers, multilingual development and distributed multinational, offshoring, and accelerated growth are essential parts of the solution.

SAFe helps businesses leverage this information and create an integrated system with proven practices that have enhanced solution quality, employee engagement, team productivity, and time-to-market.

This is where Scaled Agile Framework principles come in. They describe the culture that leadership should foster and how people should act within that culture to leverage this framework effectively.

Moreover, SAFe is contingent on proven Agile and Lean principles that are changing the outlook of the advanced business. They provide value-driven (economic and human values) models that leaders can utilize to get guidance to build effective organizations.

So, what are the Scaled Agile Framework principles?

1. Adopt an Economic Perspective

To deliver the best quality and value for society and the people in minimal sustainable lead time, you must understand the economics of building systems. It would be best to make routine decisions in an appropriate economic context.

This comprises the broader economic framework approach and incremental value delivery for every value stream. The SAFe framework focuses on the trade-offs among Cost of Delay (CoD), risk, development, manufacturing, and operational costs.

In addition, each development value stream should operate within a permitted budget's context and stay compliant with the railings, which facilitate decentralized decision-making.

2. Implement Systems Thinking

Addressing the challenges and concerns in the marketplace and workplace require a systems' understanding within which users and workers operate. These systems are complicated and include various interrelated components.

Systems thinking is implemented during development by the company that builds the system. However, optimizing an element does not improve the system, so to enhance the design, everybody must realize the greater purpose.   

3. Preserve Options and Assume Variability

Conventional life cycle and design practices initially encourage a single requirements-and-design choice in the development procedure.

Unfortunately, if your starting point demonstrates to be the wrong option, in that case, future modifications take a long time, leading to suboptimal designs.

An improved approach is to maintain design options and requirements for an extended period during development. Empirical data is then leveraged to limit the scope, which results in a design that forms optimum economic outcomes.

4. Build Incrementally With Integrated Learning Cycles

Creating solutions incrementally in short iterations enables quicker customer feedback while mitigating risk; following increments are built on the earlier ones.

As the 'system always operates,' some increments might serve as market validation and testing examples. Others may become minimum viable products, while others still encompass the system with valuable and novel functionality. These early feedback points help determine when to 'pivot' and when it is time to substitute a course of action.

5. Use Base Indicators For Objective Assessment of Working Systems

Developers, customers, and business owners have a collective responsibility to ensure that novel solutions produce an economic advantage. The phase-gate, sequential development pattern intends to counter this challenge.

The integration points deliver objective milestones with Lean-Agile development, which gauge the solution during the development process and life cycle. This frequent assessment provides the technical, financial, and fitness-for-purpose control required to ensure an ongoing investment generates a commensurate return. However, experience shows that it doesn't mitigate risk according to plan.

6. Limit and Visualize WIP, Manage Queue Lengths, and Minimize Batch Sizes

Lean enterprises try to accomplish a state of constant flow, where the new system capabilities move quickly and  noticeably from concept to cash.

Some of the best ways to implement flows are:

·       Limit and visualize the work in process (WIP) to increase throughput and restrict demand to the natural capacity

·       Manage queue intervals to decrease the wait times for the new functionality

·       Minimize the batch sizes to support a faster, more reliable flow

7. Ensure Synchronization and Cadence With Cross-Domain Preparation

Cadence provides a tempo and creates predictability for development, whereas synchronizing causes various perspectives to be resolved, integrated, and understood simultaneously.

Implementing development synchronization cadence, coupled with a sporadic cross-domain plan, provides the instruments required to operate efficiently in intrinsic development uncertainty.

8. Unlock the Intrinsic Motivation of Your Staff

Lean-Agile leaders realize that individual incentive compensation does not typically drive innovation, employee engagement, and originality.

These incentives create internal competition and destroy the collaboration essential to achieve the more significant objective of the system.

Minimizing constraints, providing purpose and autonomy, creating a better comprehension of the role’s benefits, and creating a set of mutual influences are keys to higher levels of employee engagement. This approach yields improved outcomes for customers, enterprises, and individuals.

9. Decentralize Decision-Making

Accomplishing accelerated value delivery demands decentralized decision-making. As a result, this minimizes delays, enhances product development flow, allows for faster feedback, and generates more innovative solutions related to local knowledge.

But some decisions are global and strategic and include economies of scale that validate centralized decision-making. As both decision types occur, creating a dependable decision-making structure is crucial to empowering employees and ensuring an expedited flow of value.

10. Organize Around Value

Unfortunately, most organizations are systematized around principles established in the previous century. Many others are planned around functional expertise to benefit anticipated and increased efficiency.

However, digital tools and resources offer sustainable competitive advantages such as accelerated response to the needs of the customer base with innovative solutions.

These demand collaborations among all the functional domains, with incumbent handoffs, delays, waste, and dependencies.

Instead, business agility requires companies to organize around value to expedite their delivery process. And when customer and market demands evolve, the enterprise must seamlessly and quickly restructure around that new flow of value.

What are the Different Levels of SAFe?

SAFe Scaled Agile Framework enables business results for enterprises of all sizes all over the world. It has allowed drastic transformation in high customer satisfaction, improved employee engagement, time-to-market, and enhanced economic outcomes.

This framework envisions rewarding values and executes them as productive and fun. Scaled Agile Framework also ventures into Lean-Agile implementation and holistically transforms organizations.

Fundamentally, the Scaled Agile Framework has four different levels:

·       Essential SAFe. The Essential Scaled Agile Framework level is the elementary building block for SAFe configurations. It's the most straightforward configuration when it comes to Agile applications. SAFe is intertwined with an enterprise structure called 'Agile Release Train." The Essential SAFe framework rests on the practices and principles that are integral to Agile-Lean management competency, Team competence, the Agile Product Delivery, and Technical Agility competency.

·       Portfolio SAFe. The Portfolio Scaled Agile Framework configuration entirely enables and authorizes business quickness in Lean enterprise. It's the minimal set of practices, competencies, and principles needed to get the work started. Portfolio SAFe Scaled Agile Framework extends a minimum of three added Essential SAFe's core competencies. Portfolio Scaled Agile Framework also communicates principles and practices for Lean Governance, Portfolio Strategy, Agile Portfolio, and Investment funding operations.

·       Large Solution SAFe. The Large Solution Scaled Agile Framework configuration enables the Organization Delivery capability. It helps those who implement the largest and most complex solutions that demand various stakeholders, and negates portfolio-related considerations.

·       Full SAFe. Full Scaled Agile Framework is the most detailed and comprehensive configuration. All the competencies required for business agility are incorporated into it. It is primarily used by big organizations to maintain large and complex solutions portfolios.


SAFe Scaled Agile Framework provides a viable option that helps businesses efficiently accomplish business outcomes.

You can improve strategic alignment, enterprise adaptability, and visibility while expediting your digital transformation.

Scaled Agile Framework is renowned amongst enterprise organizations, thanks to its various facets that emphasize eradicating the common challenges encountered by teams when going Agile.

Suppose your company is just starting its transition process to Agile; in that case, the Scaled Agile Framework may be an effective option to reduce that gap due to its prescriptive approach that offers more customization and flexibility and demands a complete understanding of the Agile philosophy.

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