Which SAFe Class Should I Take?
Regularly in my classes, I get a question from students about which class they should take next. There is a wide range of answers to that question based on your destination. Let’s go through the classes and discuss the target audience and any prerequisites that you may need or want to have. While most of the information in this article is contained within the Scaled Agile website, I have gathered it together so any students might be able to find it in a single location. The course categorizations I use in this article are not my own: Scaled Agile Inc. organized them that way, I am just replicating that for ease of visualization.
Leading SAFe (SA) gives a high-level overview of the whole framework. This class is aimed more at executives or people in leadership positions. You will get an introduction to each of the levels of SAFe and how they all interact and build upon each other. If your company is exploring the idea of switching to SAFe, start here. This will provide you with enough information for you to go back to your company and discuss what you learned about how the framework could be applied to your company. If you’re working in a government agency and not in the public sector, I would recommend SAFe for Government (SGP) instead since it focuses on how to apply SAFe for local, state, and federal agencies.
The POPM class (POPM) focuses on the Product Owner (PO) and Product Manager (PM) roles in SAFe. you will get a good insight into the Essential level of SAFe but don’t stray outside those two levels very much, and the role of the PO and PM and how they work on driving value at the day-to-day level. This class does not have the Program Increment (PI) Planning exercise as part of it, but it does discuss the role of the PO and PM in preparing for PI Planning, executing PI Planning, and the follow-up that comes after the planning event. If you’re wanting to learn to be a PO or PM, this course is highly recommended.
The Agile Product and Solution Management (APM) class is the next step up from the POPM class. It takes a more strategic view of how to help your customers realize value. From using tools like Innovation Games, empathy mapping, and market segmentation, to providing vision and direction to the Agile Release Trains (ARTs), Solution Trains (STs), and the Portfolio, the PM and the Solution Manager both play critical roles in helping customers get the best value. If you’re wanting to (or already are) advocate for the customers in mid to long-term strategic plans on your company’s largest solutions, this is the class you should take. We do recommend that you take at least one SAFe course (probably POPM or SA) beforehand to prepare. It would also be highly beneficial to have a background as a project manager in mid to high-level planning for your organization.
The SAFe DevOps (SDP) class is a two-day workshop that focuses on identifying and improving your company’s Value Streams and Continuous Delivery Pipeline. If you’re seeking to gain a deeper understanding of Value Streams and how to get better results from your Continuous Delivery Pipeline, this class dives deep into this area. As a central part of this class, we will be mapping the SAFe DevOps Health Radar and identifying areas to best improve the quality and flow of your processes. While the site says there are no prerequisites, I would highly recommend at least a decent understanding of SAFe beforehand.
The Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) two-day course (with an optional one day workshop immediately following) is now one of classes recommended in the early steps of the Implementation Roadmap. If you are seeking to understand how the Portfolio level of SAFe is applied to provide coordination and structure to all the Value Streams in your portfolio. If you are an executive, manager, leader, or someone who is focused on the strategic direction of the business, this class will provide you great understanding of how to manage a Portfolio-level transformation. To attend this class it is recommended that you have familiarity with basic Lean-Agile concepts, have attended the POPM course, and have worked at a company that has implemented SAFe.
First up for the intermediate classes is the SAFe Scrum Master class (SSM). Like the POPM class, this one focuses on the bottom tier of the SAFe framework. It talks more about the role of the Scrum Master (SM) role both in teams and in ARTs. There is a lot of focus on how to run Scrum ceremonies, how to build strong teams, and how to coach and guide your team. This class is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to become an SM. While you do not need to have previous Scrum experience, I would highly recommend that you be familiar with the terminology and have read over the process enough to understand the differences between Scrum and Waterfall. If you have previous experience with Scrum and/or another Scrum Master certification you will have a much easier time with this course.
The SAFe for Teams (SP) class is another two-day class that is exclusively on the Essential level. This class is intended for anyone who does the day-to-day delivery of value for the ART. Whether you’re a SM, PO, or Agile Team member you will want to take this class to get an understanding of how to build a high-functioning team, and how to execute the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Iteration cycle to get best results. The PI Planning simulation is also a part of this class. If you’re a PO or SM you can take either this class or the Leading SAFe class above to get a good understanding of how your role will change in SAFe.
The SAFe for Architects (ARCH) certification class is a three-day class that lays out the role of the Architect as it applies to SAFe. This focuses on how the Architect balances the concepts of intentional architecture with emergent design, helps increase flow in the Continuous Delivery Pipeline, and creates Enablers for better future delivery of value. The Architect’s role in working with the teams, ARTs, STs, and across the enterprise becomes clear. To attend this class, it is recommended that you be familiar with basic Agile principles and have attended at least one other SAFe course.
The Agile Software Engineering (ASE) class. This three-day class is devoted to identifying and creating ways to improve delivery flow and code quality. It has a focus on using tools like Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) and Test-Driven Development (TDD). It is strongly recommended that you be familiar with the SP class and have a background in software development and/or testing.
In comparison to the SSM class, the Advanced Scrum Master (SASM) class is intended for people with a previous Scrum Master certification (SSM/CSM/PSM certification). This two-day class requires a level of previous knowledge and experience with Agile and Scrum. It stays focused on the bottom tier but provides advanced instruction for Scrum Masters on multiple subjects. There is more discussion of Kanban, how to address common team dysfunctions, and more depth on improving team and ART performance.
The Release Train Engineer (RTE) course is a three-day event that focuses on the role of the RTE in running the ART during the PI. To take this class it is strongly recommend that you have been on an ART for at least one PI. Additionally, It is also strongly recommended that you have at least one of the following certifications: SA, SSM, SASM. The intention of this class is the critical role the RTE plays in running a successful ART. The class material revolves around understanding how to prepare and execute PIs, how-to guide and encourage teams on the ART, how to model leadership for the ART, and how to drive Relentless Improvement. If you want to become a Release Train Engineer or grow your skills as an existing RTE, you should absolutely take this class.
The Implementing SAFe (SPC) class is the class for anyone wanting to become an Agile Coach or trainer. This is a top-level certification and has a few strong recommendations before taking the class. You should have the following:
- Five or more years of experience in software development, testing, business analysis, product, or project management
- Three or more years of Agile experience
- At least one Agile certification (I would recommend SA to get the best overview of the framework)
In addition to the requirements above, I would strongly recommend reading The Rollout, The Goal, and The Phoenix Project if you haven’t already (or re-read them if it’s been a while). I would also recommend doing a deep dive on the SAFe framework itself and understanding the role of the SPC in the enterprise. This is a four-day class that starts with the Leading SAFe class for the first two days. Ideally, students have already taken this class and this will be a review. There is a lot of information to cover and not a lot of time to really understand it in depth. The more you prepare in advance, the better you will do on understanding the other areas that might be new to you.
Button to SAFe training schedule.