Scaling Agile with SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)
Created by Dean Leffingwell, SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is an interactive software framework that enables you to apply Lean-Agile and Scrum practices at large enterprises. SAFe consists of three levels: Team, Program, and Portfolio. It is constantly being improved, and its latest version is 4.0.
The portfolio level is the highest level where executives and leaders determine the organization’s visions, business goals, and strategies. SAFe aids organizations to handle challenges like funding, product road mapping, and management of changes. It also instructs how to use Lean principles for measuring progress in attaining their goals. It is at the portfolio level, business, architectural epics, and visions are determined. All three can result in large-scale development projects.The epics and visions are then handed down to the programming level of SAFe where they are broken down and scheduled on the appropriate release trains.
Program and Team Levels
At the team level, SAFe is almost identical to Scrum. It is at the program level that SAFe uses the concept of the Agile Release Train (ART) to deliver the value expected from a specific project. Each ART is associated with a specific value stream (goal). The Agile team members of a team, usually five to ten teams of ten members each, work together to deliver the business value goal they were assigned. SAFe teams, like Scrum teams, deliver value by using an incremental and iterative approach where time is divided into equal length sprints of two weeks. Work on an ART usually consists of five, two-week sprints. Every ten weeks (five sprints of two weeks), a train delivers a potentially shippable increment (PSI). At that time a release demo is held, as well as an innovative, inspect, and adapt meeting similar to what is gone over at a Scrum retrospective meeting.
PSIs provide a constant flow or cadence for the development teams. The actual release date to market the PSI is often different from the date the work is completed. This allows releases to be based on business timings rather than on development cycles.
SAFe also promotes new teams such as the System and Release Management teams. Also, new roles are created like a Release Train Engineer (RTE), and Systems Architect. It is also at the program level, “features” are broken down into “user stories” and prioritized many times in accordance with Don Reinertsten’s economic decision framework “Weighted Shortest Job First”(WSJF).
Scaled Agile Framework Flexibility and Adaptability
SAFe is highly prescriptive in that it tells organizations exactly what to do. Training and certification in SAFe are readily available as are expert consultants. SAFe is also relatively easy to transition to and tends to be adopted completely by organizations. Adopting all of the bells and whistles can, however, be overkill, and result in unnecessary complexity and overhead for organizations. This goes against the Agile principle of keeping things Lean. While being prescriptive is a strong point of SAFe, it is also a negative in that it does not allow teams to be as flexible in process decisions and thereby not as adaptive. SAFe is, however, one of the most widely implemented scaled Agile frameworks, is proven to work, and certified training is readily available.
Start scaling Agile with SAFe Certification Training
Agilest® offers three different SAFe certification classes, each designed to give the participants the skills and knowledge they need to lead the role that they will be responsible for in their workplace.