scrum

How to determine what SAFe® certification is right for you?

A question that I get all of the time is “what SAFe class should I take?” This question has many considerations that I am going to answer in four parts: What is SAFe? Why is SAFe important for organizations? Why is SAFe important for individual practitioners? Which SAFe class should I take, or at least […]

A question that I get all of the time is “what SAFe class should I take?”

This question has many considerations that I am going to answer in four parts:

  1. What is SAFe?
  2. Why is SAFe important for organizations?
  3. Why is SAFe important for individual practitioners?
  4. Which SAFe class should I take, or at least start with?

What is SAFe?

SAFe in an embellished acronym that stands for Scaled Agile Framework. The embellishment is the lower-case “e” at the end that turns SAF into SAFe. The additional “e” making SAFe “safe” is an excellent marketing consideration. SAF + “e” is safe to do. SAFe adds a level of safety by lowering risk.

Why is SAFe important for organizations?

Now that we understand what the acronym is, we need to know what SAFe brings to the organization. Mostly people think of SAFe as a way to scale Agile, usually Scrum. But it is much more than that. As someone who has been in the organizational transformation & change management field for more than 20+ years, what I can tell you is before SAFe, all Agile transformations resulted in hybrids. The reason is simple; Scrum, the form of Agile used in the vast majority of “Agile” transformations, was and is designed for small teams at small organizations working on small projects. Everything done to make Scrum fit the company was some non-Agile process. Did people in the Agile community work on developing “Agile” ways to fit Scrum, and to a lesser degree Kanban and other frameworks at organizations? The answer, of course, was yes, but most organizations were doing seat-of-the-pants modifications to systems to make them interconnect.

Unfortunately, many companies did not get excellent results from their home grown Agile transformation efforts and ended up turning back to non-Agile methods. That was unfortunate because it tarnished Agile and it cost many companies a lot of money while delivering no gain. The primary cause that independent companies including Gartner and Forrester have identified as the reason for failure or not delivering good ROI, was that the companies utilized inexperienced resources to implement Agile. But an additional factor was that a cohesive structure was not readily available to help them make the transformation.

SAFe is clearly a way to scale Agile structures such as Scrum and Kanban, but it is much more than that. It is a set of supporting structures that make Agile methods work in the larger context of the enterprise. Because of the supporting structures, SAFe as a system is important to understand because it gives organizations the connecting pathways they need. This is a major reason incorporating SAFe should be high on the list of any organization that is planning to utilize Agile.

Is SAFe too prescriptive?

There is an argument that SAFe is too prescriptive. SAFe is a toolkit, and you don’t use what you don’t need. If all you need is the hammer, then you leave the screwdriver in the toolbox. Seriously, though, I see the too prescriptive argument as I don’t want to learn new things. It is the same mentality we deal with at organizations where no one wants to change. It is broken, but I rather not fix it because I don’t care to go through all the trouble. It’s good enough. So I dismiss it.

Why is SAFe important for individual practitioners?

In the early days of Agile transformations, the companies I worked for would not consider potential customers if they were unwilling to ready themselves to be successful with a transformation from a traditional to an Agile approach for project development.

In 2017 the number of people who know Scrum seems higher than the number of people who know HTML. Scrum is simple, so there is no reason to take a class, just read the guide to Scrum a few times. Also, because so many people now have a knowledge of Scrum, it is no longer an advantage in the job market. Scrum is still important, but just like two days of HTML training will not get you 100K, neither will a two day Scrum certification class.
In fact, as one of my friends who runs a large Agile training company told me, “we deliver Scrum certification classes because we make a lot of money from it, but we don’t care if you have the certification when hiring.”

I took my first Scrum class in 2005 when few people in the development community knew what Scrum was. At my company, we could only find two training offerings the year we were looking, so we chose to fly to NYC rather than wait another six months for the next class. When I got back to work, I applied what I learned. It was a small shop, and it fit perfectly. Previous to Scrum, I was also trained in and applied other methods that were good, but they failed to achieve industry adoption because, in my opinion, the people driving the plans failed to understand that just revealing a good idea is not enough. The result is that since then, I have worked to apply a few different methods such as TOC. They too simply fizzled out because they didn’t have industry adoption.

Do I regret it? Not at all. My point here is many people are illogical. While not trying to be a life coach, something interesting that a Dr. Pritikin once told me at a seminar, is that people are often more afraid of what is good for them than what is bad for them. His example, if I can remember correctly, was about eating fruit. He was trying to encourage his patients to eat more fruit and vegetables, and they told him they were full of carbs and many other things. Another, oddity, was that if they were going to eat something healthy they wanted to know what was the most healthy. But they had no qualms about eating the things that were causing their health issues. They were eating donuts, soda, hamburgers, and French fries, and many other things that were putting their life at risk.
The things that from a medical standpoint were killing them, they were completely unafraid of, but the things that were healthy for them, scared them because “who else that they knew personally was doing that”?

Getting started with Scrum

So what are my recommendations? First, if you have a year or more of Agile experience you can skip the section on Scrum. If not, you need a foundation in Scrum. To get started you need a Scrum class. Is this contradicting what I wrote above; maybe a little? Just as you need to graduate from high school, you need Scrum. There are several Scrum certification classes. Here is the rundown by the provider in alphabetic order:

  1. Agilest® – AASM™ certification is a comprehensive class that delivers the Scrum foundation that you need as well as an understanding of Kanban, scaling, and Agile program management.
  2. Scrum Alliance – CSM – Basic Scrum training
  3. scrum.org – PSM – From the creator of Scrum, good training and a serious test for the certification.
  4. Scaled Agile Academy – SSM – Scrum is necessary, and Scaling is super hot, so this is a two for one combo.

Which SAFe class should I take, or at least start with?

So, finally, on to the question of “what SAFe certification do I need”?
Scaled Agile Academy has made their classes very easy to choose. The two primary ways to answer the question is as follows:

1.  You are in the role and want to get training so you have a better understanding of what you need to do in your role

  • If you are a Scrum Master:
    The SSM is what you want if you are new to the Scrum Master role
    The ASSM is what you want if you have been a Scrum Master for at least a year
  • If you are a Product Owner:
    SPMPO is the right training. It teaches what is needed to benefit the organization as a Product Owner.
  • If you are a member of the Development Team:
    The SAFe SP for teams Scaled Practitioner certification is what is needed to understand the responsibilities of the development team members in the large scale enterprise environment. This training also describes the DevOps/XP practices that are required to ensure high levels of quality and how those practices also improve the delivery flow for faster results.
  • If you are a Manager, Director, or Executive:
    The Leading SAFe SA Certification training is the correct choice. This training is designed to give the executive what they need to understand the whole framework from the management perspective, as well as getting the mindset required to be successful.

2.  You want to get into a role, and you want the training that is required for that role

  • If you want to be a Scrum Master:
    The SSM is what you want if you are new to the Scrum Master role
    The ASSM is what you want if you have been a Scrum Master for at least a year
  • If you are a Product Owner:
    SPMPO is the right training. It teaches what is needed to benefit the organization as a Product Owner.
  • If you want to be a member of the Development Team:
    The SAFe SP for teams Scaled Practitioner certification is what is needed to
  • If you want to be a Manager, Director, or Executive:
    The Leading SAFe SA Certification training is the correct choice. This training is designed to give the executive what they need to understand the whole framework from the management perspective, as well as getting the mindset needed to be successful.

Does this mean that if I am an executive or Scrum Master I will not benefit from taking a different class such as Product Owner training? No, that is not the assertion, but, the SAFe classes are designed and tested to be the right fit for each of the different roles. Anyone involved in development using SAFe will be better equipped if they attend any SAFe class. But, if the participant attends a class that is aligned to the role they will serve in, they will be much better equipped to be effective.

comments
headlines
videos
scrum
#scrum / 28 month ago How to determine what SAFe® certification is right for you?
A question that I get all of the time is “what SAFe class should I take?” This question has many considerations that I am going to answer in four parts: What is SAFe? Why is SAFe important for organizations? Why is SAFe important for individual practitioners? Which SAFe class should I take, or at least […]