The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) helps companies release products faster

When we talk about scaling the agile culture in large corporations, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is the best-known framework.

It is an extension of Scrum with applications for business environments, combining its principles and ideals with practices carried out in the corporate environment, such as project planning, portfolio, among others.

Making internal processes more agile is a common quest among companies. Due to the great competition in the market, it is necessary to find ways to deliver in less time and with a high level of quality.

In this sense, several agile development methodologies were created, such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), which helps to increase business productivity and efficiency.

Basically, the structure of SAFe is the Agile Release Train (ARt), which is understood as a team of teams that takes care of the processes, development, and delivery with all project stakeholders.

In this article, you will figure out what is SAFe and its main characteristics and benefits for those who use it in project management.

Before you start reading it, find out some of our great features, by a lifetime deal,  you might have to use with a Scaled Agile Framework:

Get the project Big Picture with Gantt Chart
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What is SAFe?

SAFe is an acronym for Scaled Agile Framework and it was created by Dean Leffingwell and is now maintained by Scaled Agile Academy.

Its framework is based on Lean and Agile principles and it is gaining more and more recognition and adoption around the world.

SAFe is based on Scrum, XP (Extreme Programming), and Lean, and has a lot of experience gained through implementations that worked and did not work on a large scale.

SAFe brings with it what has worked best in agile teams, in the way of doing program management and in the agile way of dealing with a portfolio of organizational demands.

SAFe is a proven and well-documented approach to bringing Agile and its benefits to the enterprise at large.

It provides a comprehensive view of the business and technical principles and practices needed from the top-down of the enterprise to successfully scale Agile.

These principles and practices are not all entirely new or unique to SAFe but have been pulled together into a cohesive package ready for deployment.

The framework is adopted by companies that wish to preserve as much as possible the characteristics of their structure, organization, and methods while using the principles of agile culture.

Information all set in an image
To facilitate the understanding of the workflow, the tool has The Big Picture, which is the name given to the diagram that shows the functioning of the framework’s flow, roles, and activities, proposing that the organizational scale be divided into three levels:

  • Team (operational)
    The Team level provides a process template for agile teams based on Scrum and XP practices.
  • Program (strategic)
    At the program level, the efforts of multiple agile teams are integrated to deliver higher value releases to the company.
  • Portfolio (managerial)
    At the Portfolio level, programs are aligned with business strategy and investment intentions.

When did SAFe start?
With the collaboration of others in the agile community, it was progressively refined over time and then formally described for the first time in a 2007 book.
In November 2019, at the Global SAFe Summit in San Diego (USA), it was launched the latest version, SAFe 5.0, which brings the concepts of “Business Agility” into the framework.

Why did SAFe come up?
Initially, SAFe was developed to help software development teams get better products to market faster.

In 2019, the framework had an important update, which enabled several areas of an organization, in addition to the technology area, to use the model to manage processes and product development in complex environments. Always aiming to organize deliveries consistently, with predictability and quality.

SAFe offers several configuration options depending on the size and complexity of organizations.

It brings what has worked best in agile teams in the corporate world, with the possibility of “scaling” to the most executive levels of the organization.

Agile and Continuous Delivery Principles
Perhaps the reason behind the success of Scaled Agile Framework is its ability to bring the concepts propagated by Continuous Delivery and DevOps.

As a result, SAFe was adopted more quickly than older methodologies such as DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery), LeSS (Large Scale Scrum), and Nexus. SAFe emphasizes the need to integrate all “increments” from Scrum teams at the end of synchronized Sprints.

According to the key principles of the Agile Manifesto, the software is developed in “chunks”, kept in a working state, and regular market releases provide the customer with the necessary feedback to improve the software in future increments.

Scale Challenges in Large Organizations
The need to scale has been felt in scenarios, where a larger increment is needed or a large program has to be delivered in an Agile fashion.

Additionally, many companies transitioning from the traditional Waterfall method to an Agile method are looking for a proven framework that helps them scale up while adhering to Lean-Agile principles.

Large organizations that have been operating for a long time and may have a variety of processes and micro-cultures across different teams and now want to implement Lean-Agile principles are more likely to look for something “tried and tried” than look for their own scaling approach.

They can use SAFe (or even one of the others like DAD or LeSS) – not just to scale Agile, but to drive deeper transformation across the entire organization. In the process, they could adjust the framework to how it would work best for them.

From the large number of organizations we’ve encountered, the Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe has provided a model for scaling Agile principles and tools to large organizations. SAFe is a framework designed to cover the entire organization.

What is the difference between Scrum and SAFe?

The main SAFe features

The Scaled Agile Framework has a framework based on Lean principles, as well as experiences gained through implementations that have worked or not on a large scale.

In addition, SAFe understands what works best in agile teams, in the way it manages programs and in the way it handles the portfolio of organizational demands.

The methodology’s success lies in its characteristics, which positively impact business activities. Check out some of these features:

Scalable methodology
When expanded to the organizational level, the agile methodology is incorporated by the SAFe method, involving managers, managers, business and systems analysts. All the company’s teams work in a single structure, which increases communication and reduces the possibility of errors.

Fast learning by the teams
Another advantage of SAFe is that it can be learned quickly by teams, requiring an average time of one week, which is because The Big Picture is very well explained and highly interactive.

Sustainable Structure
The elements in red highlighted in the tool diagram are called ‘’architectural items’’ and were created to help refine the structure as well as the functionality of the agency project. This makes the projects more sustainable, avoiding technical restrictions or obsolescence.

The Benefits of SAFe

Companies that adopt SAFe in their routine processes tend to obtain much more advantage through transparency and organization, facilitating tasks that range from strategic to operational and vice versa.

Among the main companies that use SAFe, we have Intel, HP, and IBM, for example.

Another positive point is having a simplified management model. Its few elements, so common to all levels of performance, make learning and adoption simpler and faster. The main benefits are:

Less Rework
Agile practices allow for more frequent deliveries, which helps to reduce team rework, as the customer can provide more feedback, validating the final product in small parts.

More transparency in processes
With more collaboration, it is possible to increase the level of knowledge that teams have about the status of projects and the quality of work products, for example. Allowing everyone involved to be aware of everything at any time.

Value of the Business
A company with processes that are organized and aligned with strategy and goals allows for greater value delivery to customers. SAFe is the right path for managers who want to increase the quality of what is delivered to the customer and eliminate time spent on things that do not add value.

Greater Customer Satisfaction
Any business depends on satisfied customers to be successful. Satisfied customers are those who are met both in their explicit requirements and in their expectations. The adoption of agile practices is very useful in this search for meeting both explicit needs and implicit expectations.

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Leonardo Salles

Copywriter for GitScrum.