Opening up SAFe® – Scaled Agile Framework® in Perspective

Insights | 12 July 2016

Opening up SAFe® – Scaled Agile Framework® in Perspective

When you first delve into the world of agile practices you can be forgiven if you are lost in a maze of terminology and acronyms. Think Scrum, DevOps, XP (eXtreme Programming), Lean, Kanban and SAFe® to name a few.

Whilst agile practices are becoming more common at the team and project level, somewhat newer ground is the concept of agile at the enterprise level; SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework) from Scaled Agile, Inc.

What is SAFe®?

SAFe® is a publicly available framework for applying lean and agile practices at the enterprise scale. In effect, SAFe® 4.0 provides principles and practices to scale agile from the team to the program to the value stream (as necessary) through to portfolio level. The core values of SAFe® are:

  1. Built-in quality
  2. Program execution
  3. Alignment
  4. Transparency

Who is SAFe® for?

The latest version has been named “SAFe® 4.0 for Lean Software and Systems Engineering”, meaning SAFe® is a framework for large organisations and focuses on IT software and systems development. The framework looks at synchronising alignment, collaboration and delivery for large numbers of agile teams.

Entry level is 3-level SAFe® for around 100 people or less, and includes team, program and portfolio level. At the full implementation end, 4-level SAFe® is for large solutions, including hundreds or more practitioners per value stream (think delivering value from customer order to delivery), addressing team, program, value stream and portfolio level.

SAFe® – The Big Picture

The essence of SAFe® is encapsulated in a one-page view of the framework, incorporating the 4 potential levels:

  • Portfolio. Strategic themes connect a SAFe® portfolio to the enterprise business strategy. In turn, these influence funding, the portfolio backlog, program vision and roadmap.
  • Value Stream. In the 4-level ‘scaled up’ version of SAFe®, a value stream is defined as a sequence of steps used to deliver value to the customer, and contains the people who do the work, the systems and the flow of information and materials.
  • Program. Programs in SAFe® are delivered by agile release trains (ART). An ART can deliver a portion or all of a value stream. In effect, a release train is a team of 5-12 agile teams, consisting of around 50-125 people that plans, commits and executes together. The ART runs to a schedule with a fixed timebox (‘sprint’) program increment (PI) of 8-12 weeks (default 10 weeks). Everyone meets at the start of an increment for 2 days of PI planning (‘big room planning’), including committing to a set of PI objectives.
  • Team. At the foundation level, groups of 5-9 individuals form the ‘agile’ team, incorporating the Scrum roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner and Team Members. Teams can be organised around features or components, but in true agile style, they are generally involved end-to-end in requirements, coding, testing and deployment.

What next?

For those looking at the enterprise level for agile, SAFe® provides such a framework and builds upon existing agile practices at a team level. Leading SAFe® (2-day workshop) further explores the scaled agile framework, including understanding SAFe® principles, implementing an agile release train, experiencing PI planning, and building an agile portfolio.

Get more information on our Leading SAFe® 4.6 workshop.

Scaled Agile Framework® and SAFe®® are trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

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