SAFe is the abbreviation for Scaled Agile Framework. SAFe has been used for 20 years by Scaled Agile Inc. in Boulder, Colorado, USA, and is constantly being further developed. SAFe is currently implemented in an extremely mature V5.1.
SAFe® is a combination of the principles of Kaizen, Lean, Agile, DevOps and Extreme Programming (XP) and combines these principles into a coherent, scalable and configurable framework.
SAFe® offers different levels of expansion for implementing a digital transformation. They are called (in order of increasing expansion) Essential SAFe®, Great Solution SAFe®, Portfolio SAFe®, Full SAFe®.
SAFe® enables the implementation of a portfolio vision through a hierarchy of teams.1
Epics are split into features and features are split into stories. The individual teams work on these artifacts in sprints and deliver program increments (PIs), organized in so-called release trains. In addition, the portfolio backlog can track delivery opportunities, which in turn are assigned value streams and associated budgets.
“What Scrum is to agile teams, SAFe is to the agile enterprise,” writes SAFe creator and mastermind Dean Leffingwell.2
The meaningful scaling from the so-called “crowd” – that is SAFe®
So what is Scrum?
Scrum means “scrum” and is a framework for iterative and incremental development of digital products in a small team (ideally 5 – 10 people).
An iteration is a unit of time within a cycle, is called a sprint, and usually lasts 14 days or a month. Each sprint is a loop with a beginning and an end and thus repetitive in nature. The beginning is always made with a planning meeting by planning the goal of the sprint, namely the delivery of one or more increments. Each sprint ends with two consecutive meetings. The first of these is the so-called review. This is where the completed increment is presented to stakeholders. The review is followed by the retrospective, a meeting where only the team is present and reflects on its working methods and makes suggestions for improvements, for example. Other team work days begin with a 15-minute Daily Stand Up. The daily is used for consultation and removal of possible obstacles. The meetings are called ceremonies and are essential in Scrum.
Equally central are the three team roles of Scrum: Product Owner, Scrum Master, Team.
The product owner represents the interests of all those involved in the project (stakeholders) and is responsible for the end product. He elicits product requirements from stakeholders, creates the product backlog (requirements broken down into user stories), is responsible for return on investment (ROI), and creates the release plan.
The product owner prioritizes the product backlog based on business value points to ensure that the most valuable features are developed first. Once the product owner has created the backlog, he presents it to the team in Sprint Planning. The team (the developers) selects what they think they can turn into a so-called increment with potentially deliverable functionality by the end of the sprint. This is how the Sprint Backlog is created. Since the team is self-organized, it is left to develop the selected functions on its own responsibility.
The Scrum Master (as well as the Product Owner) is not part of the team. He removes obstacles for the team and ensures that the Scrum rules are followed. The Scrum Master is responsible for the Scrum process.
The tension between what the business wants and what the team can do makes Scrum a very effective tool for producing high quality. In addition, the built-in self-organization creates an autonomy that is highly attractive to knowledge workers. In other words, the smarter the head, the less it likes to be told what to do and how to do it. And developers are knowledge workers at a high to the highest level. Scrum thus principally attracts the best.
What Scrum leaves out: The coordination and collaboration of multiple Scrum teams.
This a major disadvantage of Scrum.
So why SAFe®?
More and more companies are benefiting from agile or hybrid teams. But the self-organization of agile teams reaches its limits as companies grow and one team becomes several or many. The need for scaling agility arises.
Visibility of progress is central to successful governance. The only framework that implements this functionality all the way into the portfolio is currently Scaled Agile Inc. SAFe Framework. With SAFe®, autonomous teams can be synchronized via so-called release trains, coordinated via backlogs, boards, reports and metrics.
SAFe eliminates the disadvantage of lack of coordination between Scrum teams by integrating Scrum roles, both Scrum and non-Scrum teams and roles, iterative and incremental production, and by adding more functions and roles (such as the Release Train and Release Train Engineer). SAFe scales the Scrum or hybrid methodology, making it suitable for “agilizing” companies. SAFe can perfectly combine waterfall and agility.
SAFe® helps small and large companies as well as corporations to deliver products and services in the shortest possible time. It gives organizations a major competitive advantage by aligning development roles, responsibilities, and activities based on competency, efficiency, and productivity.
According to the 15th Annual State of Agile Report3, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe® is the most widely adopted approach to scaling Agile, with approximately 40% of respondents indicating that SAFe® is the methodology they follow the most. According to the report, 52% of respondents said that more than half of the teams in their organizations are using agile practices.4
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1, 2 – Source: https://www.scaledagileframework.com
3, 4 – Source: qa.com; “State of Agile Report: Headline summary,” 2022; https://www.qa.com/about-qa/our-thinking/the-15th-state-of-agile-report-our-take/