What is SAFe®?

The first edition of Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) was introduced in 2011. Since then, the framework has continuously evolved. The latest version, SAFe 4.6, was released in October of 2018, and will be replaced by 5.0 in January 2020. But what is SAFe®, and how is it intended to create value for organizations?

Update: A new iteration of SAFe is underway. Version 5.0 is set for release in January 2020.

SAFe 5.0 represents a new operating system for business agility. The thinking behind the updated framework is that agile product delivery alone is not enough in a globalized world, with fast-moving markets, disruption and the ever-increasing pace of technological innovation. According to Scaled Agile, business agility is needed to succeed today.

Here’s a quick summary of the newest additions and changes to the model:

What’s new:

  • New framework “theme”: Business Agility – New SAFe overview featuring the seven core competencies that enable Business Agility. Only for Large Solution and Portfolio configurations.
  • New icon: Measure and Grow – A way to measure the state of business agility and how to accelerate growth to improve overall economic outcomes.
  • Two new core competencies: Continuous Learning Culture & Organizational Agility – Continuous Learning Culture focuses on how to become a learning organization, how to relentlessly improve, and how to promote a culture of innovation. Organizational Agility focuses on embedding Lean and Agile methods into all levels of the organization starting with people.
  • Customer centricity – Increased focus on the customer in all configurations. ARTs are now organized around the value customers receive. The cornerstone of the Essential level.
  • Design thinking – Part of Customer Centricity. It presents a new approach to product and solution development, while also inspiring new ways to measure customer success.
  • New core principle – With the addition of Customer Centricity, a new core principle has been added as a 10th principle:  Organize around value.

What’s changed:

  • Reworked level: Essential SAFe – The Team and Program levels have been combined into one level. Previously, the Program level centered on ARTs while the Team level contained the people working on the ARTs. The close interlink between the two levels is now reflected in the model.
  • Five restructured competencies – Team and Technical Agility has been rewritten. DevOps has been renamed to Agile Product Delivery and reorganized. Lean Portfolio Management has been rewritten and reorganized. Business Solutions & Lean System has received a major update and renamed to Enterprise Solution Delivery. Lean Agile Leadership has been rewritten and reorganized.
  • Overall reorganization of components –The four configurations of SAFe have been updated to reflect the new look and feel of the 5.0 release. Core components and people are now found on the left side of the framework.
  • Implementation Roadmap – Two new courses have been added. Sustain and Improve renamed to Accelerate.

What is SAFe?

Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a scalable and configurable framework that helps organizations provide new products, services, and solutions with the highest possible quality and value, but also in the most efficient and sustainable way. SAFe is adaptable to the organization’s needs and situation. It supports small organizations with 50-100 employees as well as large, complex organizations with more than 1,000 employees.      

According to Scaled Agile®, who is behind SAFe, the framework describes the roles, responsibilities, artifacts, and activities that are necessary to implement Lean-Agile development. The framework is based on knowledge and experience, and it is a well-documented approach to develop complex systems and software from a Lean-Agile mindset.

Overall, SAFe provides a solution for how to scale the agile practice from team to program and across the entire organization in order to deliver faster and better results. Additionally, the framework is based on how to best organize the employees in relation to creating value, so that deliveries and value creation happen efficiently without delays and bureaucracy, which often occurs in a traditional hierarchical organizational structure. SAFe also provides means to manage dependencies among teams and to create transparency across teams, programs, and value streams. Lastly, SAFe provides tools to measure and control the agile teams’ performance, their work, and means for the team to improve without creating additional obstacles.   

According to Scaled Agile, SAFe also answers how you construct an organizational environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement. It explains how to actively create a culture that tolerates mistakes and rewards willingness to learn and take risks.

The illustration above shows the configuration SAFe® Portfolio. There are four different configurations of the SAFe-model: ’Essential SAFe’, ’Portfolio SAFe’, ’Large Solution SAFe’, and ’Full SAFe’. These configurations offer organizations the opportunity to start out simply and gradually expandthe framework as the needs increases.

Scaled Agile Framework is a framework that aims to synchronize collaboration and deliveries across several agile teams. It strengthens the organization’s agility, increases productivity and quality, shortens time-to-market, and enhances employee involvement and satisfaction.    

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

The figure is reproduced with permission from © Scaled Agile, Inc.

SAFe®4.5 introduction – Overview of Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Enterprises, A Scaled Agile, Inc. White Paper, August 2017 
Website: http://www.scaledagileframework.com

5.0 preview: https://v5preview.scaledagileframework.com/#