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What is SAFe?

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Key Features and Components

Picture of Mangesh Shahi
Mangesh Shahi
Mangesh Shahi is an Agile, Scrum, ITSM, & Digital Marketing pro with 15 years' expertise. Driving efficient strategies at the intersection of technology and marketing.

SAFe, which stands for the Scaled Agile Framework, is a framework for scaling Agile principles and methods to large organizations. It provides a set of organizational and workflow patterns intended to guide enterprises in scaling lean and agile practices. The framework is designed to help organizations address the challenges of developing and delivering large, complex systems, products, and solutions.

Key Components of a Feature in SAFe

1. Lean-Agile Principles

SAFe is built on a foundation of lean-agile principles, which emphasize customer value, collaboration, and continuous improvement.

2. Agile Teams

SAFe promotes the use of agile teams at the core of development. These teams typically use Scrum or Kanban, among other agile methods.

3. Agile Release Trains

In SAFe, multiple agile teams are organized into larger groups called Agile Release Trains (ARTs). These ARTs align teams to a common mission or value stream and are responsible for delivering value to customers.

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4. Program Increment (PI)

The PI is a time-boxed planning interval during which an Agile Release Train delivers value in the form of working, tested software and systems.

5. Portfolio Level

SAFe addresses the portfolio level, which helps organizations prioritize, fund, and manage a set of value streams. This involves strategic planning and alignment of the work to the organization’s goals.

6. Lean Portfolio Management

This concept focuses on aligning strategy and execution by applying lean and systems thinking to the portfolio.

7. Continuous Delivery Pipeline

SAFe includes a Continuous Delivery Pipeline that represents the set of activities needed to move a solution from idea to deployment, integrating people, processes, and technology.

8. Inspect and Adapt (I&A)

SAFe promotes regular Inspect and Adapt workshops, where teams and stakeholders reflect on their work and make continuous improvements.

9. Value Stream

SAFe organizes work around value streams, which represent the series of steps and activities that deliver a product, service, or solution to the customer. Identifying and optimizing value streams is a fundamental aspect of SAFe.

10. Agile Release Train (ART) Roles

Within an ART, various roles include the Product Owner, Scrum Master, Release Train Engineer (RTE), and various team members. These roles work together to plan, prioritize, and execute the work.

11. PI Planning

The Program Increment (PI) Planning event is a significant part of SAFe, where teams collaboratively plan their work for a fixed period (usually 8-12 weeks). This event brings together all teams on an Agile Release Train and aligns their efforts.

12. Backlog

SAFe employs various backlogs to manage work at different levels, including the Program Backlog, which contains features and enablers to be implemented during a Program Increment.

13. WSJF (Weighted Shortest Job First)

WSJF is a prioritization technique used in SAFe to determine the order in which work should be executed based on the cost of delay and job size.

14. System Architect

SAFe emphasizes the role of the System Architect, who works with agile teams to guide system and solution architecture, ensuring that the product or solution is designed in a way that supports the business goals.

15. Release

SAFe promotes frequent releases to deliver value to customers. Releases are planned events where potentially shippable increments of the solution are made available.

16. Lean-Agile Leadership

Leadership plays a crucial role in SAFe, and the framework encourages a transformation in leadership styles to support Agile principles and practices.

17. Communities of Practice (CoPs)

These are groups within the organization where people with similar skills or interests come together to share knowledge and best practices.

18. DevOps and Release on Demand

SAFe incorporates DevOps principles and practices to enable organizations to release software and solutions more frequently and reliably.

19. Solution Intent

SAFe emphasizes the importance of documenting and maintaining a clear understanding of the current and future state of the solution or product to support decision-making and alignment.

20. Lean-Agile Mindset

At the heart of SAFe is the cultivation of a Lean-Agile mindset, where individuals and teams adopt principles of agility, customer focus, and continuous improvement.

21. System Demo

A System Demo is an event where the Agile Release Train showcases the working solution or product increment to stakeholders and customers, enabling feedback and validation.

22. Lean Portfolio

The Lean Portfolio is the highest level in SAFe, focusing on strategy and investment funding. It aligns the portfolio with the organization’s business objectives and helps make decisions on what to fund and prioritize.

23. Epic

Epics are large initiatives that typically span multiple Program Increments and are broken down into smaller features or stories for execution.

24. Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE)

LACE is a team or group within the organization responsible for guiding the adoption of SAFe and Agile practices, providing training, coaching, and support.

25. Value Stream Budgeting

SAFe introduces a concept of budgeting aligned with value streams, allowing for funding at a more granular level to support value delivery.

26. Organizational Change

SAFe recognizes that implementing Agile at scale involves significant organizational change. Change agents, leaders, and coaches play critical roles in facilitating this transformation.

27. Solution Train

In addition to Agile Release Trains (ARTs), organizations can create Solution Trains to develop and deliver large, complex solutions that may involve multiple ARTs working together.

28. Communities of Interest (CoIs)

CoIs are groups of people with similar interests, such as Agile practitioners, who come together to share knowledge and promote continuous learning within the organization.

29. Lean Thinking

SAFe incorporates principles of lean thinking, which emphasize minimizing waste, optimizing flow, and delivering value to customers efficiently.

30. SAFe Big Picture

The SAFe Big Picture is a graphical representation of the framework, showing how all the components fit together. It provides a visual overview of SAFe’s structure.

31. Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping is a technique used in SAFe to visualize and analyze the flow of work, identify bottlenecks, and optimize the value delivery process within a value stream.

32. Business Owners

Business Owners are responsible for defining and prioritizing the features and capabilities that will deliver the most value to the organization.

33. Lean-Agile Mindset and Principles

SAFe places a strong emphasis on instilling a Lean-Agile mindset throughout the organization. It encourages the adoption of principles such as prioritizing customer value, embracing uncertainty, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

34. SAFe Configurations

SAFe offers different configurations to tailor the framework to specific organizational contexts. These configurations include Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe, and Full SAFe, each with a different level of complexity and focus.

35. Organizational Roles

SAFe defines various roles that are critical to its successful implementation, including Release Train Engineer (RTE), Product Owner, Scrum Master, and System Architect, among others.

36. Lean Portfolio Management (LPM)

LPM is a SAFe function responsible for aligning strategy and execution by applying Lean and systems thinking to the portfolio. It involves activities such as strategy and investment funding, governance, and value stream coordination.

37. Agile Product and Solution Management

SAFe guides how to effectively manage the product and solution development process, including defining the vision, roadmap, and priorities.

38. Customer-Centricity

A central tenet of SAFe is a relentless focus on the customer. This includes understanding customer needs, obtaining feedback, and delivering value to customers as quickly as possible.

39. Value Stream Identification

SAFe encourages organizations to identify and define their value streams to align the work with the creation of customer value and to ensure that work is prioritized accordingly.

40. Lean Systems Engineering

In cases where the organization is involved in large, complex engineering projects, SAFe incorporates lean systems engineering principles to ensure efficient and effective development and delivery.

41. Release Train Engineer (RTE)

The RTE is a servant leader and coach for the Agile Release Train, helping facilitate and organize all aspects of the train, including planning, execution, and continuous improvement.

SAFe is a robust and comprehensive framework that offers a structured approach to scaling Agile principles and practices across large organizations. It addresses a wide range of challenges, from planning and prioritization to delivery and continuous improvement, all while fostering a culture of agility and customer value delivery. Organizations adopting SAFe often undergo a significant transformation in their practices, roles, and mindsets to fully realize the benefits of the framework.

Benefits of Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) in Organizations

Ready to lead your organization toward agility and success with SAFe? Become a certified SAFe Agilist and guide your teams to achieve their full potential. Join the ranks of Agile leaders who are making a difference. Click here to start your Leading SAFe 6.0 Certification journey today!

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