Scaled Agile Framework Approach – An Overview

scaled agile

What is Scaled Agile Framework?

Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe is a freely available interactive knowledge base that reflects the latest in Lean-Agile practices offering enhanced user experience, improved productivity, accelerated time-to-market and better quality. SAFe empowers complex organizations to achieve the benefits of Lean-Agile software and systems development at scale.

Some other popular scaling frameworks include LeSS, DAD, Nexus, and Spotify.

Some Advantages of Using SAFe

  • It’s free to use
  • It’s well defined and advocates long-lived teams
  • It’s lightweight and applies agile practices at an enterprise level.
  • Offers enhanced visibility and transparency
  • Offers useful addition to common agile practices
  • Helps scale agile across your organization
  • Helps improve product development lead time
  • Ascertains continuous quality feedback and improvement
  • Leads to measurable increases in employee engagement and job satisfaction

Different Levels in SAFe

SAFe addresses the enterprise at three levels- Team, Program, and Portfolio.

Team: A SAFe Agile team is a cross-functional group of 5-11 people. The team defines features and components, builds, tests and deploys some element of solution value in a short iteration time-box.  The team includes Dev Team, Scrum Master, and Product Owner. The Product Owner manages the team Backlog and Scrum Master supports the team to deliver its objectives. The SAFe team uses agile practices based on Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming. The team does not work independently but power the Agile Release Train (ART). ART is a long-lived team of Agile teams, which along with other stakeholders, is responsible for developing and delivering solutions incrementally. ARTs include teams that define, build, and test features and components. The team plans, integrates, demo and learns together.

Program: The program level contains the roles and activities required to continually deliver the solution or a portion of the solution via ART.  The roles at the Program level are meant to help align the team to a shared mission, coordinate the ARTs and offer the requisite Lean governance. These include System Architect, Product Management, Release Team Engineer and Business Owners. The activities at this level include PI (Program Increment) planning, System Demo and Inspecting and Adapting. Normally, a program has a definite start and end date. Through the program Kanban System, the flow of features can be visualized and facilitated from ideation to analysis along with implementation and release via continuous delivery pipeline.

Portfolio: The Portfolio level includes people and processes necessary to build systems and solutions that the Enterprise needs to meet its strategic objectives.  At this level, strategy and investment funding are defined for value streams and their solutions. The highlights of this level are lean budgeting, value streams, and portfolio Kanban. The roles at this level include Lean Portfolio Management, Epic Owners, and Enterprise Architect. These roles offer the highest level of accountability and governance, including synchronization of several value streams. This level ascertains that the investment in solutions will provide the Return on Investment (ROI) required by the enterprise to meet its strategic objectives. A large enterprise may have multiple SAFe portfolios.

So, is SAFe a silver bullet?

Despite all the advantages that SAFe offers, there are no one-size fits all frameworks. The adoption of a framework depends primarily on the size and maturity of the enterprises at the time of picking up the framework. Remember, the agile way of working takes months or years to be ingrained into the culture of the teams and the organization. So, enterprises, depending on the mode of their operations, should undergo training in agile methodologies before implementing any of the Enterprise Agile frameworks, and adopt the one that suits their maturity level.


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