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SAFe Fundamentals: What is SAFe?

Published on Aug 26,2019 2.2K Views

Research Analyst, Tech Enthusiast, Currently working on Azure IoT & Data Science... Research Analyst, Tech Enthusiast, Currently working on Azure IoT & Data Science with previous experience in Data Analytics & Business Intelligence.
SAFe Fundamentals: What is SAFe?

Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe empowers complex organisations to achieve the advantages of Lean-Agile software and systems development at scale. To know What is SAFe and how it works you’ll need to understand the following topics;

Why use Agile Framework?

By implementing an Agile Framework, you avail the following benefits;

  • Agile expands to handle the needs of large value streams and complex system development despite being so simple and light-weight.
  • It increases productivity by 20 – 50%
  • Quality increases by more than 50%
  • It reduces the time taken for a product to reach the market. the process becomes faster by at least 30%
  • Employee engagement and job satisfaction.

The detailed framework shows all of the key roles, Activities, deliverable, and flows. It also navigates the rest of the site.

The image given explains how agile process works. Epics are a huge body of work, further broken down into a number of smaller stories or sub-epics. These sub-epics are allocated to the team as a story. Each team then works on these stories or software features.

What is SAFe?

Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe was first developed by Dean Leffingwell’s books and blogs. Version 1.0 is the first officially released in 2011. The latest version which is  4.6, was released in October 2018. It is meant to provide guidance to work at enterprise Portfolio, Value Stream, Program, and Team levels.

SAFe, is a freely available online knowledge base that allows you to exercise lean-agile practices at an enterprise level. It gives you a simple, lightweight experience for the software development team. The whole framework is divided into 3 basic segments the Team, the Program and the Portfolio.

So, following are the features of SAFe;

  • Implementation of Lean-Agile software and systems at an enterprise-level
  • Detailed guidance for processes at the enterprise Portfolio, Value Stream, Program, and Team.
  • Optimum design to meet the needs of all stakeholders within an organisation.

When to Use Scaled Agile Framework?

Now, you might wonder when exactly should you use SAFe. So, here are a few instances when you could.

  • When your team is interested to implement an agile approach across larger, multi-team programs and portfolios.
  • When multiple teams in an organisation are running on different ways of Agile implementations and hence, are facing obstacles, delays, and failures.
  • When you want to exercise Agile but scale it up to the organisation-level. However, you’re not sure what new roles may be needed or what existing roles (i.e., management) need to change and how.
  • When you have attempted to scale-up Agile to your organisation but struggling in alignment to achieve uniformity or consistency in strategy across business departments from portfolio to program and team levels.
  • When your organisation needs to improve its product development lead time.

How is SAFe different from other Agile practices?

Another thing to ponder upon is that how is SAFe different from other agile practices,

  • SAFe is publicly available and free to use.
  • It is available in a highly approachable and usable form.
  • Apart from being lightweight, it can be pretty specific to a level.
  • It continually modifies and maintains the most commonly used agile practices.
  • SAFe offers useful extensions to common agile practices.
  • It grounds agile practices to an enterprise context.
  • The complete picture of software development is provided to you via SAFe implementation
  • Empiricism is scaled up.
  • SAFe takes regular feedback on quality and improvement.

Foundation of Scaled Agile Framework

Scaled Agile Framework stands upon the following base values;

  1. Lean-Agile and its Principles
  2. Scaled Agile Core Values,
  3. Lean-Agile Leadership
  4. Lean-Agile Mindset,
  5. Communities of Practice

 1. Lean-Agile And Its Principles

Following are the basic principles and values for SAFe. They must be understood, exhibited and continued in order to get the best results upon execution of the framework.

  • Taking an economic view
  • Applying systems thinking
  • Assuming variability; preserve options
  • Building incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
  • Basing the milestones on an objective evaluation of working systems
  • Visualising and limiting Work-In-Progress, reducing batch sizes and managing queue lengths
  • Applying cadence and synchronising with cross-domain planning
  • Unlocking the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
  • Decentralising decision-making
  • SAFe Agile Core Values

SAFe is based on the following 4 core values.

  • Alignment
  • Built-in Quality
  • Transparency
  • Program Executioncore values - what is safe - edureka
  1. Lean-Agile Leadership

Before teachers, Lean-Agile leaders are continuous learners. It helps them help their teams to build better systems through understanding and exhibiting the Lean-Agile SAFe Principles.

As an enabler, the ultimate responsibility of a leader is adoption, success and ongoing improvement of Lean-Agile developments. For the change and continuous improvement, leaders go through rigorous and continuous training.

Leaders truly empower and engage individuals and teams to achieve their highest potential.

Principles of these Lean-Agile Leaders

  • To Lead the Change
  • To Know the Way; Emphasize Lifelong Learning
  • To Develop People more than processes
  • To Inspire and Align with Mission
  • To Decentralize Decision-Making
  • To Unlock the Intrinsic Motivation of Knowledge Workers
  1. Lean-Agile Mind-Set

The Lean-Agile mindset can be derived from the following two things.

  1. The SAFe House of Lean
  2. Agile Manifesto

The SAFe House of Lean

Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe) is derived from the principles and practices inspired by the house of lean Toyota. Based on that, SAFe presents the SAFe House of Lean.

The goal is to deliver maximum customer value in the shortest lead time maintaining the highest possible quality delivered to the customer.

house of safe - what is safe - edurekaNewer, better ways of developing software are being uncovered by the day by practising Agile and helping others do the same. That’s why, while there is immense value in the items on the right, we value the items held to the left even more.

The Agile Manifesto

  1. The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through continuous and early delivery of valuable software.
  2. Embrace the changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s benefit.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Developers and business people must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them support and the environment they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient method for communication with a development team is a face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximising the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Different Levels in SAFE

As per the latest version of SAFe, there are four levels of its implementation.

  • Team Level
  • Program Level
  • Portfolio Level
  • Value Stream Level

Full SAFe - what is safe - edurekaTeam Level SAFe

The Team Level SAFe contains roles, events, and processes. Agile Teams build these roles, events and processes and deliver value in the context of the Agile Release Train (ART). It is mostly like a regular scrum team. Teams form the base of SAFe and the Lean enterprise, as they perform the clear majority of the work that delivers customer value.

Team Level SAFe creates high-performing teams that in turn, build high-quality components and solutions, supporting both team and technical agility. This is the primary construct of the program level.

Program  Level SAFe

Program Level SAFe has the roles and activities needed to continuously deliver solutions via an Agile Release Train (ART). This level is where development teams, stakeholders, and other resources are devoted to some important, ongoing system development mission.

The ART metaphor describes the program level teams, roles, and activities that incrementally deliver a continuous flow of value. ARTs are virtual organisations formed to span functional boundaries, eliminate unnecessary handoffs and steps, and accelerate value delivery by implementing SAFe Lean-Agile principles and practices.

Ultimately, the ARTs operating at the Program Level are responsible for creating and releasing value inflow at the frequency needed by the enterprise to meet market and customer demand. These mindsets and practices in this level contribute to the enterprise competency of DevOps and Release on Demand that makes this flow of value possible.

Value Stream Level SAFe

The Value Stream Level is optional in SAFe. It is a new addition in SAFe 4.0. It is designed for larger, independent enterprises which have complex solutions. It is intended to aid cyber-physical systems for software, hardware, electrical and electronics, optics, mechanics, fluidics, etc.

It supports cadence and synchronization for multiple ARTs and Suppliers and gives additional roles such as Value Stream Engineer, Solution Architect/Engineering, and Solution Management.

Portfolio Level SAFe

This is the highest level of interest/ concern /involvement/ in SAFe. The portfolio level SAFe provides the basic blocks for organizing the Lean-Agile Enterprise flow of value via one or more Value Streams. It helps to develop systems and solutions which are described in strategic themes.

To meet strategic objectives, portfolio level encapsulates certain elements by basic budgeting and other governance mechanisms. Hence, it assures that the investment in the value streams provides the returns necessary for the enterprise.

A portfolio is connected bi-directionally to business;

  • To guide the Portfolio to more extensively changing business objectives, it provides strategic themes.
  • To indicate the constant flow of portfolio values.

Important key concepts used here are:

  • Connection to Enterprise,
  • Program Portfolio Management,
  • Managing the workflow of Portfolio Epics.


Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is an incremental improvement to the a-Framework that provides guidance on the five core competencies that help an organisation become a Lean-Agile. It has 4 levels and 4 configurations and is based purely on the Agile Manifesto and the SAFe House of Lean.

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SAFe Fundamentals: What is SAFe?