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A Glimpse Of The Major Leading SAFe® Versions

19th Feb, 2024
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    A Glimpse Of The Major Leading SAFe® Versions

    Agile has gained popularity in recent years and with good reason. Teams love this approach that allows them to get a value to the customer faster while learning and adjusting to change as needed. But teams often don’t work in isolation. Many teams work in the context of larger organizations. Often Agile doesn’t fit their needs. Some teams need an Agile approach that scales to larger projects that involve multiple teams. It’s possible to do this. That’s where the Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe®, can help. Get to know more about safe core values.

    Why SAFe® is the best scalable framework?

    The Scaled Agile Framework is a structured Agile approach for large enterprises. It’s prescriptive and provides a path for interdependent teams to gain the benefits of using an Agile approach.

    Scaled Agile provides guidance not only at the team level but also at the Program and Portfolio levels.

     It also has built-in coordinated planning across related teams who are working in Release Trains.
    These planning increments allow teams to plan together to work with customers and release value frequently in a way that’s sustainable for teams.
    And it supports continuous improvement.
    It’s a great way for large companies to maintain structure and roll out Agile at a large scale.

    Leading SAFe Version 6.0 

    Leading SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) Version 6.0 is an advanced framework that helps businesses adopt and scale Agile practices across large enterprises. This information describes various components and concepts related to scaling Agile practices in large organizations using the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) version 6.0. 

    Agile at Scale 

    In version 6.0 of Leading SAFe, the focus is on making Agile practices work for big organizations. It helps companies set up Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and manage value streams to consistently and reliably produce value. 

    Lean-Agile Leadership 

    The framework highlights the role of Lean-Agile leadership in driving corporate change. It encourages a way of thinking about leadership that fosters innovation, collaboration, and constant growth. Leaders are encouraged to live by the values and principles of Lean Agile, which gives teams the freedom to make choices on their own. 

    Agile Product Delivery 

    Describes how to align teams and stakeholders around delivering value through Agile product development and delivery. 

    Agile Portfolio Management 

    Leading SAFe Version 6.0 introduces the idea of Lean Portfolio Management (LPM), which provides a strategic and operational framework for aligning and prioritizing projects across the company. LPM helps organizations decide where to spend based on value, risk, and how well it fits their overall strategy. 

    Scalable Agile Framework 

    The framework offers an approach to implementing Agile that can be scaled up or down, so organizations can change the practices to fit their needs. It gives different levels of guidance, from practices at the team level to courses at the program level and portfolio level. This makes sure that the execution is consistent and works well together. 

    What Is the Safe 5.0 Version? 

    The Scaled Agile Framework version 5.0 is a set of workflow and organizational structures designed for using agile techniques at an enterprise scale. The model is a body of knowledge that gives structured advice on roles and duties, how to plan and manage the work, and what values to uphold. 

    SAFe latest version helps many agile teams align, work together, and accomplish their goals. It is based on three main areas of knowledge: agile software development, lean product development, and systems thinking. 

    Leading SAFe Version 5.0 

    The Scaled Agile Framework is the business Agile method that is used most often around the world. Leading SAFe has become the standard for Lean-Agile businesses because it gives a valid, reliable, and consistent way to evaluate SAFe skills, knowledge, and attitude. SAFe Agilist (SA) certified professionals are known around the world for having the skills to help companies change into Lean-Agile enterprises.

    The course Leading SAFe® 5.0 is made for people who want to learn skills and abilities that will keep them ahead of the competition and help them lead a business Agile transformation using the Scaled Agile Framework. Leading SAFe® Version 5.0 adds several important improvements and new features, such as: 

    Lean Portfolio Management 

    This feature helps organizations get their portfolio plan and their Agile development teams to work together. It helps make strategic investment choices, encourages innovation, and ensures the whole portfolio delivers value. 

    Culture of Continuous Learning 

    Version 5.0 stresses the importance of constantly building a culture of learning and improving. It encourages organizations to give their workers more power, inspire new ideas, and adopt a growth mindset to make lasting changes. 

    Agile Product Delivery 

    Leading SAFe® advises using Agile techniques to improve product development. It works on improving flow, delivering more value, and getting products to market more quickly. 

    Organizational Agility 

    This part of Leading SAFe® is about making the company more flexible and quicker to change. It focuses on decentralized decision-making, autonomy, and teamwork across functions to make everyone more agile.

    What Has Changed from Previous Leading SAFe Versions? 

    SAFe Agile latest version, 5.0, introduced significant changes and improvements compared to its previous leading 4.6 versions. Here are some key differences from previous leading SAFe versions: 

    • The Lean Portfolio Management competency was added to SAFe® 5.0. Its focus was on aligning strategy and funding for investments. SAFe 4.6 did not have this unique competency. 
    • SAFe 5.0 introduced the idea of Value Streams, which focus on delivering value from beginning to end. Value Streams were not given this much attention in SAFe 4.6. 
    • AFe® 5.0 stressed how important business agility is and advised on how to respond to changes in the market, change direction quickly, and come up with new ideas all the time.
    • The Agile Release Train (ART) was made even better in SAFe® 5.0, and Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, and DevOps practices were used to stress continuous delivery. The constant release wasn't as important in SAFe® 4.6 as it was before. 
    • SAFe Agile latest version, 5.0, aimed to improve business agility and lean thinking across the whole company, while SAFe® 4.6 focused on scaling Agile practices and Lean principles without putting as much stress on enterprise-wide agility.

    What is SAFe® 4.5?

    Scaled Agile, otherwise known as SAFe®, was initially released in 2011 by Dean Leffingwell as a knowledge base for enterprises to adopt Agile. Over the years, it has grown and evolved. SAFe® 4.5 was released on June 22, 2017, to accommodate improvements to the framework.

    Following are some of the key improvements in SAFe® 4.5:

    • Essential SAFe® and Configurability
    • Innovation with Lean Startup and Lean UX
    • Scalable DevOps and Continuous Delivery
    • Implementation roadmap

    Benefits of SAFe® 4.5 to companies

     Benefits of SAFe® 4.5

    Organizations who adopt SAFe® 4.5 will be able to gain the following benefits:
    1) Test ideas more quickly. SAFe® 4.5 has a built-in iterative development and testing. This lets teams get faster feedback to learn and adjust more quickly.
    2) Deliver much faster. The changes to SAFe® 4.5 allow teams to move complex work through the pipeline and deliver value to the customer faster.
    3) Simplify governance and improve portfolio performance. Guidance and support have been added at the Portfolio level to guide organizations in addressing Portfolio-level concerns in a scaled agile context.

    SAFe® 4.5 - Key areas of Improvement

     SAFe® 4.5 - Key areas of improvements

    A. Essential SAFe® and Configurability

    Four configurations of SAFe® that provide a more configurable and scalable approach:

    • Essential SAFe®: The most basic level that teams can use. It contains just the essentials that a team needs to get the benefits of SAFe®.
    • Portfolio SAFe®: For enterprises that implement multiple solutions that have portfolio responsibilities such as governance, strategy, and portfolio funding.
    • Large Solution: Complex solutions that involve multiple Agile Release Trains. These initiatives don’t require Portfolio concerns, but only include the Large Solution and Essential SAFe® elements.
    • SAFe® Full SAFe®: The most comprehensive level that can be applied to huge enterprise initiatives requiring hundreds of people to complete.

    Because SAFe® is a framework, that provides the flexibility to choose the level of SAFe® that best fits your organization’s needs.

    B. Innovation with Lean Startup and Lean UX

    Rather than creating an entire project plan up-front, SAFe® teams focus on features. They create a hypothesis about what a new feature will deliver and then use an iterative approach to develop and test their hypothesis along the way.

    As teams move forward through development, they perform this development and test approach repeatedly and adjust as needed, based on feedback.

    Teams also work closely with end users to identify the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to focus on first. They identify what will be most valuable to the customer most immediately.

    Then they rely on feedback and learning as they develop the solution incrementally. They adjust as needed to incorporate what they’ve learned into the features. This collaboration and fast feedback and adjustment cycle result in a more successful product.

    C. Scalable DevOps & Continuous Delivery

    The addition of a greater focus on DevOps allows teams to innovate faster. Like Agile, DevOps is a mindset. And like Agile, it allows teams to learn, adjust, and deliver value to users incrementally.

    The continuous delivery pipeline allows teams to move value through the pipeline faster through continuous exploration, continuous integration, continuous deployment, and released on demand.

    DevOps breaks down silos and supports Agile teams to work together more seamlessly. This results in more efficient delivery of value to the end users faster.

    It’s a perfect complement to Scaled Agile.

    D. Implementation Roadmap

    SAFe® now offers a suggested roadmap to SAFe® adoption. While change can be challenging, the implementation roadmap provides guidance that can help with that organizational change.

    SAFe 4.5 Implementation Roadmap

    Critical Role of the SAFe® Program Consultant

    SAFe® Program Consultants, or SPCs, are critical change agents in the transition to Scaled Agile.

    Because of the depth of knowledge required to gain SPC certification, they’re perfectly positioned to help the organization move through the challenges of change.

    They can train and coach all levels of SAFe® participants, from team members to executive leaders. They can also train the Scrum Master, Product Owners, and Agile Release Train Engineers, which are critical roles in SAFe®.

    The SPC can also train teams and help them launch their Agile Release Trains (ARTs).

    And they can support teams on the path to continued improvement as they continue to learn and grow.

    The SPC can also help identify value streams in the organization that may be ready to launch Agile Release Trains.

    They can also help develop rollout plans for SAFe® in the enterprise.

    Along with this, they can provide important communications that help the enterprise understand the drivers and value behind the SAFe® transition.

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    How SAFe® 4.5 is backward compatible with SAFe® 4.0?

    Even if your organization has already adopted SAFe® 4.0, SAFe® 4.5 has been developed in a way that can be easily adopted without disruption. Your organization can adopt the changes at the pace that works best.

     SAFe® 4.5 vs SAFe 4.0
    Few Updates in the new courseware
    The courseware for SAFe® 4.5 has incorporated changes to support the changes in SAFe® 4.5.
    They include Implementing SAFe®, Leading SAFe®, and SAFe® for Teams.
    Some of the changes you’ll see are as follows:

    • Two new lessons for Leading SAFe®
    • Student workbook
    • Trainer Guide
    • New look and feel
    • Updated LPM content
    • Smoother lesson flow
    • NEW Course Delivery Enablement (CDE)

    Changes were made to improve alignment between SAFe® and Scrum:

    • Iteration Review: Increments previously known as Sprints now have reviews added. This allows more opportunities for teams to incorporate improvements. Additionally, a Team Demo has been added in each iteration review. This provides more opportunity for transparency, sharing, and feedback.
    • Development Team: The Development team was specifically identified at the team level in SAFe® 4.5. The development team is made up of three to nine people who can move an element of work from development through the test. This development team contains software developers, testers, and engineers, and does not include the Product Owner and Scrum Master. Each of those roles is shown separately at the team level in SAFe® 4.5.
    • Scrum events: The list of scrum events are shown next to the ScrumXP icon and include Plan, Execute, Review, and Retro (for a retrospective.)

    Combined SAFe® Foundation Elements

    Combined SAFe® Foundation Elements

    SAFe® 4.0 had the foundational elements of Core Values, Lean-Agile Mindset, SAFe® Principles, and Implementing SAFe® at a basic level.

    SAFe® 4.5 adds to the foundation elements by also including Lean-Agile Leaders, the Implementation Roadmap, and the support of the SPC in the successful implementation of SAFe®.

    Additional changes include: 

    • Communities of Practice: This was moved to the spanning palette to show support at all levels: team, program, large solution, and portfolio.
    • Lean-Agile Leaders: This role is now included in the foundational level. Supportive leadership is critical to a successful SAFe® adoption.
    • SAFe® Program Consultant: This role was added to the Foundational Layer. The SPC can play a key leadership role in a successful transition to Scaled Agile.
    • Implementation Roadmap: The implementation roadmap replaces the basic implementation information in SAFe® 4.0. It provides more in-depth information on the elements to a successful enterprise transition to SAFe®.

    Benefits of upgrading to SAFe® 4.5

    With the addition of Lean Startup approaches, along with a deeper focus on DevOps and Continuous Delivery, teams will be situated to deliver quality and value to users more quickly.

    With improvements at the Portfolio level, teams get more guidance on Portfolio governance and other portfolio levels concerns, such as budgeting and compliance.

    Reasons to Upgrade to SAFe® 4.5 

    • Enterprises who’ve been using SAFe® 4.0 will find greater flexibility with the added levels in SAFe® 4.5. Smaller groups in the enterprise can use the team level, while groups working on more complex initiatives can create Agile Release Trains with many teams.
    • Your teams can innovate faster by using the Lean Startup Approach. Work with end users to identify the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), then iterate as you get fast feedback and adjust. This also makes your customer more of a partner in development, resulting in better collaboration and a better end product.

    Get features and value to your user community faster with DevOps and the Continuous Delivery pipeline. Your teams can continuously hypothesize, build, measure, and learn to continuously release value. This also allows large organizations to innovate more quickly.

    Most Recent Changes in SAFe® series - SAFe® 4.6

    Because Scaled Agile continues to improve, new changes have been incorporated with SAFe® 4.6. with the addition of five core competencies that enable enterprises to respond to technology and market changes.

     Recent Changes in SAFe® series - SAFe® 4.6

    • Lean Portfolio Management: The information needed for how to use a Lean-Agile approach to portfolio strategy, funding, and governance.
    • Business Solutions and Lean Systems: Optimizing activities to Implement large, complex initiatives using a Scaled Agile approach while still addressing the necessary activities such as designing, testing, deployment, and even retiring old solutions.
    • DevOps and Release on Demand: The skills needed to release value as needed through a continuous delivery pipeline.
    • Team and Technical Agility: The skills needed to establish successful teams who consistently deliver value and quality to meet customer needs.
    • Lean-Agile Leadership: How leadership enables a successful agile transformation by supporting empowered teams in implementing agile practices. Leaders carry out the Agile principles and practices and ensure teams have the support they need to succeed
    1. SAFe® Agilist (SA) Certification exam: The SAFe® Agilist certification is for the change leaders in an organization to learn about the SAFe® practices to support change at all levels: team, program, and portfolio levels. These change agents can play a positive role in an enterprise transition to SAFe®.
      In order to become certified as a SAFe® Agilist (SA), you must first take the Leading SAFe® class and pass the SAFe® certification exam. To learn more about this, see this article on How To Pass Leading SAFe® 4.5 Exam.
    2. SAFe® Certification Exam: KnowledgeHut provides Leading SAFe® training in multiple locations. Check the site for locations and dates.
    3. SAFe® Agile Certification Cost: Check KnowledgeHut’s scheduled training offerings to see the course cost. Each course includes the opportunity to sit for the exam included in the cost.
    4. Scaled Agile Framework Certification Cost: There are multiple levels of Scaled Agile Framework certification, including Scrum Master, Release Train Engineer, and Product Owner. Courses range in cost, but each includes the chance to sit for the corresponding SAFe® certification.
    5. SAFe® Classes: SAFe® classes are offered by various organizations. To see if KnowledgeHut is offering SAFe® Training near you, check the SAFe® training schedule on our website.

    Training You Can Take 

    KnowledgeHut provides multiple Scaled Agile courses to give both leaders and team members in your organization the information they need to for a successful transition to Scaled Agile. Check the site for the list of classes to find those that are right for your organization as you make the journey.
    All course fees cover examination costs for certification.

    1. SAFe® 4.5 Scrum Master with SSM Certification Training

      Learn the core competencies of implementing Agile across the enterprise, along with how to lead high-performing teams to deliver successful solutions. You’ll also learn how to implement DevOps practices. Completion of this course will prepare you for obtaining your SAFe® 4 Scrum Master certificate.
    2. SAFe® 4 Advanced Scrum Master (SASM)

      This two-day course teaches you to how to apply Scrum at the enterprise level and prepares you to lead high-performing teams in a Scaled Agile environment. At course completion, you’ll be prepared to manage interactions not only on your team but also across teams and with stakeholders. You’ll also be prepared to take the SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master exam.
    3. Leading SAFe®4.5 Training Course (SA)

      This two-day Leading SAFe® class prepares you to become a Certified SAFe® 4 Agilist, ready to lead the agile transformation in your enterprise. By the end of this course, you’ll be able to take the SAFe® Agilist (SA) certification exam.
    4. SAFe® 4.5 for Teams (SP)

      This two-day course teaches Scrum fundamentals, principles, tools, and processes. You’ll learn about software engineering practices needed to scale agile and deliver quality solutions in a Scaled Agile environment. Teams new to Scaled Agile will find value in going through this course. Attending the class prepares you for the certification exam to become a certified SAFe® 4 Practitioner (SP).
    5.  DevOps Foundation Certification training

      This course teaches you the DevOps framework, along with the practices to prepare you to apply the principles in your work environment. Completion of this course will also prepare you to take the DevOps Foundation exam for certification.


    Since its inception in 2011, SAFe has undergone progressive refinement and has released six major versions. These versions have addressed the challenges of scaling agile practices, such as longer planning horizons, abstract levels of responsibility, synchronizing deliverables, and allowing time for innovation and planning. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) has evolved through several versions, each bringing new features and improvements to support the scaling of lean and agile practices in large organizations. SAFe® provides a big-picture view of workflow, but it has also faced criticism for being hierarchical and inflexible, while challenges in scaling agile include longer planning horizons and abstract levels of responsibility.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1Is leading SAFe the same as SAFe agilest?

    ​Leading SAFe is a training course that teaches people how to lead a SAFe application. SAFe Agilist is the certification you get when you finish Leading SAFe and pass the exam. To get the SAFe Agilist license, you must be able to lead SAFe. 

    2What are the three layers of safe?

    ​In SAFe, these three layers—Portfolio, Program, and Team—make up a hierarchical structure that shows how to spread Agile practices throughout a company. The layers allow the business to align, coordinate, and deliver value at different levels, from strategic planning to execution and implementation. 

    3What are the 5 C's in agile?

    ​In Agile methodologies, the 5 C's are activities or ceremonies often used in Agile development processes. These tasks help Agile teams work together, talk to each other, and build things quickly and well.  


    Leigh Espy


    Leigh Espy is the author of Bad Meetings Happen to Good People: How to Run Meetings That Are Effective, Focused, and Produce Results. She has over 15 years of IT project management and portfolio experience. Additionally, she teaches Scaled Agile classes in the corporate world. She holds certifications as a project management professional (PMP), certified scrum master (CSM), SAFe Agilist (SA) and SAFe Program Consultant (SPC).

    Leigh also coaches and mentors project managers and those making the move to a project management career. She writes about project management and leadership.You can also find out more at

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