The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®️) helps businesses address the significant challenges of developing and delivering enterprise-class software and systems in the shortest sustainable lead time. It is an online, freely revealed knowledge base of proven success patterns for implementing Lean-Agile software and systems at enterprise scale.
Developed in the field, SAFe®️ draws from three primary bodies of knowledge: Agile development, systems thinking, and Lean product development. It synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for large numbers of Agile teams. Scalable and configurable, SAFe®️allows each organization to adapt it to its own business needs. It supports smaller-scale solutions employing 50–125 practitioners, as well as complex systems that require thousands of people.
Why use SAFe®️ ?
SAFe®️ combines the power of Agile with systems thinking and Lean product development. It synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for multiple Agile teams. As a result, SAFe®️ provides dramatic improvements to business agility, including productivity, time to market, quality, and employee engagement, and more.
SAFe®️ is improving business outcomes for companies of all sizes across the world. It has produced dramatic increases in time to market, employee engagement, higher quality, higher customer satisfaction, and overall improved economic outcomes. It also helps create cultures that are more productive, rewarding, and fun.
Built-In Quality practices increase customer satisfaction and provide faster and more predictable value delivery. They also improve the ability to innovate. Without quality, the Lean goal of the maximum value in the shortest sustainable lead time cannot be achieved.
When productivity increases, system development economics improves, as does employee engagement. For team members, productivity is a critical, personal need. Everyone feels better when they’re contributing more and doing less wasteful work.
According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), employees with the highest level of commitment perform 21 percent better and are 65 percent less likely to leave the organization. Clearly, employee engagement is directly linked to business performance.
Faster Time to Market
Lean-Agile frameworks allow businesses to deliver value to the market more quickly. Companies that adopt Agile development practices routinely gain first-mover advantages and enjoy the higher gross margins afforded to market leaders. SAFe®️ enterprises typically see a 30–75 percent (as much as 3x!) improvement in time to market.
SAFe®️ supports the full range of development environments with four out-the-box configurations
Large Solution SAFe®️
The Essential SAFe®️ configuration is the heart of the Framework and is the simplest starting point for implementation. It’s the basic building block for all other SAFe®️ configurations and describes the most critical elements needed to realize the majority of the Framework’s benefits. Together, the Team and Program Levels form an organizational structure called the Agile Release Train (ART), where Agile teams, key stakeholders, and other resources are dedicated to an important, ongoing solution mission.
Large Solution SAFe®️
The Large Solution SAFe®️ configuration is for developing the largest and most complex solutions that typically require multiple Agile release trains and Suppliers, but do not require portfolio-level considerations. The Solution Train organizational construct of the Large Solution Level helps enterprises that face the biggest challenges—building large-scale, multidisciplinary software, hardware, and complex IT systems. Building these solutions requires additional roles, artifacts, events, and coordination.
The Portfolio SAFe®️ configuration helps align portfolio execution to the enterprise strategy, by organizing Agile development around the flow of value, through one or more value streams. It provides business agility through principles and practices for portfolio strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance.
The Full SAFe®️ configuration is the most comprehensive version of the Framework. It supports enterprises that build and maintain large integrated solutions, which require hundreds of people or more and includes all levels of SAFe®️: team, program, large solution, and portfolio. In the largest enterprises, multiple instances of various SAFe®️ configurations may be required.
Scaled agile framework core values - SAFe®️
SAFe®️ is broad and deep and based on both Lean and Agile principles as its foundation.
Importance of core values
Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization.
The core values are the guiding principles that speak behavior and action.
Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong.
It helps companies to determine whether they are working on the right path or not.
SAFe®️ upholds four Core Values: alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution, as illustrated in Figure below and described in the following sections.
Alignment ensures that many people act as one unit or team, all pulling in the same direction. Alignment in SAFe®️ is achieved when everyone in the portfolio, and every team member on every ART, understand the strategy and the part they play in achieving it.
SAFe®️ delivers alignment by orchestrating strategic themes, vision, roadmap, and PI planning. Economic prioritization and the visible flow of work through the various Kanban systems and backlogs provide visibility and transparency.
Built-in quality is one of the important core values of SAFe®️. The enterprise’s ability to deliver new functionality with the fastest sustainable lead time and to be able to react to rapidly changing business environments is dependent on solution quality. But built-in quality is not unique to SAFe®️. Rather, it is a core principle of the Lean-Agile mindset, where it helps avoid the cost of delays associated with recall, rework, and defect fixing. The Agile Manifesto is focused on quality as well:
“Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.”
The following sections summarize recommended practices for achieving built-in quality.
SAFe®️’s software quality practices—many of which are inspired by Extreme Programming (XP)— help Agile software teams ensure that the solutions they build are high quality and adaptable to change. The collaborative nature of these practices, along with a focus on frequent validation, creates an emergent culture in which engineering and craftsmanship are key business enablers.
Test-Driven Development (TDD) is a philosophy and practice that recommends building and executing tests before implementing the code or a component of a system. By validating them against a series of agreed-to tests, TDD—an Agile Testing practice—improves system outcomes by assuring that the system implementation meets its requirements. TDD, along with Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), is part of the ‘test-first’ approach to Build Quality into development. Writing tests first creates a more balanced testing portfolio with many fast, automated development tests and fewer slow, manual, end-to-end tests.
Acceptance Test Driven Development
Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) is a practice in which the whole team collaboratively discusses acceptance criteria, with examples, and then distills them into a set of concrete acceptance tests before development begins. It’s the best way to ensure that all have the same shared understanding of what it is we are building. It’s also the best way to ensure we have a shared definition of Done.
Behavior Driven Development (BDD) is a Test-First, Agile Testing practice that provides Built-In Quality by defining (and potentially automating) tests before, or as part of, specifying system behavior.
BDD is a collaborative process that creates a shared understanding of requirements between the business and the Development Team. Its goal is to help guide development, decrease rework, and increase flow. Without focusing on internal implementation, BDD tests are business-facing scenarios that attempt to describe the behavior of a Story, Feature, or Capability from a user’s perspective. When automated, these tests ensure that the system continuously meets the specified behavior even as the system evolves. That, in turn, enables Release on Demand.
Automated BDD tests can also serve as the definitive statement regarding the as-built system behavior, replacing other forms of behavioral specifications.
This is the practice of merging the code from each developer’s workspace into a single main branch of code, multiple times per day. This lessens the risk of deferred integration issues and their impact on system quality and program predictability. Teams perform local integration at least daily. But to confirm that the work is progressing as intended, full system-level integration should be achieved at least one or two times per iteration.
Refactoring is “a disciplined technique for restructuring an existing body of code, altering its internal structure without changing its external behavior.” A key enabler of emergent design, refactoring is essential to Agile. To maintain system robustness, teams continuously refactor code in a series of small steps, providing a solid foundation for future development.
Some teams follow pair programming, but that may be too extreme for many. More generally, pair work may couple developers and testers on a story. Still, others prefer more spontaneous pairing, with developers collaborating for critical code segments, refactoring of legacy code, development of interface definition, and system-level integration challenges.
Hardware quality is supported by exploratory early iterations, frequent system-level integration, design verification, modeling, and set-based design. The Agile architecture supports software and hardware quality.
Different components and subsystems—software, firmware, hardware, and everything else—must collaborate to provide effective solution-level behaviors. Practices that support solution-level quality include:
Frequent system and solution-level integration
Solution-level testing of functional and Nonfunctional Requirements
System and Solution Demos
SAFe®️ enterprises that build high assurance systems define their approved practices, policies, and procedures in a Lean Quality Management System (QMS). These systems are intended to ensure that development activities and outcomes comply with all relevant regulations and quality standards, as well as providing the required documentation to prove it.
Transparency builds trust. Trust, in turn, is essential for performance, innovation, risk-taking, and relentless improvement. Trust exists when the business and development can confidently rely on another to act with integrity, particularly in times of difficulty. Without trust no one can build high-performance teams and programs, nor build (or rebuild) the confidence needed to make and meet reasonable commitments. And without trust, working environments are a lot less fun and motivating.
Here are few SAFe®️ practices which enable trust:
ARTs have visibility into the team’s backlogs, as well as other Program Backlogs.
Teams and programs commit to short-term, visible commitments that they routinely meet
4. Program Execution
SAFe®️ places an intense focus on working systems and business outcomes. History shows us that while many enterprises start the transformation with individual Agile teams, they often become frustrated as even those teams struggle to deliver more substantial amounts of solution value, reliably and efficiently. That is the purpose of the ART, and that is why SAFe®️ focuses implementation initially at the Program Level. In turn, the ability of Value Streams to deliver value depends on the ability of the ARTs and Solution Trains.
The four Core Values of alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution represent the fundamental beliefs that are key to SAFe®️ effectiveness. These guiding principles help dictate behavior and action for everyone who participates in a SAFe®️ portfolio. Successful teams and programs implementing SAFe®️ have aligned their organizations along these core values and getting many benefits—employee engagement, productivity, quality, and time to market.
Mukundan Bashyam has more than 15 years of IT experience working in different roles such as Agile Coach, Scrum Master, and Product Owner. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Scrum Master(CSM) and Certified Agile Coach from ICAgile. He is an accomplished Agile trainer for many organizations and a contributing author for KnowledgeHut. Mukundan has a Bachelor’s degree from Indian Institute of Technology (BHU)-Varanasi and a Master’s degree in Industrial Management from National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Mumbai. He has worked with startups and large companies like Hewlett Packard(HP), Target Corporation India, Diageo, and Robert Bosch.