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Is a SAFe® Agilist Course Right for You?

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Last updated on
24th Feb, 2022
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08th Mar, 2021
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Is a SAFe® Agilist Course Right for You?

Companies adopting SAFe® have found huge benefits with its implementation.  But what is SAFe and how is it connected to Agile? This article is your introduction into the world of SAFe and on one of the most popular courses in SAFe – the Leading SAFe Course, SAFE Agilist Certification.

Getting started with Scrum

Many companies start their Agile journey with the most popular Agile framework i.e Scrum.  It is a simple methodology that lays down guidelines and practices - Scrum Ceremonies, Scrum Values and Scrum Roles in order to achieve the Agile Values and Principles.

To start with, in an organization, a few Business Units/Divisions start practicing Scrum for a few teams. Once they realize the benefits of Agile and Scrum they would want to extend the same to multiple teams and multiple Business Units/Divisions.

But, would a simple “Scrum of Scrums” methodology that worked wonders for small teams, work well for huge Enterprises with multiple Businesses and teams spread across the globe? Will it be possible, in the process of this transformation, to satisfy the others who are in this mix including Technology Partners, Vendors and Suppliers, evolving Customer demands and Competition? Probably not. And that is where a framework that is meant for large Enterprises to practice Agile at Scale becomes the need of the hour.

What exactly is SAFe?

SAFe is a Scaled Agile Framework that lays down proven principles, guidelines and practices to be followed by enterprises to achieve Business Agility. The latest version, SAFe 5, is built around Seven Core Competencies that enable Enterprises to become customer-centric and respond to changing market conditions and emerging technologies.

Seven Core Competencies of SAFe 5

  • Lean Portfolio Management – Creating a portfolio vision, roadmap, strategy and optimizing operations to align strategy, funding and execution,
  • Organizational Agility – Bringing the entire organization (Marketing, Finance, Legal, HR teams) within the ambit of a Lean Agile Mindset. Organizing development efforts around value, creating dual Operating system of “network and traditional” hierarchies within the organization to encourage innovative start up culture along with Enterprise Stability.
  • Continuous Learning Culture – Promoting Continuous Learning, Improvement and Innovation.
  • Lean Agile Leadership – Leaders exhibiting the desired Agile behaviours they wish to see in their teams.
  • Team and Technical Agility – Cross functional Business and Technical teams that deliver with Quality.
  • Agile Product Delivery – Customer centric solutions on a continuous delivery pipeline, developing on cadence and releasing on demand.
  • Enterprise Solution Delivery – Lean product delivery integrating the complete solution ecosystem- Partners, Suppliers and Vendors.

SAFe recommends different flavours of the framework depending on the practicing organization’s needs and where they stand in their Agile journey.

The four flavours of SAFe 5 are

  • Essential – Basic configuration of the framework that recommends the foundational elements - roles, practices and competencies to be successful with SAFe.
  • Solution – Additional roles, practices and competencies required to build large scale applications, large Solutions and networks.
  • Portfolio – Provides the framework for Portfolio Strategy, investment funding aligning portfolio strategy with execution. A simple Portfolio configuration includes the Essential configuration.
  • Full – Comprehensive configuration of the framework covering Essential, Solution and Portfolio.

Why is SAFe important for individual practitioners? 

For an employee who is part of an organization that has chosen to adopt SAFe, it is important that he/she is aware of the framework at large, the current state of the organization and where they are headed in the future. The first step for an individual would be to acquire the knowledge about SAFe in general and then delve deep into the areas which are closest to his/her area of expertise.  

Depending on the employee’s role and responsibilities, he/she could take up the most appropriate SAFe Course and choose to get Certified in the same. Some of the courses are listed below. 

  • Leading SAFe , Certified SAFe Agilist: For leaders and executives to acquire a Lean-Agile mindset and propagate and develop the same across the organization. 
  • Implementing SAFe, Certified SAFe Program Consultant:  For change agents and Agile coaches who are spearheading the implementation of SAFe in the organization. 
  • SAFe for Teams, Certified Agile Practitioner: For team members. It can also serve as a foundational course for all employees. 
  • SAFe Scrum Master, Certified SAFe Scrum Master  
  • SAFe Advanced Scrum Master, Certified SAFe  Advanced Scrum Master 
  • SAFe Product Owner/Product ManagerCertified SAFe Product Owner/Product Manager 
  • SAFe Release Train Engineer, Certified SAFe RTE: For SAFe RTEs to enhance their skills as servant leader and coach of a Release Train. 

There are also other courses specific to Government, Architects, DevOps, Portfolio Management etc. 

Why should I choose SAFe Agilist? 

If an organization has decided to adopt SAFe and begin the transformation journey then the SAFe Agilist Course is the right place to begin with. Executives, thought Leaders like Enterprise Architects or Department Heads, Program Managers, Project Managers, and Employee Managers who are major stakeholders of large-scale transformations will find this course apt.  

The SAFe Agilist course, in fact, is the number one step in the SAFe implementation roadmap. Before a SAFe Transformation, the Leaders, Executives and Managers of the organization should truly believe in the Lean-Agile principles and themselves start exhibiting the Lean Agile behaviours and mindset, which they wish to see in their teams. They should know the approach to be taken to go agile at the team, department and organizational level.   

By becoming SAFe Agilists, the Leaders become one of the front-runners of Agile in the organization and are able to wield the necessary influence needed to transform their teams. Lean Agile leadership is the foundational competency that is part of every flavour of the SAFe framework, reiterating how important it is to have Lean Agile Leadership at the helm to implement SAFe  successfully. 

If in case, your organization has not yet started the SAFe journey and is on the threshold of a tipping point it would be wise to become a SAFe Agilist. A Certified SAFe Agilist and Leader becomes a valuable asset for the organization that is about to begin its Agile journey. You could become one of the core Visionary members driving and implementing the SAFe Agile transformation.

If not intended for the scenarios mentioned above, the SAFe Agilist certification also proves to be career progression path for many servant leaders.

What is the learning objective of SAFe Agilist? 

  • Explore SAFe Principles derived from Lean and Agile philosophies of Product Development 
  • Becoming Lean Agile Leaders in order to exhibit and propagate the Lean Agile mindset throughout the Organization 
  • Establishing Team and Technical Agility 
  • Agile Product Delivery by adopting a customer-centric mindset, organizing around value, applying Design and Systems Thinking. 
  • Experiencing a PI Planning Event. The PI Planning is one of the trademark SAFe events with immense benefits. Experiencing a mock PI Planning event during the course helps the Business Leaders to understand the significance of such an event and the benefits it brings to the organization. 
  • Building a Continuous Delivery Pipeline and instilling a DevOps culture. 
  • Exploring Lean Portfolio Management and its Implementation in the organization. 
  • Establishing Business Agility by aligning the Applications and Solutions Implementation to the Portfolio Strategy. 

The Leading SAFe Certification 

Completion of the SAFe Agilist course gives access to the exam and all related study materials as part of a Learning Plan in the SAFe Community Platform. The Learning Plan helps the individual to prepare for the Certification exam through Mock test and Practice Questionnaires. 

Details of the Certification exam can be found here. 

On successful completion of the exam, apart from the SAFe Agilist PDF certificate and SAFe Agilist digital badge there is   

  • One-year membership to the SAFe Community Platform, which includes access to the SA Community of Practice 
  • Access to Meetup groups and events that connect you with other SAFe certified professionals 
  • A variety of learning resources to support you during your SAFe journey 

What is the target audience and the eligibility criteria for SAFe certification? 

Typically, the target audience for the SAFe Agilist course are people in Executive, Managerial and Leadership roles in Enterprise Organizations. They might be part of a set of Visionary leaders initiating and spearheading a SAFe transformation or an important stakeholder in the Agile Release Train who needs to get onboarded into the SAFe way of working. 

As per Scaled Agile, Inc, prerequisites are highly recommended for those who intend to take the SAFe® 5 Agilist (SA) Certification exam 

  • 5+ years’ experience in software development, testing, business analysis, product, or project management 
  • Experience in Scrum

Conclusion

The Scaled Agile Framework has become an important proven methodology of practicing Agile at scale. More and more enterprises are kicking off their SAFe transformation journeys, and for those who are already running SAFe , they are drawing out implementation plans to sustain and upgrade. At the foundation of these large transformations and upgrades are the Lean Agile Leaders who are responsible for driving the change through the length and breadth of the organization. Being a Certified SAFe Agilist is definitely a very credible achievement and opens doors for exciting opportunities in the Agile world. 

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Radhika Subramoniam

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The author is an Agile Consultant working in the areas of process consultation and Agile coaching and transformation. She has been part of the software product development industry spanning field service, fleet management, telecom billing and network management.