HomeBlogAgileScrum vs SAFe: Key differences to consider?

Scrum vs SAFe: Key differences to consider?

17th May, 2024
view count loader
Read it in
9 Mins
In this article
    Scrum vs SAFe: Key differences to consider?

    Agile techniques, such as Scrum and the Scaled Agile Framework, have grown in popularity in the project management sector in recent years. Scrum and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) are two distinct frameworks that operate in accordance with Agile and Lean ideas and ideals. Both are quite popular in organizations and public knowledge of them is growing. Both of them appear to be similar on the surface. However, there are minor distinctions between them and this blog on Scrum vs SAFe will help you distinguish between these major frameworks. So let us get started. 

    Scrum vs SAFe: Head-to-head Comparison

    To better understand what is SAFe Agile vs Scrum, we take a quick look at the table below: 

    Organization structureSuited for smaller organizations or independent development teamsSuited for large organizations with interconnected teams
    Development philosophyContinuous development emphasizing speedGoal-setting framework based on organizational needs
    ImplementationWorks with small teams with simple goalsWorks on an organizational level with complex goals
    ProcessesThe process is defined by iterative and flexible software delivery.The process has distinct objectives with a predetermined schedule.
    Framework requirementsScrum must be embraced by the whole team.SAFe must be embraced by the whole team.
    Team rolesLess than a dozen members split into three roles.Numerous employees are divided into several roles.
    DependenciesCoordination is key within teams.Alignment is key between teams.
    Time frameSprints are two weeks or longer.Sprints are shorter.

    Scrum vs SAFe: Differences Elaborated

    Let’s explore the major points of difference between SAFe and Scrum to aptly recognize their unique features! 

    1. Scrum vs SAFe: Definitions

    What Is Scrum? 

    Scrum is a management methodology that empowers teams to self-organize and collaborate toward a common goal. It specifies a collection of meetings, tools, and roles that are necessary for effective project delivery. Scrum of Scrums SAFe techniques enables teams to self-manage, learn from experience, and adapt to change. Scrum is used by software teams to address complex issues cost-effectively and sustainably. 

    Scrum is used efficiently by all types of teams, including HR, marketing, and design. Scrum, is more common among software development and engineering teams. It enables teams to respond to changing requirements more quickly while keeping expenses and budgets under control. 

    What Is SAFe? 

    SAFe, or Scaled Agile Framework, is an agile framework designed for teams that are program, team, and portfolio. Furthermore, SAFe allows a product team to be flexible. Additionally, it aids in the management of some of the issues that larger organizations have while implementing Agile. SAFe is a large knowledge foundation of established best practices. SAFe is also used by product teams to produce successful software products. 

    Scaled Agile adds a layer of administration and coordination to the development of sophisticated solutions that are too large and complex for a single Scrum team to handle. 

    2. Scrum vs. SAFe: Organization structure

    The major difference between Agile Scrum and SAFe is that they cater to distinct organizational structures. Scrum aligns well with smaller companies or those working with independent teams. Conversely, SAFe is tailored for larger enterprises where interconnected teams collaborate on enterprise-scale projects. The choice between SAFe versus Scrum depends on the organization's size and the nature of team collaboration. Small companies or those emphasizing autonomy may find Scrum more suitable, while larger enterprises requiring synchronized efforts across interconnected teams may lean towards implementing SAFe. 

    Example: Spotify, the music streaming service, used Agile methodology and Scrum to transform their engineering culture and deliver high-quality products. Scrum allowed them to iterate and change according to market needs to deliver products sooner. 

    3. Scrum vs. SAFe: Development philosophy

    The difference between SAFe Agile and Scrum is that they embody different development philosophies. Scrum emphasizes cost-effective continuous development, empowering self-contained teams to efficiently deliver high-quality software with ongoing enhancements. It fosters a sense of project ownership among the teams, which is crucial for success.

    In contrast, highlighting the difference between Scrum and SAFe, SAFe is tailored for large enterprises. It combines agility with stability and structured team dynamics. SAFe adopts a formalized approach, setting clear targets aligned with client needs. Given that requirement changes impact multiple interconnected groups, SAFe strategically balances adaptability with the need for coordinated and stable development practices.

    Example: Tesla’s adoption of Scrum in their autonomous vehicle project gave a 15% boost to their development cycle. It also led to a 10% drop in errors, showcasing the effectiveness of the methodology even in engineering-related projects.  

    4. Scrum vs. SAFe: Implementation

    The Agile Scrum vs SAFe implementation depends on the overall strategic vision of the organization in question. Scrum can be opted when a cohesive operation by a small team is essential for projects with straightforward goals. That’s because the framework excels at simplifying workflows and promoting autonomy within teams. 

    SAFe is useful when the whole organization needs to be integrated seamlessly. Its implementation necessitates collaboration across teams and establishing a unified approach to achieve organizational objectives. SAFe is a good strategy for large organizations that look for synchronization and adaptability across interconnected teams. Before making the decision of Scrum vs. SAFe, organizations should bear in mind that the Agile framework should strategically align with their overarching strategy. 

    Example: Lego is a fine example of an organization that reaped the benefits of the Agile framework. While Scrum transformed the teams, they were only able to cooperate fully after the implementation of SAFe. 

    5. Scrum vs. SAFe: Processes

    When it comes to difference between Scrum and SAFe Agile in process, Scrum relies on flexible and streamlined methods to break big projects into manageable steps. Regular assessments are conducted to avoid problems, and this keeps the momentum strong, especially on tough projects. Adjustments after stakeholder feedback also flow seamlessly.

    SAFe, on the other hand, relies on defined roles that are not tied to small, flexible teams. The processes in SAFe guarantee quality and cooperation across the entire business. Although it demands more upfront planning, the payoff is access to greater resources.

    It is essential to understand that each framework has its merits. When looking at Scrum vs. SAFe, Scrum excels in adaptability and momentum, while SAFe brings structured roles and broader resources to the table. 

    Example: Cisco is a great case study for a large-scale organization that moved away from the waterfall methodology and replaced it with a steady delivery of new features. 

    6. Scrum vs. SAFe: Framework requirements

    Scrum thrives with just one team, which emphasizes the independence and self-management the methodology promotes. The ideal Scrum team operates autonomously to accomplish tasks and achieve goals. The difference between SAFe and Scrum is that SAFe demands a broader organizational commitment. It requires teams to collaborate openly, sharing goals and processes in a more cohesive and unified manner.

    While Scrum excels with a single self-managing team, SAFe scales up, emphasizing the need for organizational alignment and a unified approach across teams for effective implementation. The choice of Scrum vs. SAFe depends on the level of organizational commitment and the scale of Agile implementation an organization wants to incorporate into its operations. 

    Example: When PlayStation had to collaborate with over 1,000 engineering team members, Scrum just wouldn’t cut it. Implementation of SAFe cut down planning time by 29% and saved $30 million a year. 

    7. Scrum vs. SAFe: Team roles

    One of the most significant Scrum vs SAFe Agile differences shows up in team roles. Scrum excels in small teams, ideally with a dozen or fewer members, where roles are distinctly defined, such as Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Scrum team. With this basic framework, Scrum is capable of efficiently structuring an entire startup or small business. 

    SAFe, on the other hand, spans multiple teams within an organization, involving employees at various levels, such as entry-level, managerial, and high-level engineers. The framework introduces roles such as Release Train Engineers, Program Managers, Value Stream Engineers, Solution Architects, Epic Owners, and Product Owners.

    The hierarchical structure is necessary for collaboration and alignment across different tiers of the organization, making it well-suited for larger enterprises with intricate structures. Those who work in these structures also study PMP online for better coherence with their roles.

    8. Scrum vs. SAFe: Dependencies

    Team dependencies differ across Scrum vs. SAFe methodologies. Scrum allows teams to self-organize and handle tasks independently, minimizing dependencies on other teams. On the flip side, SAFe introduces more coordination demands between numerous teams, amplifying dependencies. In essence, Scrum emphasizes autonomy and reduced interdependence, while SAFe, with its broader organizational scope, requires a more intricate web of collaboration to manage dependencies effectively. 

    Example: Fitbit successfully used Scrum to deliver to their clients on time and schedule. However, as their customer base grew, they had to pivot to SAFe to scale. 

    9. Scrum vs. SAFe: Timeframe

    Going over Agile Scrum vs SAFe by timeframe, Scrum, teams typically operate within one- to four-week cycles, fostering agility and adaptability. Meanwhile, SAFe teams adhere to approximately two-week cycles, striking a balance between frequent iterations and a more structured approach. 

    These sprint variations align with each framework's principles, with Scrum emphasizing flexibility and rapid progress, while SAFe combines agility with a slightly more organized and synchronized development pace. 

    Looking to study PMP online and take your career to the next level? Look no further than our comprehensive online PMP course. With our program, you'll gain the skills and knowledge needed to achieve mastery in project management and become a sought-after professional in your field. Enroll today and start your journey towards success!

    Similarities Between Scrum and SAFe

    • Both Scrum and SAFe have a Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP). Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP) describes the activities, procedures, and automation required to lead a new piece of functionality from inception through on-demand delivery of the product to the end user. Regardless of the fact that it is connected with SAFe and is a more advanced concept, Scrum and CDP's sprint cycle have significant parallels. 
    • Scrum and SAFe both use the inspect and adapt strategies. An inspection is performed at the end of each sprint in Scrum. Similarly, several checks are performed throughout the SAFe release train. The inspection results are used to adapt development initiatives. 
    • SAFe and Scrum both encourage continuous cooperation with stakeholders. Analyzing requirements, receiving feedback on deliverables, creating modifications based on customer recommendations, obtaining their stop before deployment, and collaborating with them after deployment are all standard working methods in SAFe and Scrum. 
    • All development activities are carried out at the Team Level in both Scrum and SAFe. A team in Scrum builds a sprint plan collaboratively, participates in daily standup meetings, offers end outputs, and engages in analytical meetings to further enhance their process. 

    Along with development activities, all activities are completed at the team level. 

    • An inspection is carried out at the end of each sprint in Scrum. Similarly, several checks are performed throughout the SAFe release train. The inspection results are used to adapt development initiatives. 
    • The primary goal of Scrum's smaller product development cycles and SAFe's longer solution development cycles will be to deliver the highest quality to consumers in smaller increments. It allows customers to get the product to market faster. 
    • When time is set aside for something, this is known as timeboxing. With Scrum timeboxing typically lasts two weeks. SAFe release trains are timeboxes. They normally last three months. 

    What Should Web Developers Choose When It Comes to Scrum vs SAFe?

    “Scrum or SAFe?” This might be a very confusing choice for many. Both frameworks come with their own set of advantages and shortcomings. However, whenever you have to make a choice between the two for yourself, see what matches your best interests. 

    Here are a few common factors that you must keep in mind before choosing between the two: 

    • The goal that your organization wants to reach 
    • Level of involvement among the management of the company 
    • Reason behind the implementation of SAFe agile vs Scrum 
    • Framework of the organization 
    • Size of the organization in terms of workforce 
    • Nature of project management in the company 

    Engage with the top trending Agile Category Courses

    CSM CertificationCSPO CertificationLeading SAFe Certification
    PSM CertificationSAFe Scrum Master CertificationSAFe SPC Certification
    SAFe RTE CertificationSAFe POPM CertificationICP-ACC Certification


    Scrum and SAFe are both frameworks used in Agile project management, but they differ in their scope and level of detail. Scrum is a simple and flexible framework for small teams that emphasizes collaboration and continuous improvement, while SAFe is a more structured framework for managing large, complex projects that require coordination and alignment across multiple teams and organizational levels. Both Scrum and SAFe come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Companies can choose the better one for themselves depending on their need. Students aspiring to master both should explore the versatile agile management courses offered by KnowledgeHut. These courses will expose students to an array of new and exciting job opportunities in the best companies. 

    You May Also Like:

    What is SAFe Certification? Prerequisites, Cost, Benefits
    Top SAFe Certifications
    Why you should consider a SAFe® Agile certification
    A Glimpse Of The Major Leading SAFe® Versions
    Expert Tips to Crack the Safe Agilist Exam in 2023
    How To Pass Leading SAFe® Exam?
    What Are the 4 Core Values of SAFe
    A Complete Guide to SAFe Feature for Scaling Agile
    SAFe Agile Vs Agile: The Differences
    SAFe Implementation Roadmap – Detailed Guide

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What is the difference between Scrum and SAFe?

    Scrum is used in organizing small teams, meanwhile, SAFe is used in organizing the entirety of the organization.

    2Is Scrum used in SAFe?

    Yes, Scrum is used in SAFe. SAFe incorporates Scrum at the enterprise level.

    3Is Scrum the same as Agile?

    Agile is a project management philosophy that employs a specific set of principles or values, meanwhile, Scrum is an Agile methodology used in facilitating a project. 

    4Why is Scrum better than SAFe?

    Scrum enables individuals and teams to generate value progressively and collaboratively. Scrum, as an agile framework, provides just enough discipline for people and teams to integrate into their working practices.


    Lindy Quick

    Blog Author

    Lindy Quick, SPCT, is a dynamic Transformation Architect and Senior Business Agility Consultant with a proven track record of success in driving agile transformations. With expertise in multiple agile frameworks, including SAFe, Scrum, and Kanban, Lindy has led impactful transformations across diverse industries such as manufacturing, defense, insurance/financial, and federal government. Lindy's exceptional communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills have earned her a reputation as a trusted advisor. Currently associated with KnowledgeHut and upGrad, Lindy fosters Lean-Agile principles and mindset through coaching, training, and successful execution of transformations. With a passion for effective value delivery, Lindy is a sought-after expert in the field.

    Share This Article
    Ready to Master the Skills that Drive Your Career?

    Avail your free 1:1 mentorship session.

    Your Message (Optional)

    Upcoming Agile Management Batches & Dates

    NameDateFeeKnow more
    Course advisor icon
    Whatsapp/Chat icon