A Glimpse Of The Major Leading SAFe® Versions

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Last updated on
18th May, 2021
31st Oct, 2018
A Glimpse Of The Major Leading SAFe® Versions

A Quick view of SAFe® 

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.

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 to 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.
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 build-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 improvements:

 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 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.

The 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.      
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 SAFe® 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.


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 prepare you also to take the DevOps Foundation exam for certification.

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  ProjectBliss.net.