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Scrum works best with small teams that aim to deliver software which is prioritised by the team backlog. It uses the iterative models with sprints by having the highest priority items implemented first in time boxed iterations. When it comes to large organisations, the Scaled Agile Framework is a way forward. The fundamental principal of SAFe helps in collaboration, seamless communication and delivering the highest value with minimum wastage following the lean development model. Here, I am going to run you through with the series of blogs on SAFe framework and how it helps enterprise teams deliver in effective way.

Need For SAFe:

In today’s fast-paced scenario, organisations should respond quickly to up-gradation in technology to maintain a competitive edge. Software are everywhere with businesses looking for innovative ways of working. Without technology, no company can deliver its products on time and efficiently.  Therefore, businesses who understand the need of the hour to move and adapt faster and make changes will succeed. This is where SAFe comes to the rescue.

In a nutshell: Enterprises must learn how to adapt to changing technology or they will become extinct. This holds true even for businesses that don’t consider themselves to be information technology (IT) or software companies.

Challenges And Hindrance In System Development:

Systems nowadays are bigger, more complex, and more integrated, and have impact globally. Most important of all, the failure of a critical system has huge consequences.

If the enterprise’s processes and systems are still based on traditional ways of thinking and working, even teams that have adopted Agile methods will be unable to deliver value quickly with desired quality.

Common Development Problems Faced:

  • Little Visibility
  • Missing Delivery timelines
  • Problem discovery at a later stage / High volume of Production Defects
  • Increase in complexity leading to Maintainability issues
  • Distributed team management and collaboration issues
  • Systematic Scalability
  • Low Quality resulting in Dissatisfied Customers

Deming, the renowned author and management consultant, has rightly said that the source of most such problems is not poor people performance. Rather, the problems lie with the system in which people work. If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” ———-W. Edwards Deming

Looking at the challenges businesses face in developing large-scale solutions, there is a need to look at the new tools and knowledge. Fortunately, the last few decades have provided three bodies of knowledge that we can use to address these challenges i.e. Agile development, Systems Thinking, and Lean Product Development. These bodies of knowledge form the values, principles, and practices of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). SAFe is founded on the culture and innovative team-based methods that Agile embraces.

What is SAFe – 

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a scalable and configurable framework that helps organisations deliver in the shortest lead time with good quality and value. It helps in alignment, collaboration, and delivery for multiple Agile teams and even larger-scale programs.

Let us see the high level what these bodies of knowledge bring to the table.

SAFe combines the power of Agile with a focus on value creation and the elimination of waste and non-essential processes (i.e. Lead product development mindset), and systems thinking. It guides the roles, responsibilities, artefacts, and activities needed to achieve better business outcomes.

  • SAFe is founded on the culture and innovative team-based methods that Agile embraces.
  • Basic fundamental to the design and implementation of SAFe is the understanding that individuals, teams, programs, and business units—are all part of the product development system. 
  • The third body of knowledge, Lean product development, is a hybrid of Lean thinking and product development flow. The goal is to deliver the maximum customer value in the shortest sustainable lead time with the highest possible quality

What is in it for the Organizations?:

By leveraging the practices of the three bodies of knowledge, SAFe helps an organisation answer the following questions:

  • Alignment – How do we align organisations shared business, technical goals and team collaborations around value to deliver effectively on time with quality?
  • Value Delivery – How do we deliver value on a predefined schedule?
  • Scaling Agile Practices – How do we scale Agile practices to larger business objectives?
  • Quality Improvement – How do we ensure customer delight with top-notch quality?
  • Cultural Change – How do we manage the cultural change that embraces failure with respect, and creates an environment of collaboration, innovation, and kaizen?

SAFe has helped enterprises produce dramatic increases in time-to-market, employee engagement, quality, customer satisfaction, and improved economic outcomes. It also helps create cultures that are more productive, rewarding, and fun. Below figure depicts the benefits of SAFe:

In addition to the above ‘big four’ benefits, some of the other advantages of SAFe are:

  • Program Execution – It is a core value of SAFe. It means that the development unit can be a trusted and respected partner of the business i.e. meeting the commitments and doing what they say they will do. That allows the enterprise to plan and execute more effectively in a structured way.
  • Alignment – When management and teams are aligned with a common goal, all the energy flows toward helping the customer. Everyone is on the same page, working toward the same purpose ensuring value addition with good quality resulting in Customer Delight !!
  • Transparency – It enhances transparency and trusts within all verticals of the organization

To conclude, SAFe helps enterprises achieve this new competency, by enabling the entire development value stream from idea to market release to become more agile, leaner, and responsive to change.

References: SAFe Distilled 4.5 and Scaled Agile Framework


Written by 

Neeraj is Masters In Information Technology from Symbiosis Pune and a seasoned PMI certified Project Management Professional (PMP)®, Certified Scrum Master (CSM)® and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)® with 16+ yrs of exp in Project Management/Agile/Business Analysis and Quality Assurance across diverse organizational domains.