Scaled Agile Framework

Project Management

Created by Dean Leffingwell, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), is an approach to scaling agile practices across an enterprise. Providing guidance at the portfolio, program and team level, its’ a proven framework based on the principles of Lean and Agile.

What is SAFe™

The Scaled Agile Framework® (pronounced SAFe™) is an interactive knowledge base for implementing agile practices at enterprise scale. SAFe provides organizations with a set of best practices, artifacts and suggested tooling necessary to scale agile from the team to program to the portfolio level.

SAFe  aims to address some of the concern that many have had with other Agile methodologies such as Scrum when attempting to scale.

Many organizations have succeeded at adopting agile, mostly a combination of Scrum, XP and Continuous Integration practices only to find it difficult, if not impossible, replicating their success at the department or enterprise levels. Often times their agile SMEs and coaches’ struggle to answer questions like:

“How do we scale these practices from the team level out and across our program or whole organization?”

“What techniques do we use to align multiple teams, programs, and departments to deliver something of greater substance and market value than what one or a few teams can produce?”

“Is it possible to align our multiple business and IT departments for greater collaboration and efficiency in building and potentially shipping software?”

Adopting SAFe will help you address these questions and more using a well defined and well documented, set of principles and practices supporting three levels of agile at scale including team, program and portfolio levels.

SAFe is based on Lean and Agile principles.

There are three levels in SAFe:


At the Team Level:

Scrum with XP engineering practices are used.
Define/Build/Test (DBT) teams deliver working, fully tested software every two weeks. There are five to nine members of each team.

At the Program Level:

SAFe defines an Agile Release Train (ART). As iteration is to team, train is to program.
The ART (or train) is the primary vehicle for value delivery at the program level. It delivers a value stream for the organization.
SAFe is three letter acronym (TLA) heaven – DBT, ART, RTE, PSI, NFR, RMT and I&A!
Between 5 and 10 teams work together on a train. They synchronize their release boundaries and their iteration boundaries.
Every 10 weeks (5 iterations) a train delivers a Potentially Shippable Increment (PSI). A demo and inspect and adapt sessions are held. Planning begins for the next PSI.
PSIs provide a steady cadence for the development cycle. They are separate from the concept of market releases, which can happen more or less frequently and on a different schedule.

New program level roles are defined
System Team
Product Manager
System Architect
Release Train Engineer (RTE)
UX and Shared Resources (e.g., security, DBA)
Release Management Team

In IT/PMI environments the Program Manager or Senior Project Manager might fill one of two roles. If they have deep domain expertise, they are likely to fill the Product Manager role. If they have strong people management skills and understand the logistics of release they often become the Release Train Engineer.
SAFe defines a Scaled Agilist (SA) certification program for executives, managers, architects and change agents responsible for leading SAFe implementations. Rally provides regular public and private Leading SAFe certification classes.
SAFe makes a distinction between content (what the system does) and design (how the system does it). There is separate “authority” for content and design.
The Product Manager (Program Manager) has content authority at the program level. She defines and prioritizes the program backlog.
SAFe defines an artifact hierarchy of Epics – Features – User Stories. The program backlog is a prioritized list of features. Features can originate at the Program level, or they can derive from Epics defined at the Portfolio level. Features decompose to User Stories which flow to Team-level backlogs.
Features are prioritized based on Don Reinersten’s Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) economic decision framework.
The System Architect has design authority at the program level. He collaborates day to day with the teams, ensuring that non-functional requirements (NFRs) are met. He works with the enterprise architect at the portfolio level to ensure that there is sufficient architectural runway to support upcoming user and business needs.
The UX Designer(s) provides UI design, UX guidelines and design elements for the teams. In a similar manner, shared specialists provide services such as security, performance and database administration across the teams.
The Release Train Engineer (RTE) is the Uber-ScrumMaster.
The Release Management Team is a cross-functional team – with representation from marketing, dev, quality, ops and deployment – that approves frequent releases of quality solutions to customers.
Rally’s monthly program webinar series provides an overview of scaling Agile programs with SAFe.
At the Portfolio Level:

At the Portfolio Level:

PPM has a central role in Strategy, Investment Funding, Program Management and Governance.
Investment Themes drive budget allocations.
Themes are done as part of the budgeting process with a lifespan of 6-12 months.
Portfolio philosophy is centralized strategy with local execution.
Epics define large development initiatives that encapsulate the new development necessary to realize the benefits of investment themes.
There are business epics (customer-facing) and architectural epics (technology solutions).
Business and architectural epics are managed in parallel Kanban systems.
Objective metrics support IT governance and continuous improvement.
Enterprise architecture is a first class citizen. The concept of Intentional Architecture provides a set of planned initiatives to enhance solution design, performance, security and usability.
SAFe patterns provide a transformation roadmap.

Legacy Approach                                  Lean-Agile Pattern
Centralized control                                      Decentralized decision-making
Project overload                                          Continuous value flow
Detailed project plans                                Lightweight business cases
Centralized annual planning                    Decentralized, rolling wave planning
Work breakdown structures                     Agile estimating and planning
Project-based funding                               Agile Release Trains
Projects and PMBOK                                 Self-managing teams and programs
Waterfall milestones                                  Objective, fact-based measures and milestones.



Adoption focuses on identifying a value stream. A value stream is a sequence of activities intended to produce a consistent set of deliverables of value to customers. Value streams are realized via an Agile Release Train (ART).
SAFe poses questions to help identify value streams (ARTs):
What program might adopt the new process the fastest?
Which executives are ready for a transition?
What are the geographical locations and how are the team members distributed?
What programs are the most challenged, or represent the biggest opportunities?
When you identify a value stream, you go “All In” and “All at Once” for that train.


41 Things You Need to Know about the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe)

Scalded Agile Framewrok