How to scale agile using SAFe?

SAFe Transformation

SAFe, or Scaled Agile Framework, is a set of principles and practices for Lean-Agile development and software engineering. It provides a framework for coordinating and aligning the efforts of multiple Agile teams, and helps organizations to scale Agile development to meet the needs of large, complex software development projects.

SAFe provides a structured approach to Agile development that includes practices for product backlog management, iteration/sprint planning, iteration/sprint execution, and sprint/iteration review and retrospective. It also includes practices for managing cross-functional teams, managing dependencies between teams, and coordinating large-scale releases.

SAFe is designed to help organizations to balance the need for speed, quality, and predictability, and provides a flexible and scalable approach to Agile development. It’s used by organizations of all sizes, across a variety of industries, to help them develop high-quality software products more quickly and efficiently.

Other popular scaling frameworks include LeSS, Nexus, Scrum at Scale, DA etc

How to plan SAFe led scaling?

safe implementataion roadmap
safe implementataion roadmap

Reference: https://www.scaledagileframework com/implementation-roadmap/

Here are the steps involved in planning a SAFe-led agile scaling:

  1. Assessment: Conduct an assessment of your current development processes, culture, and organization structure to identify areas for improvement and determine if SAFe is a good fit.
  2. Stakeholder engagement: Engage stakeholders, including executives, development teams, and customers, to build support and buy-in for SAFe.
  3. Define the vision: Define the vision for the SAFe implementation, including the goals, benefits, and desired outcomes.
  4. Select a launch team: Select a launch team of key stakeholders who will lead the SAFe implementation and act as change agents within the organization.
  5. Create a launch plan: Create a launch plan that outlines the steps involved in the SAFe implementation, including training, coaching, and mentoring.
  6. Establish a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence: Establish a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence to provide guidance and support for the SAFe implementation, and to drive continuous improvement.
  7. Implement SAFe: Implement SAFe by following the framework and guidance provided by the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence. This may include training and coaching for development teams, and the establishment of Agile release trains and other SAFe structures.
  8. Monitor and adjust: Monitor and adjust the SAFe implementation over time, and continuously improve processes and practices to ensure that the organization is getting the desired benefits from SAFe.

Planning a SAFe-led agile scaling requires careful consideration and planning, and the support of key stakeholders is critical to its success. By following these steps and continuously monitoring and adjusting the implementation, organizations can successfully scale Agile development to meet the needs of large, complex software development projects.

How to use SAFe to scale agile transformation?

business agility
business agility

Reference –

SAFe transformation has four different levels, each of which provides a different level of detail and guidance for organizations seeking to implement Lean-Agile development practices:

  1. Essential SAFe: The simplest level of SAFe, Essential SAFe provides a basic understanding of Agile principles and practices, and is intended for organizations that are just starting their Agile journey.
    • It is recommended to start with Essential SAFe for any SAFe implementation irrespective of the size of the organization so as to set the basics right and showcase organization the success stories which will help us to cross-pollinate further.
  2. Large Solution SAFe: Large Solution SAFe is designed for organizations that are delivering large, complex solutions, and provides a more detailed and structured approach to Agile development.
    • When we identify the development value streams to deliver solutions we at times land up creating larger solutions which could need many ART (Agile release trains) to work together and deliver. In such cases, Large Solution SAFe is useful. It has roles like Solution Architect, Solution Train Engineer which are different than those used in Essential SAFe.
  3. Portfolio SAFe: Portfolio SAFe provides a framework for coordinating and aligning Agile development across multiple portfolios, and is intended for organizations that are looking to scale Agile development to meet the needs of large, complex software development projects.
    • Portfolio SAFe focuses primarily on identifying Strategic themes and preparing the portfolio backlog which is steered by executives and leadership team who uses lean portfolio management methods like lean budgeting, guardrails, investing in value streams, defining KPIs for release trains to fulfill.
  4. Full SAFe: Full SAFe is the most comprehensive level of SAFe, and provides a complete framework for Lean-Agile development and software engineering. It is intended for organizations that are looking to transform their development practices, and provides detailed guidance on Agile development practices, DevOps practices, and Lean product development.

Organizations can choose the level of SAFe transformation that is right for their needs, based on the size and complexity of their software development projects, and their overall goals for Lean-Agile development.

Points to keep in mind while scaling agile using SAFe

When we bring agile scaling in organizations, it is important to keep in mind certain aspects which otherwise may lead to failed SAFe transformation. Following are the key points to keep in mind – 

  1. Onboarding leadership – To ensure we are relevant. profitable and continuously evolving, leadership is ready to experiment but it shouldn’t come at the expense of them seeing it as just a change which we will bring at the engineering level but not at the strategic levels. They should understand that the change is for all and not just for a portion of people in the organization.
  2. Value Stream Mapping – Many SAFe led transformations fail due to lack of focus on value streams (both operational and development value streams). Value stream mapping helps us in understanding the product and services that we are providing to customers which they consider as value. Here we also identify the different transitions and the respective solutions that we need to create to let the value flow from its trigger point till it reaches the customer.
    scale agile using SAFe methods
    scale agile using SAFe methods
  3. Agile Release Trains – Soon organization decides to kickstart their SAFe transformation journey, it is important that they should launch their first Agile Release Train (ART) so that we start reaping the benefits of SAFe by using the cadence and synchronization and focused program increment backlog which helps teams in aligning the business needs. The core groups like Product Management team, RTE and business continuously work together to stabilize the train by continuously providing their support and removing impediments. Immediately after the first ART gets stable, we should have our plan to launch other ARTs so that our solutions can serve value to respective development Value streams and benefits get rolled-up to Operation value stream as well.
  4. Define clear roles and responsibilities – SAFe defines several roles and responsibilities, including Product Owners, Scrum Masters/Team coaches, and Solution Train Engineers, so it is important to ensure that these roles are clearly defined and that the individuals in these roles are trained and equipped to perform their responsibilities effectively.
  5. Establish governance and metrics – Establish a governance model for SAFe that includes clear policies, procedures, and metrics to measure the success of the implementation and to support continuous improvement.
  6. Encourage continuous learning – SAFe is a continuously evolving framework, so it is important to encourage continuous learning, improvement, and experimentation, and to be open to change and adaptation.

Empower your business with top SAFe consulting services. Our team crafts customized solutions to enhance your agility and drive success. Start your transformation journey now!

Case study of SAFe transformation Agile Scaling at one of our Customer

Our Client is a company that develops products and programs (resuscitation training) for healthcare providers, voluntary organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and the military worldwide.

Our client is a world leader in healthcare education and resuscitation training, the client empowers lifesavers, and healthcare workers, to help them save more lives by using immersive technologies and data-centric insights we can help to increase survival and improve healthcare quality.

  • Key business challenges – Prioritization of business needs for delivery, continuous delivery, faster time to market, dissolve silo and move towards new age technology landscape without affecting the quality, common framework and understanding of practices
  • Execution challenges – loosely defined and practiced agile approaches, erroneous and outdated jira, irregular events, dissatisfied business team & increasing end-user escalations

 Here is what worked for us and could work for you as well when you bring SAFe-

  • Common heartbeat for the delivery team with the introduction of PI to support continuous delivery
  • Streamlined inflow of business requirements from multiple sources by applying WSJF to prioritize business & technical requirements
  • Synchronized sprints for 6 teams for a common release cycle and transparent dependency management and to predict failures upfront
  • Implemented ART level syncs like PO sync, SOS, System demos for monitoring the PI execution 
  • Pre-PI planning preparation with the product management team
  • Booking the ART sync events – Scrum of 
  • Received vote of confidence ⅘ in PI planning & buy-in by leadership team about the fulfillment of their expectations
  • Brought in data driven decision making mindset by implementing team and PI level reporting
  • Partnering with DevOps, Security & other shared services teams

Recommended Read

Agile Transformation Challenges Agile Project Management Tools Effective Sprint Planning with Steps
Agile Transformation Checklist Establishing First Agile Release Train What Is Business Agility
Agile Transformation Journey How to scale agile using SAFe What Is PI Planning In Agile
Agile Transformation Metrics Surprising Downside Of Agile What is SAFe Transformation
Agile Transformation Strategies Scrum Master Do’S And Don’Ts Agile Metrics For Leadership

With this, our blog “How to scale agile using SAFe?” comes to an end. We really hope this is of help. In case of any feedback, or suggestions or if you are seeking external support in designing and implementing your SAFe transformation, please reach out to us at

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