Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a process framework that has become increasingly popular in recent years. The framework aims to help organizations achieve large-scale agile development and to coordinate cross-functional teams, enabling them to work together towards a common goal. It consists of three levels: Team Level, Program Level, and Portfolio Level.
By implementing all three levels, SAFe provides a framework for organizations to scale agile practices across multiple teams, departments, and locations, enabling them to deliver value more efficiently and effectively. This article will discuss the three levels of SAFe and explore its pros and cons.
What is Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe)?
Scaled Agile framework is a comprehensive methodology for implementing agile practices in large-scale software development environments. The framework is designed to help organizations improve their software development efforts’ speed, quality, and efficiency. SAFe provides a structure for managing large, complex projects while promoting collaboration, communication, and transparency among team members.
Pros and Cons of Scaled Agile Framework
Like any methodology or approach, SAFe has its pros and cons. Some advantages of SAFe include increased alignment and coordination among teams, greater efficiency, and productivity, improved quality and speed of software delivery, and enhanced stakeholder engagement. Some of the potential disadvantages of SAFe include the following:
- Increased bureaucracy and overhead.
- Reduced agility and flexibility.
- A possible need for more focus on customer needs.
What are the Three Levels of the Scaled Agile Framework?
SAFe is composed of three primary levels, each with its own set of practices and guidelines:
- Team Level: This level focuses on the individual agile teams responsible for developing software products. At this level, teams typically comprise 5 to 10 individuals. They are responsible for specific features or functions within the overall development.
- Program Level: This level focuses on coordinating and aligning multiple agile teams working together to deliver a larger software product. At this level, teams are typically organized into Agile Release Trains (ARTs) responsible for providing a specific set of features or capabilities within the product.
- Portfolio Level: This level is focused on managing and coordinating multiple programs and ARTs working together to deliver a portfolio of software products. At this level, organizations manage the overall product portfolio, ensure that it aligns with strategic goals, and allocate resources accordingly.
- Fourth level added Large Solution Level: This level is added in the recent version of SAFe; it is focused on coordinating and aligning multiple Agile Release Trains and Suppliers that build large and complex solutions.
Comparison of the Four Levels of SAFe
Each of the four levels of SAFe has its own set of practices, guidelines, and roles. At the team level, the focus is on delivering high-quality software products that meet specific requirements. At the program level, the focus is on coordinating multiple agile teams to produce a larger software product. The portfolio level focuses on managing numerous programs and ARTs to deliver a software product portfolio that aligns with strategic goals. And at the significant solution level, the focus is on coordinating and aligning multiple Agile Release Trains and Suppliers that build large and complex solutions.
Examples of how these Levels can be Used in Practice
- Example of Team Level: A team of developers might use SAFe at the team level to develop a specific set of features or functions within a larger software product. They would work collaboratively, using agile practices such as Scrum or Kanban, to deliver high-quality software that meets specific requirements.
- Example of Program Level: A program manager might use SAFe at the program level to coordinate multiple agile teams working together to deliver a larger software product. They would use tools such as Program Increment (PI) Planning and the Program Kanban to ensure that each team works effectively and delivers the product on time and within budget.
- Example of Portfolio Level: A portfolio manager might use SAFe at the portfolio level to manage multiple programs and ARTs working together to deliver a portfolio of software products. They would use tools such as the Portfolio Kanban and the Lean Portfolio Management process to ensure that the portfolio aligns with strategic goals, that resources are allocated effectively, and that the portfolio delivers maximum value to stakeholders.
- Example of Large Solution Level: A large organization might use SAFe at the significant solution level to coordinate and align multiple Agile Release Trains and Suppliers building a large and complex solution. They would use tools such as Solution Intent and Solution Demo to ensure that the answer is constructed according to specific requirements, that the solution is delivered on time and within budget, and that stakeholders are engaged and informed throughout the development process.
What are the Four Core Values of SAFe?
SAFe is based on four core values that guide the behavior and actions of individuals and teams within the framework:
- Alignment: SAFe emphasizes the importance of alignment, ensuring that everyone is working towards a common goal and that all activities are aligned with strategic objectives.
- Built-in Quality: SAFe strongly emphasizes quality, ensuring that quality is built into all aspects of the software development process and that defects are caught and addressed as early as possible.
- Transparency: SAFe promotes transparency, ensuring that information is shared openly and honestly across all levels of the organization and that stakeholders are informed and engaged throughout the development process.
- Program Execution: SAFe emphasizes the importance of program execution, ensuring that programs are delivered on time, within budget, and to stakeholders’ satisfaction.
Why Choose SAFe?
SAFe offers a range of benefits for organizations that choose to implement it, including:
Increased Productivity and Efficiency: SAFe helps organizations to break down complex projects into manageable pieces, which smaller, more agile teams can tackle. This approach improves productivity and efficiency, as teams can focus on delivering high-quality software products quickly and efficiently.
Improved Quality of Software Products: SAFe strongly emphasizes quality throughout the software development process. By building quality into the process, SAFe helps organizations produce software products that meet or exceed stakeholder expectations.
Greater Stakeholder Engagement: SAFe encourages open communication and transparency across the organization, enabling stakeholders to provide feedback throughout the software development process. This approach leads to greater stakeholder engagement, which helps ensure that products meet stakeholder needs and requirements.
Enhanced Agility and Flexibility: SAFe is designed to be agile and flexible, enabling organizations to respond quickly and effectively to changing market conditions, customer needs, and other external factors. This flexibility is essential in today’s fast-paced business environment, where organizations must be able to adapt quickly to stay competitive.
Structure for Managing Large and Complex Projects: SAFe provides a comprehensive framework for managing large and complex software development projects. The framework enables organizations to coordinate and align multiple agile teams, ensuring that projects are delivered on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards.
Scalability: SAFe is designed to be scalable, which means it can be adapted to meet the needs of organizations of all sizes. Whether an organization starts with agile practices or has already implemented agile at the team level, SAFe provides a framework for scaling agile practices across the entire organization.
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a comprehensive framework that enables organizations to adopt and scale agile practices across the enterprise. It provides a structured approach to managing large and complex software development projects, allowing organizations to deliver high-quality products quickly and efficiently.
In this article, we have explored the three levels of SAFe: the Team Level, Program Level, and Portfolio Level, along with the Large Solution Level, a more recent addition to the framework. We have also discussed the four core values of SAFe: Alignment, Built-in Quality, Transparency, and Program Execution.
We have provided examples of how these levels can be used in practice, illustrating how SAFe can be adapted to meet the specific needs of different organizations. We have also explored the pros and cons of SAFe, highlighting the benefits and potential challenges associated with implementing the framework.
Overall, SAFe is a powerful tool for organizations that want to adopt agile practices at scale. By following the SAFe framework, organizations can improve productivity, enhance quality, increase stakeholder engagement, and respond more quickly and effectively to changing market conditions.
However, implementing SAFe requires careful planning, strong leadership, and a commitment to continuous improvement. By adopting a strategic and iterative approach, organizations can successfully implement SAFe and reap the benefits of agile at scale.