What is SAFe®?

Photo of Sohrab Salimi
Sohrab Salimi

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3 Minutes

What challenges does the development in the enterprise environment actually face? Ever since software has been around, you hear the same calls: “We need better time to market, adherence to delivery dates, more reliable delivery, better planning, higher ROI. But what does the reality look like? The classic project management according to Wasserfall could not really offer a solution. And so specialists have been looking for other ways since the 90s. In 1995 at the OOPSLA conference a process model called “Scrum” was presented.

Since then, Scrum has proven itself a thousand times over as an organizational form for small, autonomous, powerful teams and continues to spread. Scrum is also becoming more and more popular in large corporations and thus many autonomous Scrum teams are created, which make a valuable contribution to the success of the company. But in the enterprise environment the question crystallizes: “But what if I have more than one team – if my project is not a small thing, but sets an entire company in motion? Scrum does not give an answer to this question: Scrum deliberately limits itself to the organization of a team.

Therefore Scrum does not deal with the question of the superordinate organization of the company. As soon as our project becomes large and complex, however, this becomes important: a suitable scaling framework is needed so that the teams can row together efficiently in the right direction. In the absence of an answer, agile islands often arise within traditionally managed projects. In this way, the disadvantages of traditional project management, such as inflexibility, high coordination effort and long lead times are combined with Scrum and systematically destroy the advantages of agility. But there are alternatives: Many different people have already thought about how to sensibly raise agility beyond the team. There are different models for scaling, but today we limit ourselves exclusively to SAFe.

How was SAFe® developed?

Originally SAFe was once a collection of observations and field reports, which worked well for individual companies when they tried to scale their agile processes beyond teams. As more and more information came together over the years, the first patterns of things began to crystallize that helped in many different companies. This was cast into a structure – the birth of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Since then, SAFe has been used in more and more companies worldwide to systematically scale agility. The experience gained is continuously incorporated into the further development of SAFe. This is why SAFe is now in version 4.0, which will certainly not be the last. Companies that have gained experience with SAFe and whose needs SAFe also helps shape include Telstra – a telecommunications provider, Bank Westpac, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the French employment office pôle emploi, but also hardware and machine manufacturers such as Cisco, John Deere – and Lego. The universality of SAFe is a certain indicator that SAFe can also be useful for other companies.

And now to the question: “What actually is SAFe®?”

SAFe uses teams, quasi as “hardware”, which are usually organized with Scrum and thanks to XP practices deliver high quality at all times. Product development as a whole is controlled using Kanban, while management focuses on lean. At another time, we can go into detail about what these individual frameworks mean in a complex environment. For the time being, it should suffice that they provide a tried and tested and highly proven basis of structures, methods and principles for SAFe. The reason why SAFe builds on these four frameworks can be found in the SAFe values: Kanban and Scrum ensure that strategy and implementation harmonize. Everyone, from the developer to the CEO, knows Prio 1 is and can orient themselves by it. This is the SAFe value “Alignment“. Scrum and XP ensure that the teams deliver decent quality. Scrum brings the right people together and XP makes sure that they work robustly. This is the SAFe value “Build Quality in“: After all, we do not want any mistakes in the product. XP practices help the teams that the product is always in a deliverable state. Lean Management ensures that the organization is able to act and is better in the long term, and that the overhead around a delivery is continuously reduced. SAFe therefore sees “Program Execution” as a central value – in contrast to great plans that come from the ivory tower and do not correspond to operational reality. SAFe defines “transparency” as the fourth and last central value, which is achieved operationally through Kanban and strategically through Lean Management methods.

SAFe is...!

SAFe® is designed as a framework to ensure that the right people do the right thing at the right time – regardless of whether there are 50 or 5,000 people, or whether this is happening in development, operational management or strategic management. Information and images are provided by www.scaledagileframework.com.

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