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What Is SAFe®?
You may have heard the terms - Agile, SAFe®, Lean - but what do they mean, how do they relate, where did they originate?
There is a wonderful history that surrounds them all.
This page will help you dig into SAFe®, its history, and the unique circumstances that came together to spur its inception to better understand the framework.
THE BACK STORY
The first iteration of the Scaled Agile Framework®, or SAFe® was released in 2011. Its creators, Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo worked to develop a methodology that differed from the project management practices of the day.
The speed of change in market conditions and competition across many industries had far outpaced the capacity of those existing practices to adapt.
The need to become “lean” was critical to an organization’s existence.
The present-day version of SAFe®, version 5, was released in January 2020, and is built around the Seven Core Competencies;
Properly planned, SAFe® allows each organization its own unique implementation and configuration of the combined benefits of Agile, Lean, and DevOps frameworks. An organization-wide development process known as the Agile Release Train, or ART, sets and keeps the wheels in motion throughout the process; define, build, validate, release - repeated as needed.
THE FOUR LEVELS
There are four configurations available depending on the size and scope of your organization. Within these configurations there are four levels typically associated with a SAFe® implementation and each one has specific roles. We won’t dive deep into the details here, but to give you an overview:
Basic, necessary foundation and starting point for a SAFe® implementation. Includes the Team Level and the Program Level. The roles for these levels are:
Team Level: Agile Teams, Scrum Master, Product Owner
Program Level: Product Manager, System Architect/Engineer, Release Train Engineer (RTE), Business Owners
The large-solution level between the program and portfolio level is only relevant in organizations that develop, or are involved in developing, extensive solutions. It's often used in aerospace, government, and automative applications. If value flows are so comprehensive that they cannot be realized by a single ART, several ARTs are combined into solution trains analogously to the system. Any external suppliers that may be necessary can also be taken into account at this level. It usually has the following roles: Solution Manager, Solution Architect/Engineer and Solution Train Engineer.
At the portfolio level - the minimum configuration needed to enable business agility - value stream mapping is used to define the value streams. This forms the basis for target-oriented release trains that operate as independently as possible. In large organizations, there are sometimes several portfolios. Portfolio elements are also developed as lean-agile as possible and are managed on a Kanban basis to ensure that resources are value-focused. It typically entails these roles: Epic Owner, Enterprise Architect.
The most comprehensive solution, with all seven competencies required to achieve business agility. Full SAFe® entails all configurations and levels, with all their tasks and functions, and is used by the largest enterprises with the most complex solutions.
Of course, no one likes to make the journey alone with an organization-wide culture shift such as a migration to SAFe®. To that end, you’ll be happy to know there are a myriad of companies, large and small, all over the globe and across almost all industries, that have made SAFe® their standard. Perhaps you’ve heard of a few; FedEx, Chevron, Nokia Software, American Express, Allianz, TV Globo, MetLife, Lockheed Martin, Bosch.
For more information about the roles, the SAFe® terminology, and further explanations you can take a look at the SAFe® glossary.
With such a deep level of sophistication, detail, and simultaneous moving teams and respective activities, one would be reasonable to assume venturing into SAFe® to be a substantial endeavor. While the level of complexity is indeed high, there are partners and solutions available to not only make the transition to SAFe® possible, but rather wholly successful and profitable.
A well-written series of 12 articles have been published on the Scaled Agile Framework website detailing the SAFe® Implementation Roadmap:
“Achieving business agility and the benefits of Lean-Agile development at scale is not a trivial effort, so SAFe is not a trivial framework. Before realizing SAFe’s rewards, organizations must embrace a Lean-Agile Mindset as well as understand and apply Lean-Agile principles. They must identify Value Streams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs), implement a Lean-Agile portfolio, build quality in, and establish the mechanisms for continuous value delivery and DevOps. And, of course, the culture must evolve as well.” - © Scaled Agile, Inc.
Beyond the Roadmap, the folks at Scaled Agile have made taking the first step a bit easier by not only providing extensive SAFe® resources and documentation but provided a searchable and filterable list of partner organizations.
(The SAFe® Implementation Roadmap - Click For More Information)