Scaled Agile Framework: The What and How


February 27, 2018


We are inundated with technology, from apps and wearables to apm. Now, more than ever, we are on the cusp of innovation. And, with that, scaled agile framework (otherwise known as SAFe) helps speed this process up.

Think of SAFe as another best set of guidelines that helps IT employees create products for businesses that best line up with their values and needs. Like other frameworks—think ITIL and NIST—businesses can mix and match depending on what they want. This allows less time to build the product and makes the work more scalable and versatile; SAFe is easy for large organizations consisting thousands of IT employees to use. Learn why this is.

What is SAFe?

Although we mentioned briefly what SAFe is, let’s go more into detail. First and foremost, know that SAFe is not tangible. It is not an actual product you can pick up. Instead, as mentioned, it is a set of (intangible) principles used to create those tangible products. That latest of version of SAFe consists of four levels. Read on to learn what each level is and how it positively affects the creation process.

How to Use Scaled Agile Framework

Below are each of the levels of SAFe: team, program, value stream, and portfolio.

  • The Team Level

The team level is your typical scrum; teams of members with a variety of skill sets get together for an iteration to come up with working systems. Before the iteration (or a two-week period), the team and product owner get together to plan. The planning session is when the back story (or back stories) are created. As the name suggests, the back story is just that: the story of the product—in other words, who the user is, what he or she wants and why.

Once the iteration is up, the team presents the working systems to the product owner, who will either give it a thumbs up or down. If it’s a thumbs up, this means that the product met all of the requirements which were discussed in the planning session. If not, this means back to the drawing board.

  • The Program Level

The program level is the “macro version” of the team level. It consists of an agile release train (in other words, multiple teams) and runs on 5 iterations. Four of those follow the pattern explained above in the team level. The fifth level, however, works slightly differently. This is the innovation and planning iteration (or IP iteration). During this time, the members participate in hackathons and ShipITs to find solutions to problems with the product. This is where members can become creative and flex their technology muscles.

  • The Value Stream Level

Zoom out of the program level, and you have the value stream level. Instead of one agile release train, you have several, creating even bigger solutions. It consists of the same PI.

  • The Portfolio Level

Unlike the rest of the levels, this is more the management and finances. In the portfolio level, each of the value streams is given a budget to work with. Enough said.


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Final Thoughts: Is SAFe Here to Stay?

The simple answer: most likely. While technology and guidelines in creating the latest will always be changing, we expect that SAFe will continue to be a used best practice, except with more versions.

What makes SAFe an IT go-to is its ability to create a product on a budget within a tight timeframe. Plus, businesses can use whatever parts of it they like. How has SAFe benefitted your business? What are its pros and cons? Be sure to leave a comment in the comments section below.

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