Practicing SAFe methodology can give your business the flexibility and ability to manage challenges and achieve huge gains. How? Read on and find out
While practising Agile can bring a vast range of benefits to businesses, it can also be hugely challenging. Practising the SAFe methodology can give your business the flexibility and ability to manage these challenges and achieve huge gains throughout your business processes.
Businesses that practice SAFe often achieve:
It is vital to understand that SAFe is not one standalone methodology. Instead, it is a comprehensive knowledge base comprising best practices, integrated principles, and success patterns.
The SAFe catalogue is free to access and use, too, making SAFe one of the world's most popular frameworks. You can adapt and transition your business processes to SAFe both for software development and in a context of general project management. If you are familiar with the Jira tool, you probably already work with at least some elements of SAFe without realising it!
SAFe is continually evolving and improving. Your business can always adopt the latest best practices and continue to enhance your processes—the current version of SAFe, 5.0, released in January 2020.
At present, SAFe consists of three levels.
These three levels, in order of seniority in a business or project context, are:
Portfolio and Large Solution are the highest levels of the framework. These are often the processes used by business leaders to help determine top-line objectives and goals and to make strategic decisions.
Using SAFe can help stakeholders, among other things, create effective roadmaps for projects and manage change. Once those at the Portfolio or Large Solution levels determine the broader vision of a project, this feeds down to the Essential level.
Colleagues at the Essential level are then accountable for delivering the goals assigned to them. Previous versions of SAFe had four levels, with what is now the Essential level split into Program and Team levels. Many elements of Essential in SAFe are identical to Scrum. SAFe breaks down time into two-week "sprints." After each sprint, leaders can assess if projects and team members are delivering value and opportunities for improvements. The SAFe methodology also calls for reviews after every ten weeks/five sprints. This framework provides a consistent flow of work for software development or project teams. Still, it doesn't mean you have to release new software to this schedule. Your chosen business timings would always take precedence for finalisation of any project.
Using SAFe in a software development context may also determine the makeup of your teams and lead to the creation of new job roles in your company.
You do not have to implement every level to adopt and practice SAFe in your business successfully.
As well as businesses like Atlassian, who produce the SAFe-based Jira collaboration tool, many companies use the SAFe methodology and have seen immense success in doing so.
While the Scaled Agile website’s customer stories highlight many of them, here are some of the best ones with tangible outcomes:
As you can see, these examples cover various aspects of business operations. From making your teams more productive to saving you money and improving customer service, practising SAFe can deliver hugely positive outcomes.
Scaled Agile has created an exceptional library of articles to guide you through the process of implementing and transitioning to SAFe in your company.
Scaled Agile suggests a 12-step implementation roadmap:
While it is possible to conduct SAFe training in-house, you and your team members should ideally undergo formal SAFe training and certification. Gaining formal qualifications will give you the best opportunity to maximise your use of SAFe. You will also instil confidence in clients who will recognise these qualifications as a symbol of excellence.
If you choose to implement SAFe, it may also be worth hiring expert SAFe consultants and change managers to help you manage the transition.
One of the biggest strengths of SAFe is that it will tell you and your business precisely what to do, and when to do it. It will supply a full framework for your company. As noted earlier, you have the flexibility to adapt as much or as little of it as you wish. It is most common for businesses to adopt the full framework. However, they often find this is overkill and adds unwanted complexity and costs, thus going against the primary principles of Agile.
The prescriptive nature of SAFe can also be a potential drawback, as it may rob you of the ability to be as flexible as you might like with decision making around processes.
Strengths of SAFe:
Weaknesses of SAFe:
If your business is only just starting to use Agile, SAFe is ideal for helping this transition and giving you a robust framework within which you can operate.
However, if you're already practising Agile and have confidence and experience in doing so, you may find SAFe to be too prescriptive and constraining to your processes. In this case, you may be better off transitioning to a framework like Disciplined Agile (DA). DA and similar frameworks rely on your business having a full understanding of Agile but give you the flexibility to customise processes as you see fit.