5 Reasons to Consider the Scaled Agile Framework

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), created by Dean Leffingwell, Agile thought leader and noted author, is a guide to scaling agile practices across the enterprise. It is a proven framework based on Lean and Agile principles that is increasingly gaining greater recognition and adoption at the program and enterprise levels.

So why might you want to consider SAFe for your own organization? Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. If you have successfully experimented with Agile at the team level and you are now interested in implementing a consistent Agile approach across one or more programs or departments. 

    Many organizations start with Agile by experimenting with one or two teams. Eventually, after some moderate success, interest in replicating this success across a department or enterprise grows. That is when much deeper adoption challenges begin to surface. Some oft-heard questions include,

    “How do we take these practices and processes that are designed with a small team in mind and scale them up and out across our program or whole organization?”

    “How do we align multiple teams, programs, and departments to deliver something of greater substance and market value than what one or two teams can produce?”

    “How do we align multiple business departments and IT for greater collaboration, effectiveness, and efficiency in building and shipping software?”

    The Scaled Agile Framework addresses each of these questions and more by identifying key Lean and Agile principles and practices that scale well and must be held in common across your teams and programs for scaling success.


  1. If you have multiple teams running their own unique implementation of Agile but you regularly experience obstacles, delays, and failures anytime the teams are dependent on one another.

    It’s not uncommon for large organizations to have a few teams implement their own take on Agile and do so successfully for the work in which they are fully autonomous. However, often such organizations struggle when planning releases that involve more than one Agile team. Some common reasons for this include the teams operating on different iteration cadences, using different Agile frameworks, using different technical practices for architecture and code quality, and relying on different tools for managing their Agile lifecycle and reporting progress.

    SAFe outlines a consistent approach to Release Planning referred to as an Agile Release Train (ART), which ties together a consistent set of deliverables from multiple teams to deliver value at the program level. It does so in part by establishing a consistent cadence of planning, execution, and delivery that all teams follow within the program.

  1. If you are eager to scale Agile across the organization but are not sure what new roles may be needed and what existing roles (ie management) need to change and how.

    Implementing Agile across your organization is a significant change that will no doubt raise questions and potential fears about current roles and potentially new roles. What new roles do you need, if any, to be successful? What about management? Do they still have a role? If so, does it need to change? And, if so, how?

    These questions about roles and responsibilities are addressed by SAFe from the team to program to portfolio levels. For example, IT Enterprise Architecture holds a seat at the portfolio table to ensure that the necessary “architectural runway” (technology and infrastructure) is established in time to realize the business vision. As for management, suffice to say, they are an important role within SAFe, though there may be some new mental models and practices to adopt. To aid you in your role additions and changes, there are multiple SAFe training course opportunities for Scrum Masters, Product Owners, SAFe Practitioners (team members) and SAFe Agilists (management).

  1. If you have attempted to scale Agile across your organization but you have struggled to achieve consistent strategy across business departments and consistent alignment from the portfolio level to the program and team levels.

    A common challenge with enterprise-scale software development, Agile or not, is establishing and maintaining alignment with the vision and strategy from top to bottom across the organization. Oftentimes, there is a struggle just to align multiple business departments with the same strategy. And even when there is alignment across business departments, there is yet another challenge to ensure that strategy is clearly communicated and delivered upon all the way down at the team levels.

    While SAFe certainly will not solve every problem in your organization, it does provide a framework for implementing Agile consistently from portfolio to program to team levels. At each level, key roles, responsibilities, practices and metrics are identified that embody Agile and Lean principles and when applied consistently can help you establish flow and alignment of work top to bottom. Detailing how this cohesion is achieved in SAFe is beyond the scope of this article, but you can get a solid visual of the process via the SAFe Big Picture.

  1. If you know your organization needs to improve its product development lead times and you’ve heard about the success that companies like John Deere have experienced scaling Agile with SAFe and you want to know how they did it.

    It’s no secret that more and more large companies, old and new, such as John Deere, Discount Tire, Spotify, Salesforce.com and others have figured out how to scale Agile (via SAFe or custom approaches) to shorten their product development lead times and frequently deliver working software to delighted customers. And now it isn’t just software and technology companies filling this space, but companies in more traditional domains such as finance, insurance, and government that are seeking to scale Agile in search of the same benefits.

    SAFe is a proven and well-documented approach to bringing Agile and its benefits to the wider enterprise. It provides a comprehensive view of the business and technical principles and practices needed from top to bottom of the enterprise to successfully scale Agile. These principles and practices aren’t all entirely new or unique to SAFe but have been pulled together into a cohesive package ready for deployment in your organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about SAFe and how it could work in your organization, consider reaching out to Davisbase for a consultation. With certified SAFe Professional Consultants on-hand and successful SAFe implementations under our belt, Davisbase has the experience and expertise to help you leverage SAFe and achieve the benefits of Agile at scale.

Davisbase has multiple SPC’s and we are currently in the process of becoming a Scaled Agile Institute Silver Partner.  Contact us for more information.

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About Josh Fruit

Josh Fruit is an Agile Coach and Trainer for Davisbase Consulting, where he thrives on helping organizations discover, define and continuously improve their systems of work for delivering value. Throughout his career, Josh has served in various roles in software development and IT Management including Developer, Team Lead, Project Manager, Supervisor, ScrumMaster, Agile Coach, Trainer and Methodologist. During the last five years, Josh has worked as a passionate Agile change agent across various industries including Financial Services, Logistics, Petrochemical, and Insurance. When he’s not exploring new ways of working, he likes to spend time in the great indoors listening to and playing music as well as the great outdoors hiking, mountain biking and kayaking. You can connect with Josh on twitter @joshfruit

6 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Consider the Scaled Agile Framework

    • Thanks for the comment, PM Hut!

      I agree, many (including PMs you noted) have been wary to try to scale Agile. I think Agile’s (relative) newness, and a lack of case studies for scaling it, has left many feeling uncertain about where and how to start (of course, there are many other possible reasons – large scale change is difficult for one!). That is finally starting to change though with publicly available frameworks like SAFe and published case studies from Scaled Agile Institute and others such as scrum.org and Spotify.

      For all the fine print and legalese on SAFe I would refer you to their own site here: http://scaledagileframework.com/guidelines-and-restrictions-on-use/

      Essentially, the framework and it’s related ideas are shared publicly and free to use and implement. The content is copyrighted though so there are restrictions around use and reproduction of the content.

      Trademarking has to do with the actual naming/branding/slogans/logos. SAFe, Scaled Agile Framework, etc are creations of Dean Leffingwell and I would presume he desires to retain ownership and exclusive rights of those names and logos.

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