How can SAFe help you? | A Complete Guide

Saloni Sardana
Image shows an animated male character is using a colossal spyglass to explore the landscape of SAFe.


Agile transformations require you to evolve with your business in order to be successful. You may be able to use agile initially. You will need a more flexible and holistic approach as your business grows, such as a scaled agile framework (SAFe). It is important to understand what SAFe is, how it is different from agile, and what it can do for you.

A holistic, flexible approach is necessary to eliminate loopholes in large-scale, complicated software development projects when your organization grows. Agile works best for small and medium-sized organizations.

It’s here that SAFe, Scaled Agile Framework, comes in, a methodology that brings together the principles of Agile, Lean, and System Thinking to improve the speed, quality, and productivity of development.

SAFe is the most commonly used scaling method in software development, according to the 14th State of Agile Report.

Discover why SAFe is an excellent choice for businesses by learning more about it.

Do you know what SAFe is (Scaled Agile Framework)?

Agile practices, system thinking, and lean thinking are combined in the Scaled Agile Framework to help enterprises create large, complex software. It is an ever-changing knowledge base that gets updated on a regular basis.

You will be able to build large, complex systems using the SAFe model while ensuring both high-quality delivery and timely delivery.

Historical development of SAFe

Since 2011, Dean Leffingwell has been the leading developer of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), a software development framework used by large organizations worldwide. SAFe has already been adopted by 70% of Fortune 100 companies in the US, according to Scaled Agile, a provider of the framework.

SAFe and Agile Framework Differences

An easy way to understand how Agile and SAFe frameworks differ is to look at the following table.

Who is it for Startups and mid-sized companies Enterprises
Suitable for Small teams working on a small project Enterprises working on large-scale product development
Based on Agile Manifesto Agile Development, Systems Thinking, Lean Product Development
Teams Small Organizational-level
Principles and Values 4 values and 12 principles 4 values and 9 principles

What is the advantage of Scaled Agile Framework?

Scaled Agile Framework is the best way to manage complex projects and large development teams, which is why it is also called the “scaling of Agile.” A lot of enterprises find it difficult to develop enterprise-level applications with Agile.

Software development companies can benefit from Agile Manifesto by applying its values and principles to make their initiatives successful. By staying focused on the product mindset instead of the project mindset, agile teams provide flexibility and speed. However, it is ideal for smaller teams.

SAFe lets organizations embrace disruptive innovation in a quick and organized way by guiding your way to successful execution.

Implementing the Scaled Agile Framework can result in the following business benefits for enterprises:


Using SAFe can be broken down into three components

It builds on the principles of Agile development, lean product development, and system thinking to create a more innovative, reliable, and effective framework.

1. Development using agile methods

Initially introduced to “undo the damages caused by waterfall”, the Agile manifesto has been a guide for software developers for many years.

Iteration, or moving from one stage to another in the product development process, is a breakthrough feature introduced by agile.

Agile promotes teamwork and culture through SAFe.

2. Thinking in systems

An organization’s system is viewed as a collection of interdependent elements. In systems thinking, the customer’s system is molded into a pair with the company’s system.

As part of SAFe, businesses, teams, and resources work together to develop products.

3. Development of lean products

It originated with Total Quality Management and the Toyota Production System. Lean Product Development combines best practices in product development and lean thinking.

Lean Product Development is based on the following principles:

In order to eliminate waste and delays, existing processes must be continually evaluated. — Taiichi Ohno

Lean Product Development consists of the following principles:

  • Gain an understanding of the design, development, and launch of a product
  • Work for a product which respects its people and its culture
  • Develop products in a cyclical manner
  • To eliminate waste and provide value, build and release an MVP
  • Continuously improve your business by following Kaizen principles
  • Make sure quality and fast delivery are achieved by following lean-agile leadership

By following all the principles mentioned above, SAFe understands how to eliminate waste and deliver quality products quickly.


A Scaled Agile Framework has four levels. What are they?

A total of four configurations or levels are available for SAFe, namely Essential, Large Solution, Portfolio, and Full.

  • The essential versions of SAFe are the most basic configurations which contain only the most effective elements. These configurations serve as a foundation for the other versions.
  • It facilitates coordination and synchronization for transparency and a streamlined workflow for large-scale and complex applications.
  • SAFe Portfolio: This configuration aligns portfolio initiatives with the enterprise’s overall solution strategy. Additionally, it provides lean governance and Agile portfolio operations for the teams involved, and it helps define strategy and investment funding for portfolio value streams.
  • Full SAFe: This is an extensive-level configuration that includes all the capabilities necessary to develop large-scale, complex, and integrated solutions as a part of the team program. It is best suited to teams involving hundreds of people whose solution requires a wide variety of processes to be developed and maintained.

How does SAFe operate?

This guide will provide you with a detailed explanation of how each of the Scaled Agile Framework core values ensures effective and timely delivery.

1. Positioning

Even if there is a clear notion of where everyone thinks they are going, a misaligned company will be hard to steer and won’t respond well to changes in direction.

Scaled Agile Framework encourages management and teams to collaborate so that all efforts are focused on customer satisfaction. Managing work across geographically distributed teams while responding to change and maintaining a competitive edge is made easier with alignment.

This ensures everyone understands the system’s ins and outs and preserves the process’s cadence.

2. High-quality built-in

In simple terms, SAFe believes in embedding quality into every stage of the development process instead of adding it afterward. Quality practices are built into all increments and microservices of the overall product.


3. A transparent process

Miscommunications can cause delays, waste of resources, and mismanagement of priorities in product development teams. Transparency is essential to mitigate these failures and to build trust in the process. Keeping the facts clear and communicating regularly will enable the teams to rely on each other and be productive.

4. Execution of programs

With Essential SAFe, Scaled Agile Frameworks ensure timely delivery and continuous improvement. As part of the Agile Release Train (ART), which streamlines program execution, it includes manageable roles, sprints, and artifacts. Team and technical agility (skills and guidelines for teams), Agile product delivery (focused on customer needs), and lean-agile leadership (focused on motivating and empowering teams) are all included in these guidelines.

5. Taking charge

As well as the four core values above, active lean-agile leadership support is crucial. If your SAFe, agile initiative lacks strong leadership, it will fail to embrace all core values and fall like a house of cards, because only leaders can change the system and encourage a continuous learning environment.


Framework Principles for Scaling Agile

Here’s a brief overview of each SAFe principle based on agile and lean principles:

1. Analyze the economy

Scaled agile development requires organizations and teams to understand the economic implications of their decisions early in the process. This principle requires any business to consider economic factors throughout the entire process.

2. Think Systemically

As part of the software development lifecycle stages, all aspects of the system and its environment are considered. System thinking involves three parts: the solution is a complete system, the enterprise that builds the system is a system in itself, and how the whole process optimizes the entire value chain as a whole.

3. Assume Variability; Preserve Options

This principle states that technical and market variability exists throughout the development process. The development practice should not ignore variability altogether. By following the set-based design approach, it is more important to anticipate and accept variability and manage it while preserving options.

4. Accelerate learning through fast, integrated cycles

As a result, incremental development of the solution is emphasized over a series of agile scrums, which is similar to Agile Development. During each sprint, a workable part of the system should be developed, i.e., utilizing a microservice architecture. A comprehensive system can be built from all the microservices when they are combined.

5. Evaluation of working systems based on objective criteria

In order to ensure that the said solution provides value and economic benefits, stakeholders have to collaborate to analyze the economic benefits throughout the development process.

6. Manage queue lengths and visualise work in progress

Keeping processes moving forward is critical to avoiding roadblocks during the development of any product. In order to ensure timely delivery, you can visualize and limit work in the process, reduce batch size, design, implement, conduct testing phases, and reduce queue lengths.

7. Planning across domains and applying cadence

This principle stipulates that cadence, synchronization, and cross-domain planning are essential to delivering quality systems. By keeping events on track and following a predetermined routine, cadence ensures that everything stays on track. In cross-domain planning, business and technical solutions of the system can be integrated and tested, while synchronization ensures that different system components are understood, analyzed, and integrated.

8. Knowing what motivates knowledge workers is key to unlocking their intrinsic motivation

Knowledge workers should be continuously encouraged and motivated to improve their performance based on this principle. To accomplish this, leaders need to understand that money or incentives are not the sole motivators of employees; rather, they should provide purpose and minimal constraints, while respecting the opinions of all team members.

9. Make decisions decentralized

With decentralized decision-making, it is only possible to deliver value in the estimated timeframe, according to this principle. As a result of limited local context, higher authorities often lack clarity when it comes to making decisions, which can lead to a decline in quality. As a result, if it takes a long time for the concerned authority to grant a go-ahead, the facts that need to be considered may become obsolete or completely change due to the time lag.

To improve the overall product development flow, it is essential that decisions be decentralized (except for infrequent, permanent, and scalable decisions).

10. Value-based organization

When enterprises organize their work culture around standard values, they can achieve agility in the market and respond promptly to change. To achieve this agility, product development efforts are labeled as successful in today’s world. Through the organized flow of values, the enterprise is able to quickly adapt to changes in customer and market demands.

Implementing SAFe in 12 steps

The SAFe implementation roadmap has been released by Scaled Agile, Inc. for a safe SAFe transformation.


There are several benefits to implementing a scaled agile framework

This framework provides principles and values for executing product development with the goal of improving project management at every level of the enterprise. The benefits include:

1. Quality Enhancement

The quality of the software depends on customer satisfaction, so a scaled agile framework provides flexibility in innovation. With SAFe, you can expect to:

  • Bugs should be reduced
  • Spend less on warranties
  • Enhance the satisfaction of clients and users

2. Productivity Boost

In Scaled Agile Framework, everybody contributes equally to the ultimate goal, promoting collaboration and engagement across teams. It makes it a desirable framework for distributed agile teams.

  • Enhance product quality
  • Organizational culture should be boosted across all departments
  • Decrease the number of iterations and defects

3. Execution of products with greater efficiency

It is a set of principles and values that bring cadence to the development process. SAFe assures you that all the steps fall into place, leaving no loopholes. As a result, you will be working with a reputed organization that consistently delivers on its promises of quality and timeliness. SAFe provides you with:

  • Establish a timeline for the delivery of the project in advance
  • Deliver on time
  • Improve the business’s net promoter score

4. Transparency in processes

In SAFe software development, transparency helps build team trust, which leads to a more productive environment, resulting in improved performance, motivation, and innovation. With SAFe, you can make sure that:

  • Manage your expectations realistically
  • Teams need to become more trusting
  • Prepare in advance for dependencies and risks

Scaled agile frameworks: SAFe vs. others

SAFe has gained a lot of popularity among large enterprises, but a few other agile frameworks have also gained popularity recently. You can make an informed decision if you understand the core differences between SAFe and these frameworks. SAFe is compared to these agile frameworks:

1. Scrum@Scale vs. SAFe

A Scrum@Scale approach involves a network of scrum teams connected by an ecosystem that allows teams to rapidly scale without having to introduce new processes or change existing roles.

Organizing a Scrum of Scrum of Scrums (SoSoS) with a Scrum of Scrum of Scrums Master (SoSM) may be necessary if you have a large product with 25 scrum teams.

As you add more people to your team, will your productivity suffer or will it increase? Scrum@Scale answers this crucial question.

Scrum@Scale can be useful in these situations:

  • Your technology stack is object-oriented
  • There is a minimum of bureaucracy and a product-centric approach to your team’s work
  • Organizational roadblocks are being removed by the executive team through scrum practices
  • It is not necessary to use agile or Agile Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools until you are accustomed to using them

2. Scrum vs. LeSS: what’s the difference?

LeSS adopts a minimalism approach to roles, structures, and artifacts compared to SAFe. Furthermore, LeSS provides two configurations, e.g., LeSS for two to eight teams and LeSS Huge for more than eight teams, whereas SAFe offers four configurations to accommodate teams of greater size and increasingly complex solutions.

In addition, LeSS differs significantly from SAFe when it comes to software development. The product owner has complete content authority in LeSS, whereas the democratic approach is used in SAFe. Additionally, LeSS places a greater emphasis on customers than SAFe, which emphasizes many factors.

LeSS focuses more strongly on continuous improvement and waste reduction, despite SAFe’s emphasis on systems thinking and lean thinking.

LeSS should be used when:

  • Scrum is second nature to your team.
  • Restructuring and experimentation are acceptable to the leadership team.
  • A product definition has been agreed upon and it has been completed.
  • An external coach and mentor are actively supporting you.
  • Project management is to be completely discarded by the organization.

3. Defining SAFe and defining DA

In Disciplined Agile (DA), organizations can decide what working style makes sense for them. With lightweight, agile governance rooted in Scrum and Kanban, and transformation knowledge in HR and finance, governance, DevOps, and portfolio management, it offers a holistic approach to governance. DA focuses on decision-making enablement in order to guide strategic direction by applying different scale levels based on the situation.

Disciplined Agile (DA) is a useful toolkit for the following situations:

  • Scale agile paths are important to your organization’s flexibility.
  • Process and framework choices should be preserved by the organization

4. Agile Model Comparison between SAFe and Spotify

People-driven, autonomous agile practices were the goal of Spotify’s agile model all along; it was not intended as a framework or model.

While SAFe does not require co-location of teams, it is encouraged for PI planning purposes. Spotify uses a self-organizing, cross-functional, and co-located model called “squads” (similar to scrum teams).

Further, squads are organized into tribes, which consist of larger units. If there are any dependencies between squads, they are dealt with through Scrum of Scrums. Chapters, guilds, and informal groups are used to share knowledge.

The Spotify agile model is best used when:

  • Organizations emphasize learning, taking risks, and allowing mistakes
  • A tight alignment between your product and team reduces dependency conflicts between them

Why should your company choose SAFe?

The fact that SAFe has worked for many enterprises doesn’t mean it will work for you. Before you decide whether to implement SAFe or not, you need to keep several things in mind. They include:

Is scaled agile framework(SAFe) used by any companies?


ciscoIn its initial design, Cisco’s Subscription Billing Platform was based on waterfall, which led to slow development, defects, extended release cycles, and incomplete delivery pipelines. Using SAFe, the organization has reduced defects by 40% and improved defect removal efficiency by 14%.

2. Wearables

FitbitIn order to meet its strict product delivery schedule during the holiday season, Fitbit has been using Scrum. With a growing customer base, the company had to scale its process. As a result of its successful scaling effort, Fitbit implemented SAFe, released four new products, and shipped 22 million devices.

3. Philips Electronics

Royal-PhilipsA traditional development approach took Philips 18 months to complete a release, whereas SAFe saved it more than 240 days and reduced its feature cycle time by about 100 days.

4. Digitization Solutions for LEGO

LEGOle-Digital-SolutionsWhile Lego digital solutions started with five development teams that were easily able to collaborate, as their number grew to 20 teams, challenges arose such as client collaboration and cross-team alignment, which made release planning a challenge.

The SAFe framework was implemented by Lego Digital Solutions in order to address this issue, and they observed a significant reduction in duplicate work problems, fewer dependency issues, and an enhanced planning process, which improved customer trust.

How does Scaled Agile Framework compare to other methodologies?

There are pros and cons to SAFe, just like other agile approaches. Here’s what they are:

SAFe’s advantages

  • Rather than centralizing decision-making, SAFe enhances the software development process.
  • Bringing SAFe to software leaders who need to address higher-level strategy questions goes beyond the front lines of software development.
  • Large-scale and complex projects can be easily coordinated using it.
  • Team alignment with business objectives is made easier with SAFe
  • With SAFe, priorities are aligned from the top down and decisions are centralized.
  • SAFe enables teams to create standardized processes, eliminating obstacles and delays commonly encountered during cross-team collaboration.

What SAFe does not do

  • It may appear that SAFe follows a top-down approach like a waterfall model, which most businesses attempt to escape.
  • Developers have more freedom with SAFe than with Scrum, as it is more managerially oriented.
  • Processes run slower with SAFe and flexibility is limited.
  • It is often the case that SAFe’s top-down approach creates silos between developers, testers, and product owners, compromising the quality of the software they create.
  • As a result of SAFe, planning cycles are longer and more fixed roles are associated, so delivery times are affected.
  • It takes a lot of time to plan and document SAFe projects, which could otherwise be used to develop software.

Is it the right time to implement SAFe?

You must also know when and when not to use SAFe in order to determine if it is the right approach for you.

What are the benefits of SAFe?

  • Team members in agile environments are dependent on each other in multiple ways.
  • Inefficient feedback is caused by too many silos between the development, testing, and business teams.
  • Delivery, risk, and dependency transparency are priorities for stakeholders.
  • It is not aligned with your company’s business strategy.
  • Having multiple locations across multiple countries is part of your company’s operation.

Is SAFe always a good idea?

  • A team’s front-end team prefers to implement sprints every four weeks, but the design team prefers sprints every two weeks.
  • There is no interdependence between your teams.
  • 50-60 people make up your entire organization.
  • Adapting to the rising market is a challenge for startups.
  • Getting the hang of agile is still a work in progress.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Saloni Sardana
Article written by

Saloni Sardana

Saloni, a skilled software tester with a passion for ensuring top-notch quality in every project. With a keen eye for detail, Saloni excels in crafting and executing comprehensive test plans. Her commitment to delivering bug-free software is evident ... read more

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