I work with many organizations that are trying valiantly to transition to agile. While it is noble to try to just follow the agile principles and develop your own solution, most understandably find comfort and support in following a well-understood and documented agile framework.

But which of the many frameworks do you choose? Scrum? Kanban? LESS? DAD?

In many larger organizations, the framework du jour is the Scaled Agile Framework®, or SAFe. But what is SAFe and is it always the right choice for every large organization?

What is SAFe?

At its core, SAFe is a methodology based on lean-agile principles designed specifically for organizations delivering large, complex solutions at scale. To that end, SAFe tends to be much more prescriptive than smaller and more focused frameworks such as Scrum. This often earns it the ire of agile purists.

I don’t, however, think this means it is a bad framework or is not useful when applied properly. You just need to realize that it is a framework, made up of pieces that can be used together or individually as needed. And even its most prescriptive elements can–and must–be tweaked and made to fit a particular context.

For example, PI Planning is an event that is central to any SAFe implementation. I’ve participated in several very successful PI Planning events, and never has a single one gone exactly as described by SAFe.

But SAFe is definitely not for every organization. It is definitely overkill for relatively simple systems that can be built by a single team. Even in situations where there may be a handful of teams working together, but the integration points are simple and straightforward, the increased overhead required by SAFe will outweigh its benefits.

When to Consider SAFe

However, you DO want to consider SAFe if one or more of the following applies to your organization:

  • You require more than three teams of 7-10 people working together to build a solution, and this solution is part of a key value stream for your organization;
  • The successful delivery of your solution relies on significant integration and coordination efforts between multiple teams; or
  • You rely heavily on one or more external supplier teams to build a significant or critical portion of your solution.

Additional Learning

Coveros has several certified SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs) that can help organizations begin using SAFe. As a start we recommend Leading SAFe with SAFe Agilist (SA) Certification for leaders and change agents.

And when you’re ready for a wider roll-out, we believe strongly in the value of a shared learning experience for team members at all levels. SAFe for Teams will help team members understand the Agile Release Train and how to be an effective member of a SAFe Agile Team. Likewise, role-based training such as SAFe Scrum Master and SAFe Product Manager/Product Owner will help individuals understand how to be effective in those specific roles.

In addition, we can work with you to have our consultants deliver any of these courses at your location and work more closely with you to design and implement a SAFe transformation strategy. You can read more about our agile transformation process and services here, or schedule a quick call to hear about some of our recent SAFe success stories.

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