SAFe Agile: Definition, Benefits and 10 Principles

It was only a relatively few years ago that traditional waterfall project management was pretty much the only way to go. And while it worked well for many projects – especially ones considered ‘predictive’ – it didn’t work so well for ones we will call adaptive. And so, over the past 20 years and especially the last 10 or so, agile has been increasingly used in projects, primarily software-based ones. To know more about SAFe agile certification, click here.

To define our terms, according to the Project Management Body of Knowledge Sixth Edition, “in a predictive or waterfall life cycle, the project scope, time, and cost are determined in the early phases of the life cycle. In an adaptive or agile life cycle, the “deliverables are developed over multiple iterations where a detailed scope is defined and approved for each iteration as it begins.”

SAFe Explained in Five Minutes

Principles of SAFe in the agile framework

The principles of SAFe provide the basis for project management using this framework. The four core principles of SAFe agile include:

What is SAFe?

SAFe is a framework that organizations use to plan and customize agile workflows to meet their business needs. SAFe refers to a Scalable Agile Framework and includes a series of steps and principles that help organizations manage and improve systems. SAFe provides a basis for which businesses can apply SCRUM and other agile frameworks to a large organization with multiple departments.

SAFe agile is an organized system of steps that businesses can apply to product development, even at the enterprise level. Its effective in businesses with a large number of team members.

Steps in the SAFe process

The SAFe agile frame includes 10 steps that guide members on how to move through the different phases of the project. Here are the steps that are a part of the SAFe process:

1. Take an economic view

Taking an economic view refers to always providing the best, and most profitable, quality work. It also focuses on delivering work in the shortest sustainable amount of time possible. Taking an economic view includes considering each development value stream and ensuring it fits within the projects budget.

2. Apply systems thinking to the project

To apply systems thinking, the team first identifies and addresses any challenges. They work to understand the different systems of the project, considering how they each correlate with other phases. The primary goal during this objective is for every team member to understand the larger scope and goals of the project. Considering systems includes both evaluating the systems under development, as well as the organization that creates them.

3. Assume variability and preserve options

The SAFe agile framework also recognizes that taking the time to implement a strategy and later finding out that it isnt effective, can be time-consuming. Assuming variability and preserving options means continuing to consider all framework choices, even after choosing one. The team continues to evaluate data, narrowing their focus until they choose a single option.

4. Build incrementally

The SAFe agile framework includes building systems incrementally in short periods. This allows teams to consider customer feedback with each cycle and minimize risk. The next phase of the project then builds onto the previous one, using the given feedback. The company may also use the feedback to change direction, and shift toward a different revenue stream.

5. Base milestones on evaluation

The SAFe agile framework prioritizes economic benefits. Team leaders measure success through objective milestones, which means building the system in increments. Rather than setting date objectives, the team waits to move onto additional phases of the project until they have evidence of the feasibility of the previous section.

6. Visualize and limit work-in-progress

Another goal of SAFe agile framework is for work to continually flow. This ensures that systems move fast and concepts are complete in a timely manner. Visualizing and limiting work in progress refers to increasing the throughput of work and placing limits on how much work a particular team can maintain at one time. It may include reducing batch sizes or working toward decreasing wait times between phases.

7. Apply cadence and synchronize

Applying cadence and synchronizing helps create a smooth workflow. This step involves synchronizing with other departments to understand and resolve challenges as they arise, while also making improvements to the process. This helps teams better predict wait times and more efficiently use the people and resources that are a part of the project.

8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation

The SAFe agile framework also aims to understand the internal innovation and motivation for employee engagement and productivity levels. It recognizes that most employees dont receive motivation solely from individual compensation. Instead, this principle aims to provide autonomy to team members by providing them with a purpose and encouraging an environment of mutual influence.

9. Decentralize decision-making

Decentralizing decision-making can help speed up the completion of the project. While some decisions may need input from certain team members, this principle involves creating a framework that provides transparency in the decision-making process. Instead of having a few people make most decisions, the team distributes decisions among the group.

10. Organize value

To maximize efficiency, the SAFe agile framework prioritizes value and the speed at which a company can provide customers with a value. The framework recognizes that to meet customers needs, cooperation and efficiency are important. It also highlights that customer demands are constantly changing, which then requires the team to speed up the process in which they can make changes.

Benefits of using SAFe as an agile framework

Applying the SAFe agile framework to your teams development plan can help to speed up the process, while also improving the overall quality of the work. Here are some of the benefits that come with using SAFe as an agile framework:

Improve employee engagement

Having a set process in place can help to improve employee engagement. The framework allows teams to understand where other teams are at in the process. It also allows agile leaders to learn more about their team members and work styles through continuous engagement within the framework.

Speed up time to project completion

The SAFe agile framework can lead to faster project completion rates. This means that businesses can get their products or services in the market faster. It also means that teams can better and more quickly adjust to the changing needs of the customer.

Improve team productivity

The ability to communicate and engage with other teams and departments can also improve overall team productivity. The SAFe agile framework encourages team members to focus on completing one task, ensuring that everyone understands the current needs of the project. This focus improves organization, teamwork and overall efficiency.

Maximize quality of work

Focusing on a single task before moving on to other parts of the project can also help to improve the overall quality of work. Teams are better able to coordinate efforts with one another and connect with the resources they need to complete different phases. The faster project timeline can also help team members learn the effectiveness of a product, and move on when necessary.

Aligns the goals of the project

By helping teams better coordinate, the SAFe agile framework aligns the goals of the project, ensuring everyone understands the purpose. The SAFe agile framework values transparency and honesty, encouraging team members to work together, stay organized and be accountable for their phases of the project. It also creates a foundation for a disciplined project process that prioritizes reaching goals.

SAFe vs. other agile frameworks

SAFe is one of the scaled agile frameworks. Other scaled agile frameworks include:

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