Scaling Software Agility using SAFe

SAFe™ – the Scaled Agile Framework® – is an increasingly popular and proven approach for implementing lean and agile practices at enterprise scale and defined by Dean Leffingwell, the approach uses elements of Lean thinking, Agile development techniques and concepts of Product Development Flow. After several field experiences at Enterprise Scale in many organisations, SAFe has evolved into a broad and detail framework of guidance and it can be accessed at

Product development at enterprises involves multiple teams, synchronization of product vision, planning, and interdependencies to continuously deliver value to customer at sustainable pace. Multiple teams have to work together to deliver on demand from the market needs. In SAFe , this is done defining identifying portfolios to various programs (E-Commerce, CRM, and Inventory Management Streams etc). Each program may have separated multiple teams to fulfill the program back log requirements and have to deliver the product releases as and when needed.

SAFe works well and effectively adopted to 50-100 team members working on a product with multiple agile teams. It provides transformation roadmap to execute and manage portfolios, using lean thinking principles moving away from the traditional mindset of managing portfolios in enterprises. It strongly believes in having a centralized strategy and local decision making. Any enterprise should have centralized strategy at portfolio level for funding investments based on the market, business needs and localized execution at programs level. This is achieved in SAFe with multiple agile teams work separately with fixed 2 weeks iterations developing on cadence, and synchronizing at program level to deliver Potential Shippable Increments (PSIs) solutions every 8-10 weeks, continuously delivering value to the customers. Hence SAFe brings close connection between Portfolios, Programs and Teams responsible for deliveries. It brings close involvement of Senior Leadership at portfolio level(VP, SVP, CTO, CXOs etc) to release management, product management responsible for product vision, road map, release planning and then to the implementation multiple agile teams where all are synchronized and aligned to deliver solutions on demand.

Scaling agile at enterprises in SAFe consists

  1. Capable Agile teams (Team Level)
  2. Scaling to Program Level
  3. Scaling to Portfolio Level


  1. Capable Agile teams (Team Level):

It involves in building the capability of agile teams which are cross functional to deliver valuable, fully tested software increments every 2 weeks. Agile teams are empowered, self organizing, self managing teams with developers, testers, Scrum/Agile master, Product Owner. Teams apply Scrum project management framework and extreme programming technical practices. These Agile teams operate under Program Vision, System Architecture and UX guidance. Every agile team has a Team Backlog (Similar to Product backlog in Scrum) which is derived from Program level Objectives for iteration planning.

2. Scaling at Program Level:

In SAFe agile teams at program level define release plans, self organize and self manages for continuous delivery and they use Agile Release Trains(ART). The Agile release trains are responsible to realize the value streams and organized around value streams identified at enterprise level. The budget allocated for each Agile release trains comes from Investment Themes identified at Portfolio Level by the executives responsible for portfolio management. The team of Agile teams deliver fully tested, system level solutions every 8-10 weeks in the form Potential Shippable Increments (PSIs). Agile teams perform Release Planning (PSI Planning) in the beginning of PSI release, to make sure of development collaboration and to evaluate if they are developing on Cadence.

3. Scaling at Portfolio Level:

Scaling Agile at Program level makes uses of Lean Agile principles emphasize decentralized decision making, continuous flow (sustainable value delivery). Portfolio Vision is defined my Senior Management responsible for portfolios, it guides the Investments (Investments Themes) and Enterprise Architecture to meet customer needs and business needs. Investment themes indicate how the Portfolio allocates budgets to Release Trains. The budget for a Release train comes from Investment Themes. These Investment Themes help identifying and funding new development work. Business Strategy is guided by identifying Business Epics (derived from strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions or unexpected events etc, may run across multiple programs, release trains etc) and use Kanban system to monitor work in process for continuous product flow. Enterprise Architecture makes use of Architectural Epics (Technological Initiatives such as System Integration out of Merger and acquisitions, performance and Scalability etc) makes use of kanban system. At portfolio level, scaling software agility also comprised of defining agile metrics and governance model (Agile project management office)


  • Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Addison-Wesley, 2011.
  • Scaled Agile Framework, Dean Leffing Well,


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