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Scaled Agile Framework- Which One is Right For You?

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

What is Scaled Agile Framework?

Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe is an interactive Software framework created by Dean Leffingwell to enable implementation of Lean-Agile and Scrum practices in large organizations. Over the years, many versions have been released, and the latest one is Leading SAFe 6.0 with many improvements. Specifically, the latest version provides better support for DevOps, Lean Portfolio Management, and Agile Product Development.

Types of SAFe

SAFe consists of four configurations which are being improvised constantly-

  1. Essential SAFe- This is the most basic configuration that describes the most critical elements required to provide benefits. It includes two levels i.e. Team and Program Level which includes ARTs. In other words, this is most suitable for an enterprise where there a minimum of 50 and maximum 200 people involved.

  2. Large Solution SAFe- This type of SAFe allows collaboration and synchronization within multiple programs but there is no consideration for portfolio. This option intends to combine many different products that are inter-related in a single structure to communicate. Here, the presence of 2 or more ARTs indicates involvement of hundreds of people so it is suitable for large enterprises.

  3. Portfolio SAFe- We've augmented something similar to Essential SAFe with an additional layer called Portfolio. We designed this layer for business leaders in the organization to apply Lean-Agile principles to prioritize work while still using a single ART.

  4. Full SAFe- This is the last and the largest configuration which reflects integration of Portfolio SAFe and Large Solution SAFe. Very few organizations need this configuration at the beginning of adopting SAFe.

What are the four levels of SAFe?

SAFe is the most popular framework among enterprises who want to implement Agile values to achieve corporate goals. There are four levels to aid smooth implementation-

1. Portfolio level

This is the basic or beginner level of SAFe which emphasizes on objectives, priorities, values and goals of the organization. Additionally, the SAFe methodology focuses on continuous improvement and adaptation to change. To manage and look after Lean techniques and SAFe, there is a separate department called PMO or Portfolio Management Office. A midsized organization has one Portfolio which serves the purpose but a large enterprise may have multiple portfolios. There are a few characteristics of this level-

  • It is the highest level in SAFe.

  • Strategies have been defined in this level.

  • The purpose and goals of the organization are specified here.

  • At this level, we deal with crucial business issues such as changes in management, approaches, and finances.

  • We create the product roadmap at this base level.

  • We measure the progress of the project using Lean concepts.

2. Program Level

This is the second and the most significant level among all the levels of SAFe. ART or Agile Release Train, consisting of 8-10 members who add value to a certain project, is the focus point of this level. Additionally, each ART creates specific applications or products to match the client's requirements based on a specific core aim. This is an iterative process and needs continuous efforts for long-term development. The main features of this level are-

  • The Program Backlog is always reviewed and accordingly updated in this level.

  • ARTs give an indicator for duration to build a product.

  • For quick delivery of value they assess and plan to simplify the fragments.

  • We use a procedure called WSJF or Weighted Shortest Job First to prioritize work.

  • We also include Program Increments in this level to duly inform the stakeholders about the progress.

3. Team Level

This is the level where SAFe adopts similar techniques like Scrum or Kanban where the whole work is divide into basically 2 Sprints. A few artifacts and activities are identical to Scrum. SAFe POPM, Scrum Master, Business Analysts, Developers, User Experience Specialist, Tester are few important roles of the Team Level. The few characteristics of this level are-

  • We use XP as the foundation for engineering techniques at this level.

  • Use of Continuous Integration is mandatory for scaling.

  • We use a technique called TDD to assure the quality.

  • We create and evaluate a backlog for work to be done at the end of each iteration, similar to other levels.

  • We schedule a few activities such as Sprint Planning and Sprint Planning Retrospective here.

4. Value Stream Level

To deliver the high quality solutions to the users ARTs and Program teams work together. This level plays a critical role for organizations that want to get ahead of their competitors. Meanwhile, the level is divide in two categories- Operational Stage and Development stage.

What is the benefit of SAFe?

SAFe has become very popular due to its ability to provide good quality solutions to the clients. There are some benefits that an organization receives while using SAFe-

  • Increase in quality of product

  • Improvement in productivity

  • More transparency

  • Alignment of all the resources

  • Higher level of customer engagement

Which are the major roles in a SAFe team?

Some key roles in a SAFe team are-

  • Scrum Master

  • Agile Team


  • Release Train Engineer

  • Business Owner

  • System Architect

  • Solution Manager

  • Solution Engineer/Architect

  • Solution Train Engineer

  • Epic Owners

  • Enterprise Architect

  • SAFe Program Consultant

Different Certification courses under SAFe

Numerous platforms offer SAFe certification courses for various areas, and Acekube is a certified platform that can help you build or boost your career in SAFe. In fact, Acekube provides several certifications, including:

Conclusion The details about SAFe conclude that there are different types of SAFe configurations that suit to different organizations.
  1. Is Scrum Master the most important role in a SAFe team?

          - No, there are many other roles in a team.