What is SAFe? Eight Facts About the Scaled Agile Framework That You Should Know.

If you’ve spent much time working in enterprise environments, you might have heard about the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). And if that’s the case, there’s also a good chance that you’ve heard many opinions about what SAFe is and what it’s not. 

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a ‘SAFe-adjacent’ space, are curious about how SAFe concepts can help you, or are new to the space entirely. Regardless, here are eight facts about SAFe that you should know. 

 1: SAFe is based on nearly 100 years of lessons learned

The concepts within SAFe are nothing new. In fact, one key aspect of the Framework—flow—was first documented by Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno in the 1930s as the Toyota Production System (translated to Lean manufacturing).

2: Enterprises of all sizes are using SAFe to solve the digital transformation equation

For organizations such as MetLife, Lockheed Martin, and PepsiCo, SAFe has proven to be a significant factor in helping them figure out what it means to be a digital organization and how to remain competitive in a post-digital economy. What have we learned? That in 2020, every company is a digital company that may serve a specific customer or market. Mastering customer centricity and technology are not optional. 

3: Enterprises use SAFe to successfully run their entire business

Though SAFe has helped many large organizations address the challenges of large and complex solutions, the Framework is not effective only in those circumstances. In fact, many smaller organizations (such as Mattis & Company and Scaled Agile itself) have found success running their entire business using Portfolio SAFe. It doesn’t matter if technology is your entire business or only part of it, the concepts of organizing around value, Lean startup, and business agility transcend the type of work being done. 

4: Enterprises use SAFe to successfully build complicated cyber-physical solutions
SAFe has helped organizations, such as FitBit, solve the complexity of delivering cyber-physical solutions (the art of marrying software and hardware) within a tight market rhythm to achieve quality and predictability. Organizations like FitBit also appreciate the guidance around Agile Product Management and Lean Portfolio Management to help them achieve strategy agility

5: SAFe helps highlight opportunities for improvement

When organizations begin their SAFe journey, many systemic issues become very clear. Issues such as bloated processes, communication bottlenecks, duplicative work, and a lack of understanding around what customers teams serve. While SAFe won’t fix these problems for you, applying the Lean-Agile Mindset, SAFe Lean-Agile Principles, and SAFe Core Values can help you figure out the correct path given your unique context and circumstances.  

6: SAFe is more about what you value than what you do

Many well-intentioned people have relied on the processes within SAFe to address their issues. And more often than not, these people have been quick to learn that SAFe is less about what we do and more about why we do it. Changing mindset, values, and principles is hard to do on your own. Fortunately, there is a plan to help you get started, and plenty of seasoned professionals to guide you along the way. 

7: Enterprises use the tools within SAFe to solve all sorts of problems
You’re in the right headspace if you consider SAFe a giant toolbox—a resource full of proven concepts and patterns that can be used to solve a wide variety of problems, like quality, time-to-market, and employee engagement. But those aren’t the only problems SAFe can help an organization address. At Scaled Agile, we regularly maintain and expand our library of valuable resources, including toolkits, workshops, and videos—all freely available to members of the SAFe Community Platform. Consultants and coaches use these resources daily to help organizations create solutions that are rooted in the Lean-Agile Principles and applied in organizations’ specific context. 

8: SAFe is constantly evolving

As the global business climate continues to change at an ever-accelerating pace, the Framework is changing along with it. From providing guidance around participatory budgeting, SAFe® for Marketing, and people agility—and in the spirit of relentless improvement—the Scaled Agile team is constantly working to refine these concepts. We’re committed to understanding markets, evolving business guidance, and helping you help others win in the post-digital economy.

Join us at this year’s 2020 Global SAFe Summit to learn more about SAFe from the people practicing it, and explore a wide variety of concepts and topics. I hope to see you there!

About Adam Mattis

Adam Mattis

Adam Mattis is a SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT) at Scaled Agile with many years of experience overseeing SAFe implementations across a wide range of industries. He's also an experienced transformation architect, engaging speaker, energetic trainer, and a regular contributor to the broader Lean-Agile and educational communities. Learn more about Adam at adammattis.com.