Table of Contents

Implementing Essential SAFe

What is Essential SAFe?

Essential SAFe is the simplest starting point for SAFe implementation, providing minimal elements necessary for Agile Release Trains (ARTs) to deliver solutions.

Essential SAFe

Essential SAFe, as a configuration of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), embodies the most basic elements required to adopt SAFe practices in an organization. These include:

  1. The Foundation elements: This encompasses the Lean-Agile Mindset, Core Values, SAFe Principles, Implementation Roadmap, and the role of the SPC.
  2. Two Core Competencies: Lean-Agile Leadership and Continuous Learning Culture. The former describes how leaders drive and sustain organizational change and operational excellence, while the latter encourages ongoing knowledge and skill enhancement.
  3. Two Delivery Core Competencies: Team and Technical Agility and Agile Product Delivery. The former encapsulates high-performing Agile teams’ principles and practices, while the latter defines a customer-centric approach to product delivery.
  4. Essential Level Roles, Artifacts, and Events: These are crucial components for driving the ARTs, and facilitating viable and sustainable solutions delivery.

Essential SAFe Competencies

Team and Technical Agility

Team and Technical Agility is a SAFe Core Competency that promotes high-performing Agile teams capable of delivering high-quality, valuable increments of work.

This competency involves two key elements: ‘Agile Teams’ and ‘Built-in Quality.’ Agile Teams consist of cross-functional members who deliver value in short, iterative cycles. Built-in Quality signifies the commitment to create quality at the source rather than through inspection, emphasizing practices like Test-Driven Development, Continuous Integration, and Pair Programming. Both aspects work together to deliver consistent, reliable outcomes that meet customer expectations.

Agile Product Delivery

Agile Product Delivery is a SAFe Core Competency that ensures the delivery of customer value by aligning development, operations, and business needs.

Agile Product Delivery comprises ‘Customer Centricity and Design Thinking,’ ‘Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand,’ and ‘DevOps and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline.’ Customer Centricity and Design Thinking focus on understanding user needs and crafting solutions to meet these needs. Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand addresses the need for a reliable, sustainable development rhythm responsive to market demands. DevOps and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline involve the fusion of development and operations, ensuring a continuous flow of value to the customer.

Lean-Agile Leadership

Lean-Agile Leadership is a SAFe Core Competency that encourages leaders to drive and sustain organizational change by exemplifying Lean and Agile values and principles.

Lean-Agile Leadership embodies three main aspects: ‘Lead the change,’ ‘Know the way, and emphasize lifelong learning,’ and ‘Develop people.’ Leading the change involves adopting a new mindset and encouraging others to follow suit. Knowing the way requires leaders to understand and apply SAFe principles and practices and promote continuous learning. Developing people emphasizes the need to grow and empower individuals and teams within the organization.

Essential SAFe Constructs

The Agile Release Train (ART)

The Agile Release Train (ART) is a long-lived, self-organizing team of Agile Teams focused on delivering value through aligned goals and coordinated efforts.

Organized around the enterprise’s significant Development Value Streams, ARTs eliminate functional silos, enabling faster value flow. In traditional functional organizations, developers, testers, architects, systems engineers, and operations work in separate silos, which slows down progress. However, ARTs apply systems thinking and organize around value. This creates an optimized cross-functional organization that facilitates value flow from “concept” to “cash.” The ART forms a key structure within SAFe, comprising the following seven elements:

  1. Team of Teams: An ART consists of 50-125 people organized into multiple Agile teams that work towards a shared mission.
  2. Virtual Organization: ART operates as a virtual organization, planning, committing, and deploying together to achieve shared goals.
  3. Value Stream Alignment: ARTs are organized around the enterprise’s major Development Value Streams to build and deliver solutions that benefit the customer.
  4. Cross-functional: ARTs possess all necessary skills to define, build, validate, release, and, when applicable, operate solutions.
  5. Long-lived: ARTs are long-lived entities that incrementally develop, deliver, and often operate one or more solutions in a value stream.
  6. Common Vision, Program Backlog, and Roadmap: These elements bind all the teams in an ART, providing direction and focus.
  7. Facilitated by Release Train Engineer (RTE): The RTE manages the flow of value through the ART.

The Continuous Delivery Pipeline

The Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP) is an automated workflow guiding new functionalities from ideation to on-demand value release, with four aspects: Continuous Exploration, Integration, Deployment, and Release on Demand.

The CDP consists of:

  1. Continuous Exploration (CE): This phase aligns understanding of what needs to be built by leveraging design thinking and market research to define Minimum Viable Products or Features.
  2. Continuous Integration (CI): Agile Teams implement features from the ART backlog, ensuring end-to-end functionality before moving to a staging environment.
  3. Continuous Deployment (CD): Changes are deployed to production, verified, and monitored for correctness.
  4. Release on Demand (RoD): Value is made available to customers based on market and business needs, allowing optimal timing and risk control for each release.

These aspects collaboratively enable frequent, small-batch functionality delivery.

Customer Centricity

Customer Centricity is an organizational mindset prioritizing customer needs and experiences, leading to increased engagement, profits, and customer satisfaction.

Customer Centricity involves:

  1. Focus on Customer: Align organizational efforts towards targeted customer segments.
  2. Understand Needs: Identify fundamental customer needs beyond explicit feature requests.
  3. Empathize with Customer: See the world from their perspective.
  4. Build Complete Solutions: Design comprehensive solutions for customers’ needs, continually evolving the experience.
  5. Know Customer Lifetime Value: Shift from a transactional mentality to long-term relationships based on understanding customer value.

This approach ensures delivering desirable, profitable, and sustainable products.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is an iterative, customer-centric process to create desirable, sustainable, and profitable solutions through understanding problems and designing innovative solutions.

Design Thinking encompasses:

  1. Understanding the Problem: Empathize with users to understand their needs, challenges, and context.
  2. Designing a Solution: Create innovative solutions that address the identified problems.
  3. Delivery to Market: Deliver the solution through an iterative process.
  4. Measuring Success: Assess the solution’s desirability, feasibility, viability, and sustainability.
  5. Iterative Process: Continuously improve the solution based on feedback and observations.

This approach ensures that the created solutions fit users’ needs and provide value, driving profitability and sustainability.

Lean UX

Lean UX is a team-based approach focusing on iterative learning, overall user experience, and customer outcomes rather than solely on ideal design.

Lean UX involves:

  1. Team-Based Approach: Collaborative effort across the team to create better products.
  2. Iterative Learning: Focus on continuous improvement based on feedback and learning.
  3. Customer Outcomes: The ultimate goal is to improve customer experience and outcomes.
  4. Comprehensive View: It extends beyond traditional design to understand a feature’s why, functionality, and benefits.
  5. Closed-loop Method: Incorporates immediate feedback to measure and define value.

This approach integrates Agile development with Lean Startup methodologies to deliver a delightful user experience.

PI (Planning Interval)

A Planning Interval (PI) is a timeboxed period, typically 8-12 weeks, in which Agile Release Trains deliver value in line with PI objectives.

Key characteristics of a Planning Interval include:

  1. Cadence-Based Timebox: Typically 8-12 weeks, it structures delivery into manageable timeframes.
  2. Alignment with PI Objectives: Teams work towards predefined goals, ensuring alignment.
  3. Fixed Timebox: It facilitates planning, building, validating, and delivering value and encourages fast feedback.
  4. Cadence and Synchronization: Multiple teams’ work aligns into one or more releasable increments.
  5. WIP Limitation: Constrains the amount of work to manageable levels.
  6. Feedback: Newsworthy value is summarized for review and improvement.
  7. Portfolio Considerations: Provides an appropriate timeframe for portfolio and roadmap planning.

Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand

Establishing routine development activities on a fast, synchronized cadence is a proven strategy for managing variability in product development. Releasing on demand delivers value when needed by customers, the market, and the business, providing a strategic advantage. Product collaborates with stakeholders to determine when, what should be released, and to whom.

Iterations

Iterations are fixed-duration timeboxes during which Agile Teams and Agile Release Trains deliver incremental customer value towards PI objectives.

  1. Fixed-Duration Timebox: Iterations are standard, consistent periods during work completion.
  2. Incremental Value Delivery: Agile teams deliver components of customer value.
  3. Alignment with PI Objectives: The work delivered aligns with the overarching goals of the Planning Interval (PI).
  4. IP Iteration: The final iteration of a PI, dedicated to innovation, planning, and adjustment.
  5. Cadence Synchronization: All teams on an Agile Release Train synchronize to the same iteration cadence.
  6. PDCA Cycle: Each iteration follows a Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle to improve continuously.
  7. Adaptability: Practices within iterations can vary based on the team’s chosen methodology, such as Scrum or Kanban.

The Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration

The Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration is a dedicated PI timebox for innovation, education, PI planning, and “Inspect and Adapt” events, providing an estimating buffer.

  1. Unique PI Iteration: The IP Iteration occurs once every Planning Interval (PI).
  2. Estimating Buffer: Provides an additional buffer for achieving PI objectives, enhancing predictability.
  3. Dedicated Time: Allows for focused innovation, continued learning, PI Planning, and Inspect & Adapt (I&A) events.
  4. Overcomes “Tyranny of the Urgent”: Mitigates risk of delivery urgency overshadowing innovation.
  5. Enhances ART Health: Maintains the proficiency, agility, and effectiveness of Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and their teams.
  6. Improves Predictability and Flow: Ensures smooth, reliable delivery of value.
  7. Increases Engagement and Agility: Encourages employee engagement and reduces burnout, fostering greater organizational resilience and competitive advantage.

SAFe Scrum

SAFe Scrum is an Agile method employed within Agile Release Trains to deliver value in short timeframes using iterations, Kanban systems, and Scrum events.

  1. Agile Methodology: SAFe Scrum is a process for Agile teams to manage and deliver customer value within a defined period effectively.
  2. Uses Scrum Constructs: Incorporates iterations, Kanban systems, and Scrum events for planning, executing, and retrospecting work.
  3. Built-in Quality: Teams practice Built-in Quality techniques and other practices beyond Scrum’s original definition.
  4. Decentralized Decision-Making: Aligns with SAFe Principle #9, giving teams authority and autonomy in planning, executing, and adapting their work.
  5. Self-Managed, Cross-Functional Teams consist of all necessary roles and skills to independently develop and deliver value increments, fostering a dynamic and productive work environment.

SAFe Team Kanban

SAFe Team Kanban is an Agile methodology used within ARTs to optimize continuous value delivery using a visual, pull-based system.

SAFe Team Kanban is an Agile approach utilized within Agile Release Trains (ARTs) that employs a visual, pull-based workflow. This method ensures continuous value delivery by defining, visualizing, and actively managing items in a workflow. It’s particularly beneficial for teams experiencing a rapid influx of work and shifting priorities that might diminish the benefits of traditional iteration planning. This system allows such teams to manage their backlogs better, improve workflows, and deliver increments of value efficiently and effectively while ensuring Built-in Quality.

Built-in Quality

Built-in Quality in SAFe are practices ensuring Agile team outputs meet quality standards throughout the value-creation process.

Built-in Quality in SAFe refers to the systemic integration of quality practices within Agile team processes. It stresses that the quality of work products, including software, hardware designs, marketing materials, and others, directly influences the speed of solution delivery. This approach requires ongoing training and commitment but reaps significant rewards: improved customer satisfaction, enhanced delivery predictability, better system performance, and a greater ability to innovate, scale, and meet compliance requirements. Built-in Quality is essential for rapid value flow, faster problem discovery, and expedited corrective actions, all crucial for business agility.

SAFe DevOps

SAFe DevOps is a culture, mindset, and technical practices that promote integration, automation, and collaboration for effective solution development and operation.

DevOps constitutes a mindset, culture, and technical practices that foster the effective integration, automation, and collaboration necessary to develop and operate a solution. It helps to dismantle organizational silos and develop a Continuous Delivery Pipeline, a potent engine for innovation that delivers solutions at the speed of business. The simple goal of SAFe DevOps is to deliver value whenever a business need arises, accelerating deployment, minimizing failures, and expediting incident recovery.

SAFe DevSecOps

SAFe DevSecOps integrates security practices into the continuous delivery process, ensuring security isn’t an afterthought but a top-level concern.

SAFe DevSecOps integrates security practices within the continuous delivery process of DevOps. Originating from the need to address security explicitly, it ensures that security is a primary concern rather than an afterthought in the value stream. The principle of DevSecOps advocates for security measures to be built into the solution from the outset, shifting security testing left to prevent vulnerabilities and automating it for enhanced speed and accuracy. In SAFe, the term “DevOps” implicitly means “DevSecOps”, recognizing that protecting various stakeholders is essential to the DevOps practice.

SAFe ART Flow

SAFe ART Flow refers to continuously delivering valuable customer features through Agile Release Trains.

ART Flow describes the ongoing, uninterrupted value delivery via Agile Release Trains (ARTs). ARTs are cross-functional teams that work closely with stakeholders, facilitating an unbroken flow of valuable features directly to customers. Embracing Lean-Agile principles, ART Flow focuses on optimizing this value delivery by identifying and resolving any impediments and continuously improving business outcomes. The implementation of ART Flow often includes the use of ‘flow accelerators’ to enhance continuous flow and maximize the value delivered to customers.

SAFe Team Flow

SAFe Team Flow is the Agile teams’ continuous value delivery to customers using SAFe principles and practices.

Team Flow represents the ongoing value delivery from Agile teams to their customers. Cross-functional teams apply Agile practices and work with diverse stakeholders to generate valuable products and services. They proactively identify and address any interruptions to the flow of work, allowing for continuous improvement. Team Flow involves ‘flow accelerators’ which aim to resolve issues, optimize value flow, and leverage opportunities for growth. With Team Flow, Agile teams create an effective, productive, and customer-centric work environment.

SAFe Roles

ART Roles

Product Management

Product Management in SAFe guides the product life cycle stages, ensuring solutions meet customer needs and deliver continuous, sustained value.

Product Management involves guiding solutions through four stages of the product life cycle: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. This function ensures the development of desirable, viable, feasible, and sustainable solutions that cater to customer needs. The complexity of the solution dictates the scale of the Product Management role, ranging from a single Product Manager to a team of managers. In essence, Product Management in SAFe focuses on delivering sustained value, making it essential to the success of any solution, whether consumed internally or sold externally.

System Architect

In SAFe, a System Architect defines and communicates a shared technical and architectural vision for an Agile Release Train’s (ART) solutions.

The System Architect is responsible for shaping and communicating a shared technical and architectural vision for solutions developed by an Agile Release Train (ART). They ensure that the solution under development aligns with its intended purpose. The System Architect collaborates with the teams to elaborate system architecture, validate technology assumptions, evaluate implementation alternatives, and create the continuous delivery pipeline. In ARTs not part of a Solution Train, System Architects undertake many Solution Architect responsibilities. Multiple System Architects may be involved in navigating complex system architectures, each steering different aspects toward a common business goal.

Release Train Engineer (RTE)

The Release Train Engineer (RTE) in SAFe is a servant leader and ART coach, facilitating ART events and aiding teams in delivering value.

A Release Train Engineer (RTE) serves as a servant leader and coach for an Agile Release Train (ART). Their role involves facilitating ART events and processes and supporting teams to deliver value. The RTE communicates with stakeholders, escalates impediments, assists risk management, and fosters relentless improvement. Beyond facilitating ART practices and Program Increment execution, the RTE may contribute to the Lean-Agile transformation, coaching leaders, teams, and Scrum Masters. They also adapt SAFe to the organization’s needs by standardizing and documenting practices.

Business Owners

Business Owners are key stakeholders in the Agile Release Train, responsible for defining and prioritizing features and ensuring value delivery in Program Increments.

Business Owners play a pivotal role within the Agile Release Train (ART). They are key stakeholders, often comprising managers, directors, and product managers, with a significant interest in the outcome of the specific value stream. Their responsibilities include defining and prioritizing features, making economic trade-off decisions, and ensuring that the delivered Program Increments (PIs) realize the expected business value. Business Owners work closely with Product Management, System Architects, and other ART stakeholders to define Enablers, manage the Feature backlog, and participate in Inspect and Adapt (I&A) workshops. Their goal is to maximize value delivery and ensure alignment between the ART’s efforts and the business’s strategic objectives.

SAFe Team Roles

Business Owners are key ART stakeholders accountable for return on investment (ROI), governance, compliance, and evaluating fitness for use.

Business Owners hold primary business and technical responsibility for return on investment (ROI), governance, and compliance. As critical stakeholders, they evaluate the ‘fitness for use’ of solutions and actively participate in Agile Release Train (ART) events and solution development. Business Owners lead by establishing a mission and vision, and while they may offer coaching and skills development, they decentralize execution authority to the ART. Despite embracing a Lean-Agile way of working, they remain responsible for the organization’s growth, operational excellence, and business outcomes, guiding ARTs to optimal results.

Agile Teams

Agile Teams are cross-functional, self-organizing groups of ten or fewer individuals responsible for defining, building, testing, and delivering customer value.

Agile Teams, typically made up of ten or fewer individuals, are cross-functional units encompassing all the necessary skills for defining, building, testing, and delivering value. These teams are self-organizing, self-managing, and accountable for the results that align with customer and stakeholder needs. They power the Agile Release Train (ART), contribute to the Vision and Roadmap, and build the Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP) to accelerate value flow and support Release on Demand. Agile Teams form the backbone of the development portfolio by fostering fast learning and adjustment based on customer feedback.

Product Owner

The Product Owner is the team member responsible for maximizing team value by aligning the team backlog with customer and stakeholder needs.

The Product Owner (PO) links business, technology strategy, and the Agile Team. As the primary customer advocate, the PO ensures the team backlog reflects customer and stakeholder requirements, maximizing the value the team delivers. Often a full-time role in enterprises adopting Agile, the PO partners with the Product Manager to keep product strategy and implementation connected throughout the value stream. Acting as the ‘voice of the customer,’ the PO synthesizes information from various sources, manages key relationships, and ensures business alignment in the Team Backlog, all while fostering quick delivery and learning.

Scrum Master / Team Coach

The Scrum Master/Team Coach is a servant leader who facilitates team processes, educates in Scrum and SAFe, and fosters an environment for relentless improvement.

The Scrum Master/Team Coach (SM/TC) in SAFe serves as a servant leader and a guide for Agile teams, focusing on promoting Scrum, Built-in-Quality, Kanban, and SAFe. They facilitate team processes and events, support Agile Release Trains (ARTs) in delivering value, and help to remove impediments. They aim to create an environment conducive to high-performing team dynamics, continuous flow, and relentless improvement. The SM/TC coaches teams in self-organization and self-management, ensuring the agreed-upon Agile processes are followed, thereby amplifying the effectiveness of SAFe across the organization.

SAFe Events

SAFe events are structured activities in a Scaled Agile Framework to align, coordinate, plan, and synchronize Agile Release Trains and Agile Teams.

SAFe events are integral aspects of the Scaled Agile Framework, designed to establish a rhythm or cadence and encourage alignment across the organization. There are multiple types of SAFe events, such as PI Planning, Inspect and Adapt, Innovation and Planning Iteration, and others. These events collectively help to harmonize and coordinate the work of Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Agile Teams, enabling synchronized planning, progress tracking, problem-solving, and continuous learning and improvement within the enterprise.

SAFe ART Events

SAFe ART events are part of the Program Increment (PI) life cycle, fostering synchronization, alignment, and planning among multiple teams in an Agile Release Train.

SAFe ART events encompass a series of critical activities in the Program Increment (PI) life cycle, central to the functioning of Agile Release Trains (ARTs). These include PI Planning, where teams collectively plan their work for the upcoming PI, and Inspect and Adapt, where ARTs review and improve their processes and solutions. Other ART events like Scrum of Scrums, Product Management Sync, and System Demos contribute to effective cross-team synchronization, alignment, planning, and execution in the enterprise’s SAFe implementation.

PI Planning

PI Planning is a cadence-based, face-to-face SAFe event where Agile Release Trains align teams and stakeholders to a shared vision and mission.

PI Planning is an essential cadence-based event within the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). It enables an Agile Release Train (ART), comprising multiple Agile teams, to align and plan their work for the upcoming Program Increment (PI). The event brings together all ART members—virtually or physically—for a shared understanding of the business context, vision, and team objectives. Facilitated by the Release Train Engineer (RTE), the planning includes team breakouts where individual teams devise their iteration plans and objectives. The process encourages collaboration, transparency, and alignment within the ART, ensuring that all teams work towards common enterprise goals.

System Demo

A System Demo is a SAFe event that offers stakeholders an integrated view of the latest features delivered by all teams on the ART.

A System Demo is a vital event in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), where all the teams on an Agile Release Train (ART) demonstrate the new features they have developed during the latest iteration. This demonstration provides stakeholders, including business owners, executive sponsors, other Agile teams, and customers, an integrated view of the solution’s progress. It also offers an opportunity for immediate feedback, helping to assess the solution’s fitness and guide the ART. Conducted at the end of every iteration and in a comprehensive form at the end of each Program Increment (PI), the System Demo is an objective measure of the ART’s velocity and progress toward delivering value.

Inspect & Adapt

Inspect & Adapt (I&A) is a key SAFe event at the end of each PI, evaluating the solution’s state and identifying improvement backlog items.

Inspect & Adapt (I&A) is a significant event in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) occurring at the end of each Program Increment (PI). It provides an opportunity to reflect on the current state of the Solution, demonstrate its capabilities, and evaluate its overall progress. All Agile Release Train (ART) stakeholders, including Agile teams, Release Train Engineer (RTE), System and Solution Architects, and Business Owners, participate in the I&A event. This gathering follows a structured problem-solving workshop to identify improvement backlog items that feed into the ART backlog for the next PI Planning event. Thus, the I&A event ensures continuous improvement and efficiency within each ART and aligns with SAFe’s core value of relentless improvement.

Coach Sync

Coach Sync is an event in SAFe that maintains alignment and resolves issues across teams within the Agile Release Train (ART).

Coach Sync in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a synchronization event that maintains alignment and addresses concerns across different teams on the Agile Release Train (ART). Facilitated by the Release Train Engineer (RTE), the Coach Sync centers on executing the current Program Increment (PI), considering risks, dependencies, progress, and impediments. This event is crucial for maintaining coherence and effectively managing inter-team challenges within the ART. In some instances, the Coach Sync may be combined with the PO Sync into a single event, the ART Sync, to reduce overhead and streamline collaboration on shared topics of interest.

Product Owner Sync (PO) Sync

The PO Sync is a SAFe event to manage scope, review progress, adjust priorities, and prepare for the upcoming Program Increment (PI).

In the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), the Product Owner (PO) Sync is a pivotal synchronization event. It focuses on managing the scope of the current Program Increment (PI) scope, reviewing progress, adjusting priorities, and preparing for the subsequent PI. Representatives from each Agile team, typically Product Owners, come together to align their understanding, expectations, and strategies in this meeting. While each team in an Agile Release Train (ART) operates autonomously, the PO Sync ensures that all teams work harmoniously towards the same goals. In some situations, the PO Sync can be combined with the Coach Sync into a single event called the ART Sync to improve efficiency and reduce redundancy.

Art Sync

ART Sync is a combined Coach and PO Sync event in SAFe to maintain alignment, resolve dependencies, manage scope, and review progress.

The ART Sync, short for Agile Release Train Sync, is a crucial synchronization event in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). It’s a confluence of the Coach Sync and PO Sync, focusing on executing the current Program Increment (PI), managing its scope, reviewing progress, and addressing dependencies and impediments. The ART Sync serves as a platform where representatives from each Agile team – typically Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and Team Coaches – come together to align on key aspects of the PI. By fostering cross-team collaboration, ART Sync helps ensure all teams work cohesively and effectively towards the same objectives, thereby enhancing the overall efficiency and outcome of the Agile Release Train.

SAFe Team Events

SAFe Team events are regular activities at the team level that facilitate planning, review, and continuous improvement in alignment with ART and enterprise objectives.

SAFe Team events, such as Iteration Planning, Daily Standup, Iteration Review, and Iteration Retrospective, drive the execution and continuous improvement at the team level within a Scaled Agile Framework. These events provide Agile teams with a structured process for planning their work, synchronizing with other teams, assessing their progress, obtaining feedback, and adapting their practices to maximize value delivery and achieve alignment with Agile Release Train and broader enterprise goals.

Iteration Planning

Iteration Planning is a SAFe Scrum event in which teams commit to deliverables from the Team Backlog for the upcoming Iteration, summarized as committed iteration goals.

Iteration Planning, an integral part of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), is the first event of an Iteration where all team members convene to determine and commit to the amount of work from the Team Backlog they can realistically deliver in the upcoming Iteration. During this planning session, typically timeboxed to around 90 minutes for a two-week Iteration, teams utilize a refined Team Backlog that includes PI objectives, Stories, and feedback from previous Iterations and System Demos. Successful Iteration Planning results in an Iteration Backlog with stories, including Enablers, each with defined acceptance criteria, committed iteration goals, and understood inter-team dependencies.

Iteration Review

Iteration Review is a regular SAFe Scrum event where the team inspects the iteration increment, assesses progress, and adjusts the Team Backlog.

In the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), the Iteration Review is the penultimate event of an Iteration. It serves as a platform for the team and stakeholders to inspect the iteration’s work increment, assess progress toward the Iteration goals and PI objectives, and adjust the Team Backlog accordingly. This demonstration-centric review, which focuses on the solution rather than a presentation, enables the team to showcase their contributions, gain immediate contextual feedback, and direct future work based on that feedback. The inputs to the Iteration Review include the Iteration goals, PI objectives, the deployed increment, and a brief list of the work to be demonstrated. It results in feedback, an adjusted Team Backlog, and identifying risks and impediments.

Iteration Retrospective

Iteration Retrospective is a regular event where the team reviews the iteration results, evaluates their practices, and identifies improvement strategies.

The Iteration Retrospective, conducted at the end of each Iteration in SAFe, is an opportunity for Agile Teams to reflect on the results of the Iteration, scrutinize their practices, and pinpoint areas for improvement. This event embodies the principle of relentless improvement, one of the core values of SAFe, as teams analyze their accomplishments, challenges, and strategies towards the Iteration goals. Inputs for this retrospective include Iteration goals, the team’s increment, a collection of Iteration metrics, and a list of improvement actions identified since the last retrospective. The outcome of a successful Iteration Retrospective includes a few improvement stories and an updated Team Backlog, reflecting the commitment to improve the team’s processes in future Iterations.

Backlog Refinement

Backlog Refinement is when the team collaborates to prioritize, define acceptance criteria, and size potential upcoming User Stories and Enablers.

Backlog Refinement, also known as backlog grooming, involves continuous, collaborative efforts of the Agile Team, especially the Product Owner, to maintain backlog readiness. This process includes refining stories, establishing acceptance criteria, prioritizing the backlog, discovering and describing new stories, and removing irrelevant or stale ones. Activities are focused on ensuring that high-priority items are defined and sized appropriately, ready for implementation in subsequent Iterations without significant risks or surprises. This continual dialogue between team members, customers, and other stakeholders aids in clarifying requirements, leveraging collective knowledge, fostering creativity, and enhancing buy-in and joint ownership. The pattern of backlog refinement meetings varies per team preference, but its purpose remains uniform—to prepare for successful future Iterations.

Team Sync

Team Sync is a short, daily meeting to review progress, facilitate communication, and adjust upcoming planned work towards achieving the Iteration goal.

A Team Sync, generally 15 minutes or less, serves as a key communication channel for Agile teams. Conducted daily, it allows team members to inspect progress toward the Iteration goal and adjust the plan for the next workday accordingly. It isn’t the sole opportunity for adjustments; teams collaborate and discuss work adaptations whenever necessary. High-performing teams use Team Syncs to identify cooperative opportunities, aiding in achieving their committed Iteration goals. The Scrum Master/Team Coach notes topics requiring further discussion for more detailed discussions with the concerned parties. Addressing ineffective Team Syncs often falls under the Scrum Master’s responsibility, which may indicate deeper systemic issues.

Artifacts

Artifacts in SAFe are documents or tools used to coordinate and manage work across different organizational levels.

Artifacts in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) refer to the various tools and documents utilized across all organizational levels to coordinate, manage, and track work. They are key to facilitating efficient communication and alignment within and across Agile Release Trains (ARTs), Solution Trains, and Portfolio levels. Artifacts include Vision, Roadmap, Features, Stories, Nonfunctional Requirements, and more. They help teams and stakeholders understand what needs to be done, when it’s expected, and how progress and success will be measured.

ART Artifacts

ART Artifacts are specific documents or tools an Agile Release Train uses to plan, coordinate, and track work.

ART Artifacts are tools and documents that an Agile Release Train (ART) uses to manage, coordinate, and track work. These include ART Epics, ART PI Objectives, ART Backlog, Vision, Architectural Runway, and Features. These artifacts support the ART in defining goals, outlining the work to be done, establishing its timeline, and enabling continuous assessment of progress towards the defined objectives.

Features

Features are services fulfilling stakeholders’ needs, structured to fit within a Program Increment, including a name, benefits hypothesis, and acceptance criteria.

Features in the Scaled Agile Framework are services that address the needs of stakeholders, structured to fit within a Program Increment (PI). Each feature includes a name, benefits hypothesis, and acceptance criteria. These elements enable an understanding of what the feature is intended to accomplish, its hypothesized benefits, and the criteria that define its successful implementation.

Enabler Features

Enabler Features support activities extending the Architectural Runway to provide future business functionality, including exploration, architecture, infrastructure, and compliance.

Enabler Features in the Scaled Agile Framework support the activities required to extend the Architectural Runway, enabling future business functionality. These activities may involve exploration, architecture, infrastructure, and compliance. Enabler Features provide the necessary groundwork for implementing user-facing features and maintaining technological agility, playing a vital role in the evolutionary architecture of the solution.

ART Epics

ART Epics are significant initiatives deliverable by a single Agile Release Train.

ART Epics in the Scaled Agile Framework refer to large, substantial initiatives that a single Agile Release Train (ART) can deliver. They are of considerable scope and complexity and typically deliver significant value. ART Epics require thorough exploration and analysis to be broken down into manageable Features and User Stories, aiding in their implementation within a Program Increment (PI).

ART PI Objectives

ART PI Objectives describe the specific business and technical goals the ART intends to achieve in the upcoming Program Increment.

ART PI Objectives in the Scaled Agile Framework refer to the clear and specific business and technical goals that an Agile Release Train (ART) aims to accomplish within the upcoming Program Increment (PI). They are drafted during PI Planning and serve as an essential guiding beacon for the ART’s efforts throughout the PI, helping maintain alignment and focus on the agreed-upon objectives.

ART Backlog

The ART Backlog is a holding area for upcoming Features and Enabler Features aimed at addressing user needs and delivering business benefits for an ART.

The ART Backlog in the Scaled Agile Framework is a dynamic holding space for upcoming and Enabler Features. It manages work that addresses user needs and provides business benefits for a single Agile Release Train (ART). The backlog also includes the Enabler Features necessary to extend the Architectural Runway, ensuring a continuous flow of value delivery.

Architectural Runway

The Architectural Runway comprises existing code, components, and technical infrastructure required to implement near-term features without excessive redesign and delay.

The Architectural Runway, in the context of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), comprises the existing code base, components, and technical infrastructure that facilitate the implementation of prioritized near-term features without significant redesign or delay. It supports the ongoing flow of value to the customer by enabling fast, incremental development and delivery of features.

Solution

A Solution is a product, service, or system that Agile Release Trains delivers to an enterprise’s internal or external customers.

In the Scaled Agile Framework, a Solution refers to a product, service, or system that Agile Release Trains (ARTs) deliver to meet the needs of an enterprise’s internal or external customers. Solutions are built incrementally by integrating and evaluating multiple components or subsystems, resulting in a comprehensive offering that provides customer value.

Solution Context

The solution Context describes the system’s interface, packaging, and deployment conditions within its operating environment.

Solution Context in the Scaled Agile Framework describes the environmental conditions and factors that a system or solution interacts with, how it will be packaged, and how it will be deployed in its operating environment. It outlines the dependencies, interactions, and constraints with other systems, providing a framework for understanding how a solution fits into the larger ecosystem.

Vision

The vision outlines the future state of solutions under development, reflecting customer and stakeholder needs and proposed features to meet them.

In SAFe, the Vision is a strategic articulation of the future state of solutions under development. It reflects the needs and expectations of customers and stakeholders and the proposed features designed to meet these requirements. The Vision provides direction, alignment, and inspiration, guiding teams and stakeholders toward the desired outcome.

Roadmap

A Roadmap visualizes the timeline for delivering features, capabilities, and milestones to provide strategic context for decision-making.

In SAFe, a Roadmap is a visualization tool that outlines the timeline for delivering features, capabilities, and milestones. It provides strategic context and forecasts the intended direction of solution development, aiding decision-making. A Roadmap aligns stakeholders on the evolution of the solution and facilitates the communication of plans and progress to external audiences.

System Team

A System Team supports Agile Release Trains by providing tools and assistance necessary for the continuous flow of value delivery.

In the Scaled Agile Framework, the System Team provides technical support and services to Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Solution Trains to enable a continuous flow of value delivery. They ensure that the environment supports integration, continuous integration, and continuous delivery. Additionally, they assist with developing and maintaining the architectural runway, helping to facilitate system-level testing and deployment.

Team Artifacts

Stories

Stories concisely describe a small piece of desired functionality, written in the user’s language.

In SAFe, Stories are small, manageable work representing functionality that delivers value. Written from the user’s perspective, they articulate desired capabilities in an understandable language. Stories serve as the basic units of work in Agile development, guiding the creation of working software.

Enabler Stories

Enabler Stories sets the groundwork for exploration, infrastructure, architecture, or compliance needed for another story or feature.

Enabler Stories in SAFe are specialized story types that capture the work necessary to explore, build or improve the architectural runway or meet compliance requirements. While not directly providing user value, they enable the implementation of user-facing functionality, indirectly contributing to delivering customer value.

Team PI Objectives

Team PI Objectives outline the specific business and technical goals an Agile team aims to achieve in the upcoming Program Increment.

In SAFe, Team PI Objectives is a summarized statement of the specific business and technical goals an Agile team commits to achieving during a Program Increment (PI). Formulated during PI planning, they serve as a contract for the increment, promoting visibility, alignment, and transparency about the team’s intentions and expected outcomes.

Iteration Goals

Iteration Goals are team-set objectives to align the team’s efforts toward delivering value within an iteration.

In the context of SAFe, Iteration Goals are specific objectives set by Agile teams to focus their efforts toward delivering value within an iteration. They provide purpose and context, aligning all team members towards a common aim for the duration of the iteration, facilitating collaboration, and helping to evaluate iteration success.

Team Backlog

The Team Backlog contains user and enabler stories, identified mainly during PI planning and backlog refinement events.

The Team Backlog in SAFe is the source of items the Agile team works on during a Program Increment (PI). It contains user stories representing the functionality end-users need and enabler stories that provide the necessary groundwork for features or capabilities. The backlog evolves with ongoing refinement activities, ensuring a ready supply of well-understood and high-priority stories for future iterations.

Implementing Essential SAFe

Reaching the Tipping Point

The tipping point is when an organization acknowledges the need for a significant change, thus starting the Lean-Agile transformation by creating a sense of urgency.

Reaching the Tipping Point involves establishing the necessity for a significant shift within the organization. It is the moment of realization that the current processes are inadequate, and a transformation to Lean-Agile principles is essential. This step instigates the initiation of the SAFe implementation by creating a sense of urgency.

Train Lean-Agile Change Agents

Educating internal advocates in Lean-Agile principles to guide and facilitate the organization’s transition to SAFe.

In the Train Lean-Agile Change Agents phase, the organization identifies and trains internal change agents to champion the Lean-Agile transformation. These individuals, often named SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs), will guide the organization through the change, ensuring that Lean-Agile principles are understood and applied effectively.

Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence

Lean-Agile Center of Excellence constitutes a group of trained Lean-Agile change agents who lead the organization’s Agile transformation.

A Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) is a cross-functional team of trained Lean-Agile Change Agents that guides the organization’s Agile transformation. The LACE provides the strategic direction, guidance, and necessary resources to promote and sustain the shift to Lean-Agile principles and practices.

Train Executives, Managers, and Leaders

Teaching leaders Lean-Agile principles, roles, and practices to support the organization’s SAFe transformation.

Training Executives, Managers, and Leaders is about educating organizational leadership in Lean-Agile principles, roles, and practices to understand and support the SAFe transformation. Leaders play a pivotal role in change management, and their understanding, commitment, and active involvement are essential to make the transformation successful.

Lead in the Digital Age

Leading in the Digital Age implies adopting digital-first leadership practices, promoting innovation, and fostering a customer-centric mindset.

Leading in the Digital Age necessitates a shift in leadership style to accommodate the rapid changes digital transformation brings. Leaders need to promote innovation, foster a culture of continuous learning, and cultivate a customer-centric mindset to navigate the complex and fast-paced digital landscape.

Organize Around Value

Organizing Around Value refers to restructuring the organization around its value streams to optimize value delivery.

Organizing Around Value entails realigning the organization based on its value streams. This step focuses on identifying and mapping the organization’s value streams and reconfiguring the organizational structure to optimize the flow of value to the customers and stakeholders.

Create the Implementation Plan

Creating the Implementation Plan involves devising a comprehensive strategy to implement the SAFe framework throughout the organization.

Creating the Implementation Plan involves developing a detailed, step-by-step strategy for the SAFe implementation. This comprehensive plan outlines the sequence of activities, resource allocation, roles and responsibilities, timelines, and metrics to monitor the transformation’s progress and effectiveness.

Prepare for ART Launch

Training teams, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and management roles for the Agile Release Train (ART) launch.

Preparing for ART Launch involves training teams, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and managers on their roles and responsibilities in the Agile Release Train (ART). The preparation includes teaching them about the SAFe principles, practices, and tools they will use in the ART, thus setting the stage for a successful launch.

Train Teams and Launch ART

Training Teams and Launching ART refers to providing Agile training to teams and initiating the first Agile Release Train.

Training Teams and Launching ART involves equipping teams with Agile skills and knowledge and initiating the first Agile Release Train (ART). The teams are trained in Agile and Scrum practices, while the ART brings them together to work in alignment and deliver incremental value through a Program Increment.

Coach ART Execution

Coaching ART Execution guides the Agile Release Train in its operation, ensuring alignment and continuous improvement.

Coaching ART Execution involves guiding and mentoring the Agile Release Train as it begins to operate and deliver value. The coach ensures the ART is aligned with SAFe principles, facilitates collaboration and coordination among teams, and encourages continuous improvement and learning.

Launch More ARTs and Value Streams

Launching More ARTs and Value Streams involves scaling up the implementation by initiating additional Agile Release Trains and identifying new Value Streams.

Launching More ARTs and Value Streams signifies scaling up the SAFe implementation by initiating more Agile Release Trains and identifying new Value Streams. It involves expanding the Agile practices to more parts of the organization, enhancing the scope and impact of the Lean-Agile transformation.

Accelerate

Acceleration refers to the continuous and sustainably enhancing the organization’s Lean-Agile practices.

Accelerate is the final step in the SAFe implementation roadmap. It emphasizes the need for a continuous and sustainable enhancement of the organization’s Lean-Agile practices. It involves persistently improving and refining the processes, encouraging innovation, and fostering a culture of learning and adaptability to achieve business agility.

What is the SAFe Framework?

The SAFe Framework is a method for scaling Agile practices across large organizations, where PI Planning is a key event for synchronizing all Agile teams on a shared mission.

The SAFe Framework is an industry-standard methodology that scales Agile practices across large organizations. Within this framework, PI Planning is an important event in the SAFe cadence that helps to synchronize all teams within an Agile Release Train (ART) on a shared mission. It lays the foundation for ARTs to plan, commit, and execute a set of business features over the upcoming Planning Interval. Therefore, PI Planning is the heartbeat of SAFe, facilitating alignment, collaboration, and delivery predictability.

SAFe Requirements Model Big Picture

What are the SAFe configurations?

SAFe configurations are variations of the SAFe framework to suit different organizational needs, and all configurations incorporate PI Planning for alignment and synchronization.

SAFe configurations are adaptations of the SAFe framework designed to meet diverse organizational needs based on size, complexity, and specific business objectives. There are 4 SAFe configurations, and they are:

  1. Essential SAFe: This is the foundational level of the Scaled Agile Framework that provides the basic elements needed for teams to align on strategy, collaborate effectively, and deliver complex, multi-team solutions.
  2. Large Solution SAFe: This configuration extends Essential SAFe to address the challenges faced when multiple Agile Release Trains are needed to deliver large-scale solutions that typically involve coordinating multiple teams across an organization.
  3. Portfolio SAFe: This configuration adds strategic and portfolio management to the Essential SAFe configuration, providing a way to align enterprise strategy with portfolio execution and manage Lean-Agile budgeting, strategic direction, and investment funding.
  4. Full SAFe: The most comprehensive configuration, Full SAFe integrates all other configurations to provide a complete approach to delivering large, integrated solutions while coordinating multiple Agile Release Trains and managing portfolios at the enterprise level.

SAFe Principles

The SAFe Principles are a set of ten fundamental principles derived from Lean and Agile methodologies that guide the implementation of SAFe.

The SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) principles are guidelines derived from Agile practices and methods, Lean product development, and systems thinking to facilitate large-scale, complex software development projects. The ten principles that make up the SAFe framework are as follows:

  1. Take an economic view: This principle emphasizes the importance of making decisions within an economic context, considering trade-offs between risk, cost of delay, and various operational and development costs.
  2. Apply systems thinking: This principle encourages organizations to understand the interconnected nature of systems and components and prioritize optimizing the system as a whole rather than individual parts.
  3. Assume variability; preserve options: This principle highlights the importance of maintaining flexibility in design and requirements throughout the development cycle, allowing for adjustments based on empirical data to achieve optimal economic outcomes.
  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles: This principle advocates for incremental development in short iterations, which allows for rapid customer feedback and risk mitigation.
  5. Base milestones on an objective evaluation of working systems: This principle emphasizes the need for objective, regular evaluation of the solution throughout the development lifecycle, ensuring that investments yield an adequate return.
  6. Make value flow without interruptions: This principle focuses on making value delivery as smooth and uninterrupted as possible by understanding and managing the properties of a flow-based system.
  7. Apply cadence, and synchronize with cross-domain planning: This principle states that applying a predictable rhythm to development and coordinating across various domains can help manage uncertainty in the development process.
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers: This principle advises against individual incentive compensation, which can foster internal competition, and instead encourages an environment of autonomy, purpose, and mutual influence.
  9. Decentralize decision-making: This principle emphasizes the benefits of decentralized decision-making for speeding up product development flow and enabling faster feedback. However, it also recognizes that some decisions require centralized, strategic decision-making.
  10. Organize around value: This principle advocates that organizations structure themselves around delivering value quickly in response to customer needs rather than adhering to outdated functional hierarchies.

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