Choosing Which SAFe Configuration to Use for Enterprise Agility - dummies

Choosing Which SAFe Configuration to Use for Enterprise Agility

By Doug Rose

The first choice you need to make is which SAFe configuration to use for your enterprise agility approach. Each of these configurations includes only the management levels that are appropriate for that solution. Four are provided:

  • Full SAFe: This is the most comprehensive Scaled Agile Framework. It’s intended to be used for complex solutions that can have hundreds of people and dozens of teams working to deliver the product.
  • Portfolio SAFe: This is for organizations that are primarily interested in aligning their agile development to one or two value streams and just one or more agile release trains.
  • Large Solution SAFe: This is for large and complex solutions that don’t need the type of portfolio management like other SAFe configurations. This is for industries where you wouldn’t need SAFe to govern portfolio of projects. Instead you’ll have one or two complex projects that may take dozens of teams to deliver. This configuration is more common for industries such as aerospace and defense. Here most of the focus is on the product and not necessarily on governance.
  • Essential SAFe: This is the most stripped-down version of the Scaled Agile Framework. Consider it SAFe lite. This version has the most crucial elements of the framework and can be a building block for some of the larger configurations. It includes key concepts such as the agile release train, and it helps align teams to a common solution.

Choose the smallest configuration you think will work best for your organization. You can easily upsize to a larger version of the framework, if necessary, but if you start with too large a configuration, you may make your efforts more complicated than they need to be and encounter needless resistance and frustration.

The earlier versions of SAFe had collapsible levels and tabs on each side of the diagram. The idea was that you could collapse and tab your way through the graphic to create something customized. So, you had to show or hide the different parts of the one big graphic to make it fit your organization. Now SAFe uses these configurations as a way to provide the “out-of-the-box” configuration that’s appropriate for your environment. You don’t have hidden layers, which can become confusing.

SAFe is a template, suitable for tailoring. It’s not intended to be used exactly as presented. In fact, it’s modular, and you’re encouraged to use the elements that work best for you and be aware of the rest if you need them. You can freely mine the framework for ideas and practices that you think might help your organization.

SAFe’s flexibility and it numerous options make it a popular starting point for organizations interested in making the leap to enterprise agility, but those qualities also pose a challenge — it’s easy to get lost in the process and lose any sense of the ground below.