SAFe – Scaled Agile – Overview and certification

1. SAFE 4.5 – Overview

SAFe 4.5 is a free framework to work with Scaled Agile that synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for large numbers of teams. Also reflects Lean-Agile thinking, and DevOps practices. The Core Values are:

  1. Built-in Quality: “you can’t scale crappy code”
  2. Program Execution: product portfolio
  3. Alignment
  4. Transparency


The big picture seems to be difficult to implement, but when you have a detailed view of each level (Portfolio | Program | Team), it will support you to understand the concepts and how to implement them in your team.

Team Level
The Agile Teams (a cross-functional team which consists of Dev Team, Product Owner and Scrum Master) build and deliver value in the Agile Release Train (ART). You can see all the details about Team Levels and Roles in Scaled Agile on the website.

  • Self-organizing, self-managing team of agile teams
  • Delivers working, tested full system increments every two weeks
  • Operates with Vision, architecture and UX guidance
  • Common iteration lengths and estimating
  • Face-to-face planning for collaboration, alignment and adaptions
  • Value delivery via Features and benefits

Program Level
Coordinate the ARTs with an improvement on the Governance: System Architect (define architecture for dev team), Product Management (works with POs to ensure the business needs are included in the program backlog) and Release Train Engineer (a servant leader which facilitates the flow of value through the program).

Large Value Streams
The Large Solution Level is recommended to build large and complex solutions. In this context we have new roles: Solution Architect (define architecture for dev team), Solution Management (represent customer needs) and STE (facilitates the work of all ARTs).

  • Synchronizes multiple ART Value Streams
  • Manages Solution Intent
  • Integrate suppliers as partners
  • Value delivery via Capabilities

Agile Portfolio
The Portfolio Level provides the strategy for investment funding and resources to deliver solutions. The focus here is to assure that the business needs meet strategic objectives. It’s necessary to define strategic Themes for a portfolio.

  • Organized around the flow of value
  • Lean-Agile budgeting empowers decision makers
  • Kanban system provides portfolio visibility and WIP limits
  • Enterprise architecture guides larger technology decisions
  • Objective metrics support governance
  • Value delivery via Epics

Agile is… 

  • Time-to-market: your business being competitive
  • Fast adaptation to changes


Lean-Agile Mindset and The Agile Manifesto
Embracing the Lean-Agile Manifesto and the 12 Principles from Agile Manifesto.

Understanding SAFe Principles
#1 – Take an economic view
#2 – Apply systems thinking
#3 – Assume variability; preserve options
#4 – Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
#5 – Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems
#6 – Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths
#7 – Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning
#8 – Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
#9 – Decentralize decision-making


2. Implementing an Agile Release Train

After the overview about SAFe and the main concepts about Agile and the principles, we continue here sharing all the highlights to implement an Agile Release Train. All the steps are available on Scaled Agile Framework website, but below we describe the most important concepts about the implementation:

  • The Agile Release Train – usually a virtual organization of 5-12 teams (50-125 individuals) that plans, commits and executes together
  • Program Increment (PI) – is a fixed timebox – in general 10 weeks
  • Synchronized iterations and PIs
  • Frequently produces valuable system-level solution
  • ART Roles –  RTE (Release Train Engineer) | PM (Product Management) | SA (System Architect) | The System Team | Business Owners
  • PI Planning – two days every 8-12 weeks and PM owns features priorities. Dev Team owns story-planning and high-level estimates
  • Input – TOP 10 features, implemented by stories
  • Output – Team, Program PI Objectives and Program Board


3. Experiencing PI Planning

All the details to plan and execute a PI Planning area available on the website. It’s very important using as a guide to follow all the instructions and allow your team to obtain the business benefits and desired outputs.

In this event the team will work on names and roles / velocity / features / Draft Plan Review / Planning adjustments / Business Value / Program Board / Final Plan Review / ROAMing Risks / Confidence votes / Retrospective / PI Objectives x Team PI Objectives


4. Releasing Value

Other important point is to develop a vision, roadmap and program backlog and prioritize the Program Backlog. The WSJF (Weighted Shortest Job First) is a prioritization matrix to measure cost-benefit to implement all the features.

Executing a Program Increment properly is another program event to keep the Train on the tracks. Also release value on demand, considering the Team Increment, System Increment, Solution Increment and Releasable Solution.


About Certification…

You need to dedicate yourself doing an authorized course to enable you applying for a test. Further information about courses and locations can be found on Certification link.

The three main Scaled Agile certifications are: Leading SAFe (SA), Implementing SAFe (SPC) and SAFe Release Train Engineer. I was approved in SA certification, and the preparation included to attend yourself in a two-day course in Brazil (Adaptworks was the company in my case). After to conclude the course, you receive a voucher that allows to apply for a test – Community Scaled Agile.

And then you have 30 days to do the test. It’s an electronic evaluation and all the tips are available on Community Scaled Agile. You have the access after you receive the credentials. The test doesn’t have time to conclude, but you cannot access other time, so you need to be prepared to conclude in the first time. Take all the necessary notes and review the big picture considering to study all the steps in details. Good lucky and test!