What is SAFe?

What is SAFe?

The Author:
Alyona Lubchak
Alyona Lubchak,
SAFe program consultant

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a comprehensive framework for organizations looking to adopt agile practices at scale. It’s a knowledge base with proven principles and practices from Lean, Agile, System Thinking. SAFe is designed to help organizations create and deliver software products and services more efficiently, with faster time-to-market, higher quality, and greater customer satisfaction.


SAFe was first introduced in 2011 and has since undergone several updates and improvements to help organizations better implement and scale agile methodologies. On 15th of March 2023 version 6.0 was launched.

Seven Core Competencies

These competencies help organizations develop the skills and capabilities needed to implement and sustain agile practices at scale. They are crucial for SAFe implementation and are listed below:

  1. Lean-Agile Leadership: Leaders at all levels of the organization must understand and embrace agile principles and practices, and provide guidance and support for teams.
  2. Team and Technical Agility: Teams must be able to rapidly deliver high-quality software, using agile development practices such as test-driven development, continuous integration, and continuous delivery.
  3. Agile Product Delivery: Organizations must focus on delivering value to customers by prioritizing features, continuously improving the product, and using feedback to guide development.
  4. Enterprise Solution Delivery: Organizations must coordinate the efforts of multiple teams to deliver complex solutions, using practices such as agile architecture, Agile Release Trains (ARTs), and Solution Trains.
  5. Lean Portfolio Management: Organizations must prioritize and manage their portfolio of initiatives based on strategic goals and customer value.
  6. Organizational Agility: Organizations must be able to adapt and respond to changing market conditions and customer needs with the help of its Lean-thinking people and Agile teams.
  7. Continuous Learning Culture: Organizations must foster a culture of continuous learning, improvement, and innovation, using practices such as Communities of Practice, Innovation Days, and Hackathons.

Essential SAFe

It’s the simplest configuration of SAFe. It includes roles, ceremonies, artifacts and principles required for Agile product development at scale.

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It consist of:

Foundation. It describes principles and values, Lean-Agile Mindset, competences, Implementation roadmap and the role of SPC description.

Team flow. It describes best practices for Agile teams how to organize their work on team level in order to deliver business value. Team may use any agile framework such as Scrum, Kanban, XP etc. Also, Agile team has Scrum Master/Team Coach and Product Owner roles.

ART flow. It describes necessary events, roles and artifacts for scaling. It introduces new roles such as RTE (Release Train Engineer), System Architect, Product Management, Business Owner, ART (Agile Release Train). An ART is a long-lived, self-organizing team of 5-12 agile teams (50-125+ people) that work together to deliver a continuous flow of value to customers.

Also, ART flow provides guidance in work process organization with additional events: PI Planning, System Demo, Inspect&Adapt Workshop, ART Sync-up, PO Sync-ups. Product Increment (PI) planning helps organizations plan and prioritize work over a set period of time (usually 8-12 weeks). Last iteration of each PI (Product Increment) is named IP (Innovation and Planning) Iteration. It is dedicated to innovations, education, preparation to the next PI Planning, I&A Workshop and PI Planning itself.

It also introduces Continuous Delivery Pipelines (CDPs) to accelerate the delivery of valuable products and services and Customer Centricity and Design Thinking practices.

Large Solution SAFe

In additional to Essential SAFe configuration Large Solution SAFe has one more layer: Solution Train Flow.

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Solution Train Flow provides guidance to synchronization of several ARTs (named Solution Train) and introduces additional roles: SRT (Solution Train Engineer), Solution Management and Solution Architect. Also, it describes additional events such as PI Pre-Plan, Solution Train PI, Solution Demo, Solution Train Sync, Solution Train I&A.

Portfolio SAFe

Taking Essential SAFe configuration as a base, Portfolio SAFe ads one more layer: Portfolio Flow.

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Portfolio Flow. It provides recommendations in Lean Portfolio Management, Strategic Themes, Portfolio Vision and Epic templates. Also, introduces new roles: Enterprise Architect and Epic Owners. And represent Value Stream Management practices.

Full SAFe

This configuration includes all previous versions. It has Team Flow, ART Flow, Solution Train Flow and Portfolio Flow. Full SAFe helps huge corporations be agile.

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More information about SAFe you may find on our training Leading SAFe or on site https://scaledagileframework.com.

If your company needs to transform or build effective processes, but you don’t know where to start just contact us – [email protected] or choose a time for a free consultation: