Project Management

Diving into SAFe. Large scale agile is not about mastering Scrum.

From the Female Element Blog
Female Element blog is about experience and current trends in project management, digitalization and agile organizational transformation seen by eyes of a woman. Why to distinguish such view? Female and male brain operates differently and we may have various interpretations for the same situation. Female leadership is a thing and should be recognised. But mostly because more inclusivity for women is good for all aspects of business and we still have way to go.

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SAFe is currently the leading framework for implementation of large scale agile approach. What is it about?

I recently took a course and certification exam for one of the SAFe framework roles. I took me a while to decide if I want to go this way, I’ve heard both good and bad feedback and I was not sure if it’s worth it. So I did some research, connected with experts coming from practical experience and asked questions here on the discussion forum to hear your opinions. At the end I’m very happy that I decided to go for it.

These are my main, personal learning points:

  1. Enterprise-wide agile transformation can’t be solved with Scrum

As much as agile approach suggests lean, lightweight methods, you can’t avoid dealing with high level complexity on enterprise-wide level. Even the most skilled and empowered team need to know what direction to follow to create a customer value. Such direction should come from the company strategy. But here comes the real life, it takes a long way to translate strategic vision into specific projects that are sized to fit small agile teams. The virtue of large scale agile approach is not about mastering Kanban, XP or Scrum, it is about maintaining the two-way flow of communication between corporate strategic decisions and IT projects.


  1. Don’t expect new methods, SAFe is more of a puzzle put together

SAFe framework does not really provide revolutionary ideas. After digging into the detail you would probably realize that you’ve heard a bit about most of its aspects. But that’s totally fine with me. SAFe combines several methods together and provides comprehensive view from the top to the team level. Some of the applied methods are adjusted and it’s all connected together to enable strategic alignment with IT projects execution in a way, that supports fast and frequent deliveries of a software product.


  1. IT architecture and infrastructure are enablers or a stop sign

I don’t really see a way around IT architecture and infrastructure when aiming at agile software delivery. Principles that are the heart of SAFe, such as continuous integration, automated testing or deployment decoupled from release, relies heavily on software tools and characteristics of information systems you are dealing with. It makes a difference if you’re developing a modular product such as web application, if the goal is to automate processes executed in legacy ERP systems or if the company aims to build a competence in IoT where physical products are involved.


  1. Implementing large scale agile approach is about years, not months

I asked and this was the answer, at least 3 years. I’m not surprised because to put this whole model in a large company requires a lot of discipline, long-term commitments and ability to deliver cross functional changes that involves large number of people (hundreds to thousands), technology and company culture.


I believe there will be more and more discussions about large scale agile transformations. At the end we have to treat it as any other organizational transformation with all of its aspects and complexity. There is never a single method that would solve it all and the key is to cover the organization head to toe.

Posted on: October 28, 2018 10:25 AM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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Thanks for the article. I agreed with everything you mentioned!

Great, Lenka. Good on you.
I did the same recently. Began engagement with a client who was beginning with their transformation. Been interested for quite awhile, and this was an opportunity to strike! Earned my SA from external efforts from the client, then my SP b/c they held a 2-day training for the client org prior to their first PI.

I also foresee future transformations going forward. But even if the organization is not SAFe specific, the knowledge and strategic view of the landscape is beneficial regardless.

Thank you Felicia, I’m happy to hear that. Are you currently working with SAFe or some other large scale framework?

Thank you Andrew, that’s very promising:) I absolutely agree with your last sentence, I think that many companies decide to go with a framework because it gives guidelines what to do, but in general the exact methodology is not that important, the key is to find a way how to align company strategy with IT execution.

Thanks for sharing the article

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

Thanks for the summary Lenka and for sharing your point of view since you’ve recently done this certificate. Cheers !

How did you find the SAFe course Lenka? Was it worth it?

@Sante I had really great trainer. I believe that SAFe trainers must have a practical experience to prove every year, it’s part of their certification. Main trainer does large scaled agile transformation for a big company here in Florida, he was very knowledgeable. So we discussed a lot of practical aspects.
If it’s worth it? Overall I think it depends on what are your career plans. SAFe is a compilation and application of good practices across company levels to connect business strategy and IT delivery. As such it is good to understand this regardless if you’re going to be part of a SAFe implementation or not.
But if you’re serious about agile enterprise approach I would at least study the concept online on their website.

Good information, thanks Lenka.

Thank you Lenka. I totally agree with you

Can you give your insight into SAFe?

@William Sure, what kind of details are you looking for? You may also send me direct message or connect on LinkedIn.

@William Sure, what kind of details are you looking for? You may also send me direct message or connect on LinkedIn.

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