SAFe From a Value Stream Perspective

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The 4 Levels of SAFe

There are four levels of the Scaled Agile Framework.  Each one builds on the next and is intended for different scales. This decomposing SAFe into levels appears to make it simpler. The net effect however, is that it makes it difficult to go beyond the level started with.

From the Scaled Agile Framework big picture:

  • Essential SAFe is the most basic configuration of the framework and it provides the minimal elements necessary to be successful with SAFe.
  • Large Solution SAFe is for enterprises that are building large and complex solutions, which do not require the constructs of the portfolio level.
  • Portfolio Portfolio SAFe provides portfolio strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance.
  • Full SAFe represents the most comprehensive configuration. It supports building large, integrated solutions that typically require hundreds of people or more to develop and maintain.

Even proponents of Full SAFe acknowledge its complexity. But their common starting level – Essential SAFe – leaves out critical concepts virtually any group adopting SAFe needs.

The Implications of Defining SAFe by Levels

There are several ramifications of creating SAFe by levels:

  1. it creates greater complexity than required
  2. it confines many concepts to some of the levels even though many are needed regardless of the size of the organization
  3. it somewhat requires starting SAFe at the Essential Level which is not always the best place to start
  4. it makes it hard to see how all of the roles, practices and artifacts relate to each other

Looking at Essential SAFe from the Value Stream Perspective

SAFe’s big picture focuses on roles, practices and artifacts. It is difficult to see how the value stream fits into it. Figure 1 depicts SAFe as a value stream in order to make it easier to see how SAFe indirectly deals with it.

Figure 1: SAFe represented as a value stream.

When viewed from a value stream perspective it is easier to see the intention of the roles, artifacts and practices being done. It is also easier to see how different roles, artifacts and practices could be substituted if doing so improved the value stream.  This shift from levels to the value stream enables us to make SAFe  more effective while simplifying it.

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