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Need to Implement Agile at Scale?

Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a system for implementing Agile software development, Lean product development, and DevOps practices at scale. It is designed to give a team flexibility and to scale Agile practices from individual small teams up to an enterprise level.

Develop Large Integrated Solutions

The framework enables development of larger solutions by coordinating activities as well as managing dependencies across multiple teams.

One of the key innovations of SAFe is the framework’s ability to centralize decision-making and bring a top-down mindset to a typically bottom-up process.

Established History

The SAFe framework has been around for some time. It was originally introduced a decade ago back in 2011. 

At that point it was called the “Agile Enterprise Big Picture”. This Big Picture described how to leverage existing Agile frameworks such as Lean, Kanban, Scrum, and XP and apply them at the Team, Program, and Portfolio AKA the “Three Pillars”.

Customer Centricity

The latest version of SAFe, v5.0, places great emphasis on the customer. It introduces the concept of Customer Centricity. The idea is to put the customer at the center of all decisions being made. 

The business mindset is to provide a positive experience for the customer. The goal that this achieves is customer satisfaction. Companies seek out direct feedback from customers in order to tailor their solutions to their exact needs. 

Customer-centric businesses generate greater profits, increase employee engagement, and result in more satisfied customers.

Product Owner and Product Management

Product Owners and Product Managers play key roles within SAFe. In general, the Product Manager decides what products to build next, and the Product Owner helps the development team to build the products.

The scope of Product Manager responsibilities typically include:

  • Owns the program backlog
  • Defines features, Program Increments and Releases
  • Owns the Vision, Roadmap, and Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Establishes features and acceptance criteria

Product Owner responsibilities are:

  • Acts as a proxy for the customer within Agile development teams
  • Owns the team backlog
  • Defines iterations and stories
  • Contributes to Vision, Roadmap and ROI
  • Establishes story acceptance criteria

SAFe’s Strengths Include

  • SAFe was designed to maintain a big picture view of software development
  • Able to support significant cross-functional dependencies between teams
  • Helps cross-functional teams collaborate more effectively
  • SAFe’s top-down alignment and centralized decision-making helps ensure strategic objectives retain focus and that all decisions get made in support of those objectives
  • Aligns all aspects of a project to the broader business goals

SAFe’s Weaknesses Include

  • Many teams find that SAFe takes too much of a top-down approach - push rather than a pull approach
  • The additional layers of oversight, administration and coordination - process overhead
  • Potential for longer planning cycles
  • Some believe the framework is not pure Agile due to the amount of upfront planning

Multiple Configurations - Not One Size Fits All!

SAFe offers multiple configuration options depending on the size and number of teams and the solution being developed:

  • Full SAFe - building large, integrated solutions
  • Portfolio SAFe - development of multiple solutions
  • Large Solution SAFe - building a large and complex solution
  • Essential SAFe - basic configuration of the framework

Global Adoption

According to Scaled Agile, Inc., “SAFe adoption is growing rapidly around the world. Seventy percent of Fortune 100 companies and a growing number of the Global 2000 have certified SAFe professionals and consultants on-site, and over 700,000 practitioners have been trained to date”.

Free Resources

Today, SAFe’s entire catalog of knowledge and success patterns is all available for free, and it has become one of the most popular Agile frameworks. You can visit the Resources tab at the Scaled Agile website https://www.scaledagileframework.com/ and do a deep dive into the Scaled Agile Framework.

Agile Career Opportunities

Getting career experience with Agile can be quite rewarding and open the door to many new jobs. There is much to choose from. Looking at the typical job boards one can easily find over 100,000 Agile related job openings.

This many choices results in wide open career paths to choose from with jobs involving:

  • Agile Coaches
  • Agile Release Managers
  • Agile Delivery Leads
  • Scrum Masters
  • Product Owners

Salaries for these Agile-related careers can be quite compelling with six figure income quite common:

  • Average US salaries for Agile Product Owners reported at close to $100k
  • Scrum Masters and Agile Project Managers can expect to see salaries ranging from $100k to $150k in the US
  • Agile Delivery Leads and Release Managers salaries are also in the $100k to $150k range

SAFe Career Opportunities

As your Agile experience expands into larger projects with multiple dependent teams there likely will be opportunities to get involved with the SAFe framework. Getting this experience opens up additional opportunities especially in consulting as well as with larger more established companies.

There are thousands of jobs across the country where your SAFe experience can be put to good use. The types of openings typically seen are:

  • Release Train Engineer
  • Principle Agile Coach
  • Principle Scrum Master

These are key positions within a company where you will have the ability to manage each Solution and Agile release train events, facilitate scope and capacity commitment decisions. In addition to coordinating Program Increment planning, Scrum of Scrums, and Solution/System Demos, one will also be involved with coaching team members on SAFe and the Agile mindset.

Salaries for these SAFe focused careers typically are even higher than those for more general Agile experience. As is usually the case, specialization pays!

If you have any questions or need additional info, please contact me.

Christine Kines photo

Christine has 15+ years in the technical industry developing software, leading teams along with extensive experience as a hiring manager. She found that she really enjoyed the process of building teams and interacting with candidates and business customers. As a result, Christine decided to make the hiring process her focus and started Vector Recruiting.

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