Pros and Cons of Scaled Agile Framework | SAFe Advantages and Disadvantages

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Pros and Cons of Scaled Agile Framework

Currently, businesses are encountering the need to transform along with digital advancements. When they meet the need for software development in any manner, the imperative to provide high-quality software quicker is required. There are numerous reasons to meet the need. However, knowing a goal is a particular thing, and knowing how to achieve it is quite another.  

So how can the development and testing team incorporate high-quality software into the market at an increased pace?

Several approaches have come up in the past years in response to the question. One of the most preferred approaches is the Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe.

A primer on Scaled Agile framework

The Scaled Agile Framework is a manner of taking an iterative Agile working manner and scaling it up to numerous levels of a firm or organization. Along with it, it applies the perspective of lean manufacturing. It revolves around the aspect that there is a demanding need for adaptability in enterprises. 

Developed in 2011, the SAFe assists software development teams to introduce enhanced products and making the market faster. It rests on the combination of Lean and Agile principles. It requires close alignment and collaboration across teams and focuses on centralizing decision-making. It provides various configuration options based on team size and includes three stages: Portfolio, Program, and Team. 

SAFe enables industries to envision the big picture by outlining responsibilities, roles, and activities needed for software development. It helps industries to resolve concerns about the initiative of software development alignment along with the objectives of the business or its predictability. It also determines the means to measure success and showcase opportunities to refine workflows. The motive behind SAFe was to develop Agile fundamentals configurable for large organizations and the ability of the framework to centralize decision-forming and renovate a top-down perspective to a classic bottom-up process fulfills the motive.

Is the Scaled Agile Framework appropriate for you? To answer this question, let us look at the pros and cons of the Scaled Agile Framework and make an informed decision.

Pros of the Scaled Agile Framework
1. Assist enterprises scale-to-fit

When an organization possesses cross-functional teams that have to coordinate and work together, SAFe plays a crucial role. From large to lower-level configurations, the framework can be suitable for established organizations that wish to configure Agile activities. The scope of SAFe broadens to stakeholders, customers, and management so the decisions formed and risks are looked after consistently.   

2. PI Planning for Program Increment

Planning for Program Increment is the method of framework to provide clarity to the goals of the program requirements. The cross-functional groups or teams function in concert across all the increments of the program and plays for delivery in the Scaled Agile Framework release trains. 

Especially with complex and large projects that influence multiple domains, Program Increment planning is an organized process to administer teams towards mutual dependencies and milestones. Orchestrated three-day planning activity promises consistent velocity and cadence.  

3. Business goals alignment

SAFe succeeds in breaking down numerous silos amidst the business stakeholders and technology providers. Businesses actively work with Information Technology to backlog items and prioritize initiatives by allotting value to each item. By expanding Agile policies to the businesses, the businesses can inherit the policies to re-evaluate priorities. Thus, Business Agility is built that is in pace with the IT’s working model. A seamless organization is created that fosters synergy amidst technology and businesses. 

4. Enhanced time to value

In SAFe, all fragments of the organization, from portfolio teams, C-level executives, ARTs, and Scrum teams collaborate at an industry level by marching together while following the same processes, and protocols to build a unified collaboration towards a mutual set of goals. It assists in forming and executing plans uniformly. Also, it incorporates timely feedback or revert at all levels, and thereby, delivers value at an increased pace. 

5. End-user driven principles

Possessing an empathetic perspective towards product build, design, delivery, and execution is a driving factor for the triumph of any product. SAFe introduces a customer-centric, research-driven enterprise that focuses on delivering empathy routes before the design phase. It helps in understanding the impact of any decision formed by the industry makers on the end-user. It also assists organizations to understand the rhythms of the market and stay ahead in the competition while discovering unexplored niches. 

6. Organization business agility

With the SAFe framework, an organization won’t be of any use unless it assists the enterprise to thrive in the ever-evolving digital era which demands quick responses to the emerging opportunities and market changes. SAFe assists in aligning IT and business strategy to ensure that the growth hierarchical structure runs per the organizational network. The customer-centric framework offers stability and efficiency along with innovation. 

7. Increased employ engagement

SAFe increases employee engagement remarkably. It assists employees to achieve mastery, autonomy, and increased purpose that is crucial in unlocking innate motivation. It supports organizations to reduce burnout and improve employee satisfaction. 

Cons of Scaled Agile framework
1. Too many jargons

The Scaled Agile framework depends on technical terms. Terms such as runways, guardrails, program increments, and release trains make it challenging to remember. SAFe has altered certain terminologies such as sprint to iterations. It has become a challenging element of the Scaled Agile framework.

2. Startup averse

SAFe was developed for large-scale industries. It cannot succeed in a start-up that consists of less than forty members. Using the Scaled Agile framework may backfire because it can decrease the ability to run parallel in highly volatile markets. 

3. Top-down proposal

The Scaled Agile Framework is rigid in its nature and functions according to the top-down principle. The authority to form decisions lies with the organizational honchos and top-level managers. The Project Managers are left with no autonomy, thus are ladened with the undue burden while the other workers become clueless. Due to this reason, employees feel that the Scaled Agile Framework is no different as compared to traditional frameworks. 

4. Define Epics incorrectly

The long-term projects that are presently in progress are referred to as Epics. In the Scaled Agile framework, Epics are sizeable organizational initiatives that are required to be evaluated for the prospective ROI so they can be initiated. 

5. New processes, activities, and terms

One of the most common approaches in Agile is Scrum. Scrum has numerous concepts, ceremonies, and artifacts that are properly understood. As a practitioner advances from one project to another project, and from one enterprise to the other, a shallow learning curve and minute translation are seen. 

With the Scaled Agile framework, numerous terminologies require some time for teams to acknowledge and adopt. For enterprises that possess a deeply tooted software development process, the introduction of so many terminologies and concepts impacts velocity and can be disruptive. 

6. Not suitable for small teams

The Scaled Agile framework was originally designed to assist large enterprises in tackling complex projects. For small teams and organizations that do not need portfolio management or program increment planning, the framework can be a burden. 

 Especially, in the instance of startups in which the initial phases of a firm depend on adapting and changing new principles for surviving in the market. An extensive framework acts as an obstacle for these immature and smaller teams in building their own identity and niche. 

7. Forming the appropriate choice for SAFe

The pros and cons of the Scaled Agile framework make it easier to spin amidst how it is helpful and how it isn’t. Implementing the Scaled Agile framework is a prime undertaking that demands a proper understanding of the framework. Also, you must evaluate whether your enterprise is ready to adopt the framework.

Summing up

SAFe introduces several things at the table, especially by making it possible for organizations of the specific size to adopt a more Agile approach to their software development. However, the pros and cons of the Scaled Agile framework will make the decision-forming process convenient. Also, it will assist you in deciding which teams must be adopting SAFe and the planning required for adopting the framework.

As with the current advancements, there isn’t anything wrong or right when we are concerned about whether your organization must adopt SAFe. Instead, it is about educating oneself about the options and the needs of your organization to determine the best-suited approach.



Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.