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Essential Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) Elements

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) is the most valuable and efficient tool in bringing transformation to modern enterprises. It boosts enterprises by applying Lean-Agile development at scale. SAFe® is a trustworthy, easily customizable, and sustainable framework, thus becoming the most reliable for enterprises. Therefore, enterprises must embrace the culture, mindset, and principles of Lean-Agile in totality. 

So many complicated software projects have been delivered in recent times, and so many more are being delivered, and most of them use SAFe®. It is used irrespective of the size of the enterprise. And the essential SAFe® elements are the pillars on which it stands. The architecture of any Lean-Agile project comprises these elements. So, in this article, we will talk about these essential SAFe® elements to help you understand them and their importance. Since SAFe® is a continuously developing framework, it is necessary to clearly understand these elements so that you can reap maximum benefit from it. 

Here are the essential SAFe® elements:
1. Lean-Agile Principles

Lean-Agile principles are the foundation of SAFe® practices. When enterprises start implementing Lean-Agile at scale, they find it is a huge task. But SAFe® makes it more accessible. Every organization faces challenges but has its strengths to meet them. It is here that a framework with principles becomes more valuable and beneficial. Suppose these Lean-Agile principles are indeed followed in SAFe® implementation. In that case, it prevents the enterprise from going off-track and stays on course even if there is confusion or uncertainty. Therefore, it becomes imperative that all the stakeholders clearly understand these Lean-Agile principles and apply them while working. Enterprises adopt SAFe® for sustained improvement, and these activities find even greater strength with this framework. And the Lean-Agile principles show the way for the improvement activities to be carried out and be of maximum use to the organization and the people with the highest quality.

2. Real Agile Teams and Trains

Real Agile teams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs) are the next elements in the successful implementation of SAFe®. The most important aspects of the Agile teams are that they can organize themselves, manage independently, and are cross-functional. These teams are guided by the Scrum Master or the Product Owner. And the Agile Release Trains (ARTs) are the ones that align them. An ART is formed by combining a few Agile teams into a group. Whatever solutions ARTs are working on, they are well-prepared to execute, test, and release them. This means they have all people and resources needed to deliver the solution. An ART usually consists of 50 to 125 team members and aims to build solutions that can be of the most value to the end-user. 

3. Cadence and Synchronization

Cadence means the measurement of a rhythmic motion. So cadence builds a smooth pattern for the development process. Uncertainties are in-built into the development process. Cadence and synchronization give tools for the process to iterate despite all these uncertainties. Instead of focusing on the components of the system, Cadence focuses on the objective assessment of the entire system. Synchronization, as we know, means two or more things working simultaneously. In the context of SAFe® implementation, synchronization allows all the teams in an ART to start and finish the iteration simultaneously. It also allows the teams to understand many perspectives simultaneously and resolve them. This makes the teams more collaborative. 

4. PI Planning

The next on the list of essential SAFe® elements is the PI (Program Increment) planning. This is the most potent and highest-ranked event in SAFe®. You can understand its significance because if an enterprise does not do PI planning, it is said to be not doing SAFe®. You can't do SAFe® without PI planning. PI planning takes place over two days when all the members of an Agile Release Train (ART)  sit together and plan for the next Program Increment (PI). The aim is that teams should have a common platform where they can not only share and plan but also discuss and find solutions to those issues quickly, which could otherwise have taken a long time to resolve. This encourages a shared vision and goal among the team members.

5. Customer Centricity, DevOps, and Release on Demand

As the saying goes, "the customer is the king," so it is ultimately the customer who decides on the usefulness of the final product for him. Therefore, enterprises must think from the customers' perspective, fully understand their needs, and strive to provide them the complete utility of the product because they consume what ART produces. This defines customer centricity. DevOps, consisting of two words, development and operations, holds a special significance in technology. Since development and operations are two different functions, enterprises seek to connect these teams effectively. So, DevOps in SAFe® helps develop a mindset and practices that enable fast and continuous delivery of releases according to the market's demands. This is called release on demand. This way, team members become more communicative, collaborative, and engaging, which leads to increased customer satisfaction. By introducing this element of SAFe®, the system can be better integrated and automated.

6. System Demo

Among the principles mentioned in the Agile manifesto, an essential one is that it can measure progress only by working software. How an ART progresses is assessed in an enterprise development setting every two weeks. And that is why a practical system demo is held. All the work done by different teams in the ART is integrated and demonstrated to everyone associated with the project. They then review the progress and provide feedback based on which corrective actions can be taken. This way, an objective evaluation of ART's progress is done. Through system demo, all such unnecessary interference or authority is removed that can slow down the progress.

7. Inspect and Adapt

This is one more essential SAFe® element and occurs at the end of every Program Increment (PI). This event marks all the team members involved in developing solutions for the customers who get together to think about the solution, share, and resolve various issues. In addition, they collect and evaluate data, review the solutions, and decide what improvements should be made in the following PI. 

8. IP Iteration

Innovation and Planning iteration (IP iteration) is an essential component of every stage of PI planning. It serves many purposes, including re-energizing people involved in creating solutions for customers. Every PI has an IP iteration as its final iteration. The SAFe® framework entirely focuses on delivering high-class value to the customers. With so much focus on delivery, there is every likelihood of missing out on the innovation part, which may diminish the value an enterprise aims to deliver to the customer. IP iteration seeks to provide a separate time and space for the team members to put their minds toward developing innovative ideas. IP iteration provides time for finishing tasks to meet PI objectives. With dedicated time, team members can gain more professional expertise. PI planning and Inspect and Adapt are also part of the IP iteration period. So, the product owner gets a chance to clear the pending items, plan new PI, and re-prioritize the things. 

9. Architectural Runway

Architectural Runway is the collection of codes, technical infrastructure, and other components essential to support the high-priority features that the teams will work on. This is to avoid unnecessary delay and the need for redesigning. For executing SAFe's Agile structure strategy, its architectural runway has to be robust. The aim is to make enterprises capable of implementing new features. Architectural runway provides organizations with a technical base for successfully implementing new features. If an architectural runway is not strong enough, it will slow the progress of ARTs, thus compromising the speed and quality of delivery. Therefore, enterprises must avoid investing in architectural runway, which is always ahead of the team's progress.

10. Lean-Agile Leadership

The last of the essential SAFe® elements is the Lean-Agile leadership, which by all means is a significant factor in the success of any project. So, the leaders should be the change they want to see in others. If SAFe® has to be implemented successfully, the organization's leaders and managers must take complete responsibility. SAFe® unconditionally expects that in an Agile enterprise, every member should become a Lean-Agile leader with Lean thinking. It further says that all the trained individuals should also become expert trainers to bring out the best in others. For the successful implementation of SAFe® and to reap its full benefits, an enterprise must have accountable leadership. If the enterprise's leadership fails to take responsibility for the implementation, the transformation will not be as valuable as it should be.


We have described the essential SAFe® elements above in detail. SAFe® is customizable and adaptable to new developments, making it a helpful framework. Each SAFe® element is relevant in the overall framework and equally important in the successful implementation of SAFe® in the enterprise. These elements make the teams more cohesive and responsible and allow them to grow.

  1. https://dzone.com/articles/top-10-key-elements-for-successful-safe-implementa-1
  2. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/essential-safe/
  3. https://agility.im/frequent-agile-question/what-are-the-10-essential-safe-elements/



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.