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Scrum Vs. SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework) – Difference Between the Two Frameworks

Scrum and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) are two different frameworks that work under Agile and Lean principles and values. Both are very popular among organizations, and the day-to-day awareness about them is increasing. On the surface, both Scrum and SAFe® look similar. However, there are slight differences between them, and it is essential to understand them clearly; otherwise, it may lead to confusion. All Stakeholders need to have an explicit understanding of these differences. But before we look at the differences, let us first see how Scrum and SAFe® frameworks are defined individually.

Scrum framework: The Scrum Guide says that Scrum is a framework within which people can solve complex changeable problems while creating and delivering products of the highest value. Scrum is not a very complex framework. It is a simple product development process in which the tasks in a project are divided into achievable small parts and are given to different cross-functional teams to be finished within a given time frame. Stakeholders frequently review the output of these small iterations, receive feedback, make changes and incorporate features according to the customers' requests. They are expected to deliver the product as early as possible. The Scrum framework has three essential roles: the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the Developers. They are the keys to designing,  organizing, and managing a process.
SAFe® framework: The SAFe® framework describes a method of scaling Agile in large enterprises or big teams working on the same project. In other words, SAFe® is a framework that implements Scrum at the enterprise level. It is a knowledge base and takes advantage of three central knowledge bodies: Agile principles, Lean principles, and System thinking. The SAFe® framework mainly focuses on program management, team management, and portfolio management. SAFe® is a framework that influences the whole company and not just one team in the company. SAFe® incorporates existing Lean and Agile frameworks into a larger framework for more significant projects.

So, what then is the difference between Scrum and SAFe® frameworks? As we said earlier, there are no significant differences, but whatever differences exist, it is essential to make a clear distinction between these two frameworks. Let us compare Scrum and SAFe® frameworks and understand the differences.

Scrum vs. SAFe®

The main difference between Scrum and SAFe® frameworks is their approach. While Scrum is used to organize small teams, the SAFe® framework is used for organizing a whole organization.

A Scrum framework puts more focus on iterative development. It helps the teams to self-organize themselves. It is also helpful in delivering high-quality software quickly.

On the other hand, the approach in SAFe® is more professional. It aids in setting up objectives and helps in meeting the customers' demands. While the Scrum framework is flexible and assists in implementing diverse software projects, the SAFe® framework is a little rigid in its approach and is implemented at the enterprise level. 

Scaled Agile Framework vs. Scrum does not end here. Another significant difference between the two is that SAFe® is a detailed framework while Scrum ignores many essential aspects. 

Since Scrum is used for small teams only, its scope gets limited to the functioning of that particular team, but SAFe® encompasses all the elements and features of an entire organization and can be used for all the work of the organization. It enfolds principles like transparency, alignment, in-built quality, and program execution. 

The Scrum framework easily adapts to situations, so it can be suitably used for pending cases. Scrum's concept is simple but proves difficult to implement. But SAFe® is easy to implement, and at the same time, it preserves the attributes of the enterprise and its process structure. However, the Scaled Agile Framework is not as adaptable as the Scrum framework. 

At a glance, let's present the comparison between the two frameworks in a tabular form below for a better understanding of Scrum vs. SAFe®.


CharacteristicScrumSAFe®
ImplementationScrum is an excellent approach applicable to small teams to enable them to work cohesively and effectively.The Agile framework is scaled and can be adopted by the whole organization.
FrameworkSuitable for small organizations.It is an enterprise-level framework suited to large organizations.
Basic constructScrum
Agile Release Trains (ARTs)

Structure of the team and critical rolesIt uses a small team of 7-11 members and comprises three different roles. These are the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers.SAFe® involves multiple large teams and even team of teams or portfolio and have multiple levels like Release Train Engineers (RTE), Program Management, Value Stream Engineers (VSE), Solution Architect (SA), and Epic Owner (EO).
ContextScrum is a small framework that guides how an inspection can be carried out quickly and adapted in a small space.SAFe® provides clear-cut processes and roles so that various Agile teams can work together as one big team in an Agile Release Train (ART).
Principles and strategyThe Scrum framework is lightweight and uses iterative methods, which involve breaking the entire project into small portions to simplify more complex projects. It regularly measures delivery.The team size does not limit the SAFe framework. It helps and guides the organizations to scale the Agile and Lean practices to the enterprise level.
Core Values
  • It gives precedence to iteration over processes
  • It encourages collaboration with the customers
  • Documentation is substantial for a working software
  • Response to change is rapid
  • SAFe® is aligned with the overall strategy of the organization
  • The quality is in-built
  • Program execution
  • It is quite transparent
EssentialsTo start working with Scrum, you need a Scrum team like Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers.For working in SAFe®, you first need to choose the required SAFe®, then have an Agile Release Train comprising 5-7 Agile teams. It needs a large team of at least 50 members.
Team dependenciesIn Scrum, each team works independently of the other, and every team is self-organized.In SAFe, teams depend on each other for their functioning and require close coordination. It also needs a high level of alignment between the top leadership and the teams.
EventsScrum has regular events like Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.SAFe® follows the same structure all through. It follows the process of planning, doing, checking, and adjusting.
Time frameThe usual time for the Scrum framework is 1-4 weeksThe SAFe® framework takes about two weeks
Benefits of each framework

Since Scrum is applied to individual teams, it has project-related benefits, which are:

  • There is more focus on what the customer wants
  • As the team is small, collaboration is easy, and effective and the team coordinates well
  • The turnaround time is pretty quick
  • The development processes are optimized

Since SAFe® is an enterprise-level framework, it has business-level benefits like

  • It provides business agility that prospers in this digital era.
  • It helps the companies to remain competitive in the world market
  • As SAFe® is applied at the organizational level, it increases employee engagement
  • It aids in enhancing productivity and reducing defects

So, this is all about Scrum vs. SAFe®. We hope we have made a clear distinction between the two frameworks. The main difference between the two is in how they are implemented. Although both the frameworks use Agile and Lean principles, they are implemented at different levels. SAFe® puts its focus on release planning which Scrum does not. The middle management has virtually no role in the Scrum framework, while the SAFe® framework has program and portfolio management as its two essential levels.

References
  1. https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/17375/scrum-vs-safe
  2. https://scrumguides.org/
  3. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/


Author

Paula

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.