SAFe® is Live: How Scaled Agile is Evolving

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MI-GSO | PCUBED as partners sent a team of agilists to last year’s Scaled Agile’s 2019 Global Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) Summit in San Diego, California. I, Rich Weller, and two others went to learn the about its latest release – SAFe® Version 5.0, as well as share some of our key learnings in applying SAFe during their lighting talks.

SAFe® is one of the fastest growing and leading methods of scaling agile. In this year’s summit I was one person in a crowd of 2,100. I was eager to learn as much as possible from the event and sharing with my team how we can apply Scaled Agile 5.0 and deliver fast value to our clients.

MI-GSO | PCUBED was one of 78 different partners who were in attendance. Our consultants are part of the precious few 600 people around the world who hold the SPC (SAFe® Program Consultant) certification, and as a Bronze Scaled Agile Partner, we offer SAFe® 5.0 training. Check-out our available courses.

Chris James, the CEO of Scaled Agile, opened the summit, revealing that 570 companies were at the event from 35 different countries. Scaling Agile has truly scaled. In addition, nearly 500,000 people have been trained to date on the Scaled Agile Framework – that number of agile teams is nothing to scoff at.

Chris James, CEO of Scaled Agile, revealed 500,000 people have been trained in SAFe.
Chris James, CEO of Scaled Agile, revealed 500,000 people have been trained in SAFe.

My first learning: I wasn’t prepared for SAFe® 5.0, and I’ve been working with SAFe® since 2016. In that time, I have seen the framework get updated twice. However, they were minor, incremental changes. From SAFe® v4.5 to v4.6, Scaled Agile added the Five Core Competencies of the Lean Enterprise, introduced guidance for governments, and added the tabbed configuration selector.

Now, given my business and portfolio management background, I felt that SAFe® was a little soft at the top. In other words, it lacked the processes to really guide an organization from the top down. SAFe® 5.0 fixed this with:

  1. The addition of Business Agility
  2. The SAFe® Big Picture
  3. The addition of SAFe® Lean-Agile Principle #10: Organize Around Value
Dean Leffingwell, co-founder of Scaled Agile and the Chief Methodologist.
Dean Leffingwell, co-founder of Scaled Agile and the Chief Methodologist.

You will notice from the screenshot of the SAFe® Big Picture for 5.0, there is now a blue band at the top for Business Agility. This grabbed my attention. Dean Leffingwell, co-founder of Scaled Agile and the Chief Methodologist, went on to explain the Big Picture’s numerous, much-needed enhancements, such as new agile competencies for a Continuous Learning Culture and Organizational Agility.

A preview of SAFe for Lean Enterprises, focusing on Portfolios.
A preview of SAFe for Lean Enterprises, focusing on Portfolios.

To put this into perspective, if I held up the previous two versions of the SAFe® Big Picture, you would be hard pressed to find the differences. But in one glance between this 5.0 version to its predecessor, it would be easy to spot the many variances.

However, this picture has become rather complex to me, someone with plenty of experience. How would a new user get their head around all of this? Even worse yet, where do I begin advising the next executive that SAFe® will help their organization?

It was about this time in the presentation that it was revealed that a new tab had been added to the “Configurable” Big Picture. It is the “Overview” tab:

A preview of SAFe for Lean Enterprises, focusing on its Overview.
A preview of SAFe for Lean Enterprises, focusing on its Overview.

This is what I needed – a simplified view that shows at a high level how SAFe® 5.0 puts the customer in the center and the various benefits it offers. Just like the Big Picture view, this page is interactive, allowing the user to click on any icon to drill into more details.

With the many new additions to the SAFe® Big Picture, I feel it has become a little too complex to start the story with executives around what is SAFe® and how can it provide value. Upon first glance at the overview tab, it is apparent that the customer is the central focus of SAFe®. This page also provides a more simplistic approach for explaining the Seven Core Competencies of the Lean Enterprise. If one of the competencies is of particular interest, one can then quickly drill into the details for more information.

At the conference, SAFe® 5.0 was still in Preview mode. However, as of now, the tool is now live. I encourage you to click around and learn!

Total statistics from the 2019 SAFe Summit.
Total statistics from the 2019 SAFe Summit.

As I write this article, I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised about this addition of Business Agility. The year before, we listed all of the potential features or enhancements that could be made. It was pretty unanimous that Business Agility was a gap. For years, MI-GSO | PCUBED has offered Business Agility to our clients, and we continue to do so because it’s crucial to any organization’s development process.

Starting SAFe® will still be a challenge for any new organization starting their journey, because it usually requires a previous significant pain, delivery, or vocal sponsor – shocking, I know. There’s also a focus on needing to change and manage everyone’s delivery mindset. However, I and countless others at MI-GSO | PCUBED have made this journey before, so the long road to implementing SAFe® 5.0 is definitely one worth taking.

I tip my hat to Scaled Agile – they listened to their customers, recognized this need, and responded. The overarching theme of SAFe® 5.0 (for all the complexity it introduces systematically) is straightforward: “This stuff is working, and we’re figuring out how to do it more and better than before.”

This stuff is working, and we’re figuring out how to do it more and better than before.

Rich Weller - Agile Certified, Program and Portfolio Management Solution Specialist

I look forward to leveraging the Business Agility toolbox so that executives can identify their customers and offer what they’re looking for. We need to quickly provide that value, while at the same time helping them to build a learning organization that focuses on relentless improvement and innovative culture.

SAFe® has now scaled to the C Suite!

About our author

Rich Weller

Rich Weller

Senior Principal Consultant 
@ MI-GSO | PCUBED USA