SAFe… We love it! We’ve adopted it!

Think now maintains a team of SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs) – SPCs are change agents who combine their technical knowledge of SAFe with an intrinsic motivation to improve their company’s software and systems development processes. Read more here.

SAFe is an ideal example of how the disciplines of project management, even bare-knuckled ones, can be applied to the agile software development methodology without corrupting Lean-Agile principles. SAFe lays out the “how” in superb detail; BKPM provides gives us the “why” and a methodology for staying in strategic alignment.

[Photo courtesy of Scaled Agile, essential SAFe diagram,]

Think has always maintained that agile software development runs into issues when you consider that the actual development of software isn’t the only thing that needs to be managed on most projects. SAFe provides a framework that is scalable and provides some of the roles and operational cadence that we know is critical to success. Interestingly, when we encountered SAFe, we finally found a framework that began to address the somehow overlooked idea that the operational needs of a business aren’t covered by implementing agile scrum teams. Business operations is bigger, much bigger! Think’s long-standing focus on executive-level business operations is finally starting to be addressed by the SAFe framework. Projects are important, but in the SAFe environment, the focus is on Lean-Agile principles and the constant flow of value to a business that can be achieved.

SAFe manages agile development teams in units called Agile Release Trains (ARTs), “a virtual organization of 5-12 teams (50-125+ individuals) that plans, commits and executes together.” There is a real reason that trains are size limited. It is based on a social construct known as Dunbar’s Number, which is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people that can maintain stable social relationships. According to SAFe, “Beyond 125 members on an ART, logistics and inter-team dependencies are more difficult. Alignment and governance are harder to achieve.” How do you address this limitation? Launch more trains!

The SAFe framework supports four out-of-the-box configurations:

  • Essential SAFe – simply stated is a single ART and the place that most SAFe implementations begin.
  • Large Solution SAFe – large complex development efforts that require multiple ARTs but do not need portfolio-level considerations.
  • Portfolio SAFe – provides additional framework that maintains portfolio execution to the business strategy.
  • Full SAFe – the most comprehensive version of SAFe. It supports enterprises that build and maintain large integrated solutions.

To learn more about Think’s SAFe contact Jeff Welch, Vice President of Think.

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