How do I start implementing SAFe?

The Scaled Agile Framework®, or SAFe®, is one of a growing number of frameworks that seek to address the problem of coordinating the activities of multiple teams when using lean and agile delivery methods. This article gives advice on how to start using SAFe.

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SAFe is designed to coordinate the work of multiple teams all working together to deliver value to the business. Experience shows that scaling frameworks become valuable when at least 5 teams need to coordinate their work.

If you have fewer than 5 teams and it is unlikely that you will scale up to 5 teams, then SAFe may not be the right solution for you. However, if you have fewer than 5 teams but expect to scale up the number of teams working together then it may be useful to start using SAFe so that it is established ahead of scaling up.

Here are the first three steps recommended to get underway with SAFe:

1 – Find a sponsor, the more senior the better

Implementing SAFe requires investment of time and money, and it needs some level of organisational change. This is not something that can be done from the ‘ground up’ but needs leaders in the organisation to sponsor the change and help make it happen. Ideally, they would complete the Leading SAFe training course.

2 – Find a SAFe specialist consultant

SAFe has a specific role called SAFe program consultant, whose responsibility is to get SAFe implemented successfully. Whether you hire a consultant, bring in a contractor or get your own staff trained is up to you. You are specifically looking for an up to date ‘SPC’ qualification. SAFe keeps evolving so old qualifications do go stale. Also licenced SPCs have access to a comprehensive set of SAFe toolkits from Scaled Agile. If you are bringing in an external SPC, check that they have practical experience.

3 – Pick a date to start with your first agile release train

Depending on the number of teams involved, you should be looking to start 4-6 weeks after your SPC has been with you full time. This will provide enough time for the SPC to get the people who will be involved ready. They will also need the support of the sponsor to make things happen as they need to. To begin with focus on the 10 essential SAFe elements.

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