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SAFe in the Enterprise

Posted By Colin ONeill, illustration by Jack Wooten, Friday, January 6, 2017
Updated: Monday, February 13, 2017
SAFe Enterprise Level

Now that the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) has become the industry standard for scaling agility, many organizations want to know how SAFe integrates with the larger enterprise. Many of my clients have asked: "How does SAFe support business processes and business capabilities?" and "How does SAFe ensure that the high-quality solutions it delivers are in direct support of corporate goals?" Assuming that SAFe is the chosen production model and workflow management system for developing and delivering technical solutions in an enterprise, we can answer these and other questions by illustrating strategic alignment with the SAFe model as seen below.

Reproduced with permission © 2011-2017 Scaled Agile, Inc. All rights reserved.  


As an instance of Lean, SAFe places great emphasis on global alignment and the continuous flow of work. Enterprise flow starts when executive leadership meet to define strategies that are designed to achieve evolving organizational goals. Strategies are relatively short-lived; they create guiderails for focusing the expenditure of  limited corporate resources and capital to achieve a desired outcome. Strategies are implemented by business capabilities that either currently exist, or new ones that must be created. Thus, an enterprise invests in its business capabilities to effectively implement its strategies.

Most business capabilities have a technology component to them. That is, in order to execute the business processes that realize business capabilities, many of those processes steps are automated. The automation suite within an organization is its collection of technical capabilities. In all cases, technical capabilities should directly or indirectly support business capabilities, and these relationships can be mapped (the connections between technical and business capabilities are often documented within a commercially-available capability management tool).

But how do we know which technical capabilities to build, and how is that message communicated to the IT organization? SAFe does this through strategic themes (see inset above), which often result in funded programs. A funded program is the financial vehicle by which the signal for technical work is carried to the SAFe portfolio and then translated into initiatives (called epics in SAFe). Each initiative is mapped to the technical capabilities that must be created or enhanced. Because a SAFe Value Stream is responsible for set of technical capabilities, it is relatively straightforward to allocate epics (or parts of an epic) to each value stream, along with the CapEx and OpEx needed to further those capabilities. Finally, it is the technical products and product lines developed and delivered within an Agile Release Train (ART) that realize (i.e., instantiate) technical capabilities.

In this way, strategic alignment of SAFe solutions and corporate strategies is ensured through the development of technical products and services (technical capabilities) that directly enable business capabilities. Using this top-down traceable approach, we can be sure that the products built by an ART fully support the advancement of our global business strategies through a reliable, traceable mechanism.

For a more general, non-SAFe-specific rendition of this model, see the Lean Value Map and its continuous value cycle.



Scaled Agile Framework® and SAFe® are registered marks of Scaled Agile, Inc.


Tags:  agile  capabilities  enterprise  SAFe  Scaled Agile Framework 

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