KLM, Philips and Spotify, will your company be next? Four questions about SAFe

Beeld: Unsplash

Implementing agile in a large organization can be challenging. How do you implement this work ethic and philosophy on every level of the organization? The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) might be the solution.

The Dutch Tax and Customs Administration has 26000 employees. It’s one of the biggest governmental bodies of The Netherlands. Once upon a time the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration was the pride and joy of the government when it came down to their IT-practices. Dutch national newspaper de Volkskrant writer employees of the tax authority would be encouraged to play games on their laptops at home, just so they could get used to working with the new technology.


Times have changed however. The once hypermodern computer systems got old and renewing existing systems took a lot of time. Software was only released twice a year. It was time for a change and so the Dutch tax authority introduced the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to their organization. Working with SAFe is a way to introduce agile to large organizations. Instead of only twice a year, the Dutch tax authority now releases a software-update every month. The tax authority is also able to make changes in processes by releasing in small batches. These processes often serve important and sensitive purposes for the organization, like allowances. The employees feel more involved, the quality of the software has gotten much better and the cybersecurity-problems are down with 87 percent. You can read all about the changes for the Dutch tax authority in this case study.

Is your organization considering implementing agile as well? Working with SAFe is not just implementing some new tools – it’s a true change in the company culture. In this article we’ll help you get started by answering four important questions about SAFe.

What is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)?

In 2001 the Agile-manifesto was published. IT-departments decided it was time for a different approach to projects – the waterfallmethod wasn’t doing what it was meant to anymore. That’s where agile was invented – it was a way to incorporate flexibility in the process. Communication was improved and instead of doing big releases with a set end result, agile is about all the small releases that lead to an end result. More about agile, agile-terms and how it came to be you can read in this article.

‘Sounds great’, you’re obviously thinking, ‘but what about large organizations?’ That’s where SAFe came in: a framework to implement agile in larger organizations. When you’re working with SAFe it’s not about the individual result, but about the result for the organization.

How does it work?

There are four ways to do SAFe: essential, large, portfolio and full. Essential has the least layers (two) and full has the most layers (four). The graph on this website explains how that works exactly.

In every SAFe-framework there is work on three levels: portfolio, program and team.

The portfolio-level is where the business-owners are based. They are mainly concerned with the budget and do not have a say in the content. The product owner is in charge of the content. The business-owners do set the budget for the product that the teams (the Agile Release Trains (ART) are delivering.

On program level you’ll find the Agile Release Trains (ART). ART is a team that contains multiple agile teams. We call the product that’s delivered by the ART the Product Increment (PI). On program level, the Release Train Engineer (RTE) is in charge. The RTE is wearing the conductor hat in the schedule. He makes sure the work is done the agile way and guides teams when they’re solving problems. The RTE makes sure the train keeps going and gets to it’s destination on time.

On the lowest level you’ll find a standard scrum-team, that delivers products in sprints and is guided by a scrum master.

When should you implement SAFe?

It’s a good idea to implement SAFe when you’re considering moving towards an agile-approach with a large organization. KLM-Air France and Philips work with SAFe for example. A spin-off of SAFe is the Spotify-model, which you can check out here.

It’s important however to stay on top of things when you enroll SAFe in your organization. Make sure you customize the approach to best fit your organization and your staff has the knowledge to start working following the SAFe-practices.

What knowledge do I need?

About 250 staff members of the Dutch tax authority were sent to training courses when they started working with SAFe. It’s not just a different method of work – it changes the culture of your organization. If you start working with SAFe you could benefit from a SAFe-training course, but if your job role changes entirely, training your soft skills can help too. You can have a look at those courses here.

Global Knowledge has recently given her first SAFe-training and is now official SAFe-authorized. If you start with SAFe, this training course is a must. And if you take your course at Global Knowledge, the exam is already included. Have a look at what we have to offer by clicking the button.

Sources: SAFe (case study), de Volkskrant, Agile Scrum Group, Agile Scrum Group (SAFe)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *