Synchronizing alignment, collaboration, and delivery for multiple teams, SAFe claims to increase productivity, reduce time to market, and improve product quality, and its growing popularity seems to prove that it delivers on these promises. But how exactly does SAFe work?
Essentially, the basic structure of SAFe contains 3 or 4 levels, depending on the specific needs of each organization.
The following is a simplified description of the SAFe architecture.
Levels of organization in SAFe:
Team Level: At the root of the Scaled Agile Framework are agile teams that work with the Scrum or Kanban methods. These teams, made up of a Scrum Master, a Product Owner, and the Development team, are responsible for creating small chunks of functionality from their backlog over a series of sprints. Quality assurance is supported by techniques borrowed from eXtreme Programming and Lean Development.
Program Level: 5-12 Agile teams (50-125 members) form an Agile Release Train (ART) at the program level. Led by a Release Train Engineer, this ART (a long-lived, self-organizing group) helps these teams align with business strategy, and can also be used to monitor progress. ARTs are cross-functional teams that work to define, build and test valuable and functional functionality elements based on a backlog every 2 weeks.
Large Solution level: This level (which is a new addition to SAFe with version 4.0 in which it was called “Value Stream” and later in 4.5 it was renamed “Large Solution”) is optional and can be used to support the development of large and complex system architectures. Essentially, a value chain helps orchestrate the work of multiple ARTs.
Portfolio Level: As the highest level of SAFe, the Portfolio Level organizes multiple value streams. It provides governance, financing and coordination for all value streams and for all the ARTs within them. In other words, Portfolio is essentially what would be called the management level.
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