Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) for Companies with Small Value Streams

Last year, I got inspired to read Dean Leffingwell’s “Agile Software Requirements” book. As I read Dean’s concepts (better known as the Scaled Agile Framework™ - or SAFe for short), it was obvious to me that we had independently arrived at similar framework-level solutions to scale agile and move towards release oriented delivery (see my Scrum Alliance article – The Big Lever). My experience that is most relevant to SAFe occurred during my tenure at a medium-sized financial services company where we transitioned from waterfall to agile and then grew to execute monthly releases with solutions contributed from 30+ scrum teams. The principal difference in our frameworks was that ours was developed around the fact that we had many small business value streams mostly disconnected from each other regarding business intent but connected by a mostly shared technology stack that provided the solutions to every value stream. Each small value stream only required (or could only afford based on our budgets) between 1 to 4 teams worth of capacity.

At the end of 2012, I had the privilege to attend the SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) Certification training in Boulder with Dean leading much of the training. Yes, I passed the test and became an SPC! But, more importantly, I started thinking about all the benefits of the SAFe framework and how it could be applied into a Small Value Stream organization much like the one described above.

This article series will explore:

  • A deeper dive into describing the pattern of a Small Value Stream delivery model,
  • Similarities in frameworks between SAFe and the framework we developed at the financial services company – for the purposes of this article series, let’s call this SVS-AF or Small Value Stream Agile Framework, and
  • Potential execution modifications for SAFe to account for the SVS-AF shortfalls and benefits.

I hope that you find this article series helping you apply SAFe if your organizations have the Small Value Stream pattern. This article series is mostly intended for readers with a high level of familiarity with SAFe and agile concepts. The next article explains the "SAFe for Small Value Streams" pattern.