Although the research shows Agile implementation is effective, changing the methodology of a large company can be disruptive at best, and catastrophic at worst. The Scaled Agile Framework Enterprise (SAFe) is specifically designed for big companies used to tight controls looking to switch to a more Agile way of working. The four cornerstones of SAFe begin to effectively implement Agile methodology, regardless of your company size.  

Pillar #1 Team

A team in SAFe is no more than 10 people. Each team should have a specific goal, and the members of the team should possess everything they need to self-reliant and achieve that goal end-to-end. That may include expertise in coding, testing and deployment all in one team. The goals of a teams may be different from one project to the next and one company to another, but they should be very specific, narrow and achievable. Some teams may have daily, weekly, or monthly goals, depending on the company structure.  

Pillar #2 Trains

Several teams combine around one project to create what SAFe calls a “Release Train.” This “Release Train” is the team-of-teams, of around 100 individuals. The release train is also working towards one program or project. The train program may have many moving parts, but should still be very specific and have just one line item on the budget. Each member of the Release Train should be full-time dedicated members of that specific train and not wear different hats 

The Release Train needs to meet all together only once at the beginning of a project to plan, discuss, and work with representatives from business and IT to develop objectives.  

Pillar #3 Program Increment (PI)

Each train needs one team that will steer, coordinate, and lead the other teams. This “head team” is called the Release Management Team, or Program Increment (PI). Although this team hold a greater responsibility, it is still only 8-10 people. The PI team meets and includes a program facilitator, chief scrum master for and others who could give input. It may also include executives who are not committed to that program full-time, but should be informed and included. This group is responsible for communication to external groups, corrective action if necessary, etc.  

Most agile development organizations focus at the team level, but SAFe focuses on the PI, whose goal it is to accomplish the team objectives.  

Pillar #4 Portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of the projects or programs created by release trains. The portfolio should contain the total sum of software development across the company. SAFe recommends having one office dedicated to “Program Portfolio Management,” with the responsibility for strategy and funding.  

These cornerstones of SAFe make it manageable to implement SAFe for any company. SAFe recognizes that large organizations who are used to a very non-Agile and traditional way of working need a structure to help them change while working within a context they can understand and relate to. This is the foundation of SAFe – to create an opportunity for Agile to exist where it previously did not.