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Agile at Scale7 min read

Navigating the SAFe roadmap for effective change management

Don’t be intimidated by Agile at Scale implementation. The SAFe roadmap will help you successfully transition to the agile methodology in five steps.
From Team '23

Tempo Team

Success yields growth. Eventually, your usual way of doing business won’t be able to keep up. Your organization’s vision and processes must evolve if you want to stay competitive. However, business transformations can be tricky, with over 70% failing outright. A successful transition requires a strategic roadmap to guide the evolution. 

When a business reaches this phase of development, there are many agile methods to spur continued growth, such as Scrum at Scale and Large Scale Scrum, among others. These are excellent choices, but knowing which agile processes will work best for your organization now and as it grows can be challenging. 

One tried-and-true option is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) roadmap. It offers a detailed implementation methodology for adopting agile principles organization-wide while remaining flexible enough to adapt to the company’s specific structure and needs.

When applied to project management, the SAFe framework promotes a core set of principles:

  • Viewing projects from an economic perspective

  • Assuming variability throughout the process

  • Maintaining the availability of options

  • Empowering team members by decentralizing decision-making

The SAFe implementation roadmap provides a proven guide for successfully adopting Agile at Scale and evolving your business to the enterprise level. 

What’s SAFe?

SAFe is a set of guiding principles and processes designed to assist businesses in scaling agile practices. The methodology is a framework to promote alignment, collaboration, and delivery across multiple cross-functional teams

The most significant difference between Scrum, Kanban, and SAFe methodologies is team organization. Scrum and Kanban target smaller project groups of three to nine, with seven being the ideal size. These methodologies work well until you try to scale the framework across multiple departments. 

SAFe agile is designed to support larger companies. The framework organizes teams differently, using four organizational levels:

  1. Teams: This cross-functional working group leverages traditional agile and lean processes to produce deliverables.

  2. Program/Agile Release Trains (ARTs): ARTs bring together teams working on different business functions across the same project.

  3. Large solution: At this level, multiple programs collaborate on related solutions.

  4. Portfolio: This is the highest hierarchical level, where leaders focus on aligning projects and programs with the organization’s vision and strategy.

Each level operates according to the following principles:

  1. Alignment

  2. Built-in quality

  3. Transparency

  4. Program increment (PI) execution.

The framework introduces new roles to ensure everyone works together productively. The release train engineer coordinates project work at the ART level, while the solution architect communicates the high-level vision for in-development solutions.

Together, teams implement lean and agile principles to promote collaboration over synchronized PIs lasting 8–12 weeks.

A 5-step roadmap for implementing SAFe

A SAFe implementation roadmap guides organizations step-by-step through the framework’s adoption. It provides a structured approach that assists team adaptation, minimizes risks, and ensures a smooth transition. 

This agile roadmap will guide your organization as it adopts and scales the framework with high-level, long-term goals in mind. As you progress through the process, engage with external stakeholders and teammates to keep them up-to-date.

1. Appoint SAFe champions

Identify and train staff members to become SAFe program consultants who help spearhead the transformation. These change agents will coach and encourage others through the transition.

You’ll also need to fill additional roles, like scrum master, product owner, and release train engineer. Through training, they’ll become experts in SAFe principles and practices to help their teammates adapt to new processes.

2. Form cross-functional teams

Leaders and champions must collaborate to integrate cross-functional teams into ARTs and programs so they’re ready to begin work once projects are defined. 

3. Identify value streams

Next, map process flowcharts to track product and information movement through the system, including the points of entry for customer demands and supplier material. This technique is called value stream mapping, and analyzing its output will help teams identify opportunities to increase efficiency and deliver more value to the customer.

Once complete, work with the leadership team to define broad objectives project managers can break down into PIs that support high-level business goals. From there, managers can begin PI planning. 

4. Conduct roadmap planning

Establish a practical agile product roadmap that respects business milestones and incorporates SAFe principles and processes. This map will divide large initiatives into smaller PIs for trains and teams to work on. By breaking down bigger projects into more manageable iterations, teams can regularly release high-quality deliverables and launch improvements in a shorter time.

5. Continue to improve

As part of the SAFe implementation, leadership should establish feedback loops in each department to facilitate stakeholder communication. These channels allow leadership to connect with product owners and release train engineers to evaluate their teams’ adjustment to the new framework. 

Managers should also introduce frequent reviews into each project plan to build a culture of continuous improvement. These meetings will assist employees at every level in identifying and problem-solving weaknesses in workflows, encouraging learning and growing as a team.

The benefits of implementing the SAFe

The framework is complex and challenging to implement, but it’s well worth the time and effort. The SAFe framework brings organizational benefits, including increased efficiency, improved collaboration, and enhanced customer value. Teams can take advantage of a structured, adaptable approach to project management that decreases bottlenecks, reduces waste, and improves communication.

Additional benefits from SAFe include:

  • Faster business development: With SAFe, businesses can iterate quickly to deliver increased customer value thanks to an incremental approach to product development. 

  • Cross-team alignment: SAFe builds alignment between teams across diverse business groups through structured roles, events, and processes. The framework synchronizes planning and collaborative efforts to generate organizational cohesion. When everyone is on the same page, leaders can more easily maintain a consistent vision and strategic direction for growth. 

  • Increased flexibility: The SAFe framework builds agility into an organization, helping it respond quickly to change through iterative development, synchronized PIs, and a focus on value streams. Prioritizing values like alignment and transparency ensures teams can pivot while respecting the company’s core principles.

  • Scalability: SAFe’s structured approach to growth clearly defines roles and processes that will benefit the scaling of medium- and large-sized companies.

  • Increased ROI: Organizations that implement the SAFe framework improve efficiency, reduce waste, and continually enhance their deliverables. These factors combine to improve a company’s bottom line.

  • Improved risk management: SAFe establishes a process to help teams proactively understand and manage project threats. Working groups update risk management plans during increment planning, identifying potential threats and determining how to mitigate them. 

Tempo’s tools for SAFe success

Establishing SAFe in an organization is an intense, complex undertaking. To succeed, your business needs tools to facilitate communication, visibility, and management. That’s where Tempo and its suite of project management solutions can help.

Tempo has designed an agile toolbox to help businesses scale their practices using the SAFe framework. It includes several essential components:

  • A modular format so businesses can address high-priority items while building on their success.

  • Flexible tools that users can employ to best serve their desired outcomes, no matter which agile methodology they choose.

  • Cost-effective, Jira-enabled products that are easy to implement and adopt.

Tempo software has a proven track record with organizations working in the SAFe environment. Here’s what each platform can do for you:

Strategic Roadmaps

Strategic Roadmaps allows teams to illustrate their project plans by creating board-room-ready, audience-friendly roadmaps using only a few keystrokes. Roadmaps also facilitate cross-functional team alignment by communicating strategic themes and sequencing priorities using customizable depth of detail based on feature or solution certainty. Best of all, Strategic Roadmaps integrates with Jira, Azure DevOps, and other cloud-based systems, doing away with time-consuming manual data entry.

Structure PPM

Jira-enabled Structure is a project and program management tool that keeps ARTs on track with unlimited progress monitoring, issue management, and report generation capabilities. The platform allows teams to customize issue hierarchies in minutes, using an overview format similar to a spreadsheet. Structure accommodates diverse working methodologies and extends visibility from the program level to detailed tasks, establishing the transparency teams need to succeed in the SAFe environment. 

Timesheets and Financial Manager

Timesheets integrates flexibility into its platform, facilitating billable hour tracking, CapEx/OpEx measurement, and reporting. Its customization features support report generation based on operational needs. It can be as granular or high-level as needed, monitoring progress at sprint and project levels in addition to time usage for individuals and teams. With this data, project managers can make informed, evidence-based decisions about staffing, resources, and budgets.

Financial Manager integrates with Timesheets to establish accurate project costs and monitor financial health throughout the organization. Project managers can leverage this data to allocate resources and generate the highest returns.

Custom Charts

Custom Charts creates SAFe-aligned reports across multiple teams, sprints, and projects and communicates them directly to your Jira dashboard. The platform also assists teams in planning, monitoring, and analyzing their day-to-day workflows, as well as the beginning or end of projects and sprints. 

Capacity Planner

Planner centralizes and fast-tracks capacity planning and delivers actionable insights into group operations and requirements. With these insights, management can deploy the right staff to successfully deliver projects across the organization.

The best roadmaps for your agile team

Implementing SAFe is an undertaking like no other. That’s why you need a project roadmapping tool like Strategic Roadmaps to offer your team a detailed and intuitive overview of the implementation process. Combined with Custom Charts to visualize performance and Timesheets to monitor employee progress, you have a winning suite of tools to accelerate scaled agile success.