SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is a part of the broader Agile approach. More precisely, it’s an Agile framework specifically designed to help scale Agile practices to larger organizations or projects. It’s one of several Agile methodologies that include Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), and others.
While Agile methodologies like Scrum are often used at the team level, SAFe helps to coordinate and synchronize multiple Agile teams within a larger program or portfolio. SAFe incorporates elements from Agile methodologies such as Scrum and XP at the team level, and it also draws from Lean and DevOps principles.
So to answer your question, SAFe can be considered a methodology within the broader Agile philosophy, specifically geared towards scaling Agile in larger enterprises.
SAFe is a set of organization and workflow patterns intended to guide enterprises in scaling lean and agile practices. Along with large-scale Scrum (LeSS), disciplined agile delivery (DAD), and Nexus, SAFe is one of a growing number of frameworks that seek to address the problems encountered when scaling beyond a single team.
SAFe is made up of a body of knowledge that includes structured guidance on roles and responsibilities, planning, managing, and delivering value at the enterprise level. It helps organizations deliver software and technology solutions more rapidly, with higher quality and better alignment to overall business strategy.
SAFe includes several levels:
1. Team Level: This is very similar to basic Scrum. Teams plan, commit, execute, and review their work in time-boxed iterations, often two weeks long.
2. Program Level: Multiple teams’ efforts are aligned towards a common program vision. Features are developed and integrated into a system or solution. Regular integration points are set to ensure that the work from the different teams aligns to form a coherent whole.
3. Large Solution Level: This is for coordinating multiple programs that are developing large, complex solutions. These could be systems of systems, with additional complexities and dependencies.
4. Portfolio Level: This is where the strategic direction for the organization’s solutions is set. This includes identifying the largest value streams and allocating resources appropriately. Here, Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) happens.
The SAFe approach is often used by large organizations that need to coordinate work across many teams, while still allowing for some level of autonomy and flexibility at the team level. It emphasizes alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution.