The new SAFe version 4.5 – what does this mean for the application?

The new version 4.5 of SAFe has just been released and this provides an opportunity to reflect not only on the changes in SAFe itself, but also on developments in agile in general.

New competitors are apparent: the LeSS framework is ready, now well documented, and has established itself as a clear runner-up in the Agile scaling framework market. With that, it has become something of a duel. What is also interesting here is the clear demarcation through the considerable conceptual differences: While SAFe focuses on starting fast and making an initial proposal for most proposals, LeSS focuses much more on the necessary culture change as a necessary prerequisite. SAFe relies on cultural changes being implemented on the fly. It is apparent to our customers that the two frameworks are interesting for very different initial situations.

Some of the deployment experiences have also been incorporated into the 4.5 changes: one can see a clear effort to identify and address possible reasons for implementation failures. In particular, the new launch strategy and the significantly expanded and revised delivery pipeline should be mentioned here.

New discussions also create new misunderstandings: just as SAFe can be used as a blueprint (it should be emphasized again: you will not successfully implement SAFe without a deep understanding of the systemic relationships), experience reports such as those of the Swedish company Spotify are used as a blueprint when talking about agile transformation according to the Spotify framework: Spotify, however, is not a framework, its contribution to agile is not renaming teams to squads, but the contribution is more substantial: how to scale trust and alignment while harnessing, radically decoupling the software codebase. If anything, deepening the understanding of agile principles will set the agenda in the application of all frameworks in the near future.

This is even more true as agile is definitely reaching the mainstream: most large companies are embracing agile transformation and for many of them the understanding of agile has also changed: it is a comprehensive and sustainable culture and strategy change, agile is no longer limited to those down there in the “machine room”, it encompasses agile business development and thus the scope of work and responsibilities of top management: agile stands for unlocking new capabilities for companies at all levels. To do this, we need not only the frameworks as tools, but also a comprehensive understanding of all stakeholders at every level.