SAFe® Agilist Vs SAFe® Scrum Master

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SAFe® Agilist Vs SAFe® Scrum Master


Soham Chakraborty

Published December 1, 2022

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Business Agility is the first priority for all modern businesses, be it any industry they belong to. The need to stay ahead has become one of the integral ways to remain a sustainable enterprise with a consistently successful bottomline. This kind of competition means that many enterprises have an urgent and rapid need of scaling Agile throughout their infrastructure as small Agile teams don't suffice anymore. This is a natural course of events as a business would want every level of their structure to embrace Business Agility and thereby, continue to reap the benefits it offers. It is generally accepted that Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe for Lean enterprises is a knowledge repository, best suited to help companies go Agile by using principles of Agile, Lean and DevOps. 

With a daily evolving world where the bar rises everyday, businesses can no longer depend on just SAFe-trained professionals but need them certified as well

And that's where we come upon the million-dollar question - should you register for the Leading SAFe course or the SAFe Scrum Master course? The only way to begin to answer this is to understand what each entails and what you need for your career to progress from where you are now.

SAFe Agilist

The Leading SAFe certification validates your skills as a SAFe Agilist who can apply principles of Lean, Product Development Flow, and Agile to enhance quality, productivity, time-to-market, and work satisfaction. As a SAFe Agilist, you will be capable of applying SAFe in your organization and derive benefits that will help teams achieve their targets and ultimately, business goals. You will be in charge of all communications between Agile Teams, Agile Portfolio Management, and Agile programs. Just to elucidate the popularity of Leading SAFe - Scaled Agile, Inc. revealed last year that over a million people had trained in Leading SAFe by the end of 2019.

Although experience and expertise aren't mandatory to taking the course, it is helpful to have them before the eventual SAFe 5 Agilist (SA) certification exam. It’s recommended for you to have over 5 years of experience in project management, software development, Scrum, and also as a business analyst.

As a certified SAFe Agilist, you learn how to:

  • form and coach high-performance Agile teams as a Lean-thinking manager.
  • successfully execute programs by effectively supporting PI Planning.
  • grasp all core competencies of a Lean enterprise.
  • apply a Lean-Agile Mindset to your company values and principles.
  • leverage Continuous Delivery Pipeline to drive Release on Demand.
  • use Lean Portfolio Management to drive alignment and execution.
  • enhance existing SAFe roles with SAFe’s Lean principles.
  • use a solution train to coordinate Agile Release Trains (ARTs).
  • drive improvements, push for innovation, and deliver the SAFe Implementation Roadmap as a transformational leader.

SAFe Scrum Master

As a SAFe Scrum Master, you will be someone who has completed the SAFe® Scrum Master course from a SAFe-partnered training institution and also passed the Scaled Agile Inc's SAFe Scrum Master exam. You will be a servant leader, which means you will lead teams by helping everyone reach their goals, even on an individual level. You will have to be meticulous as a mentor and make sure that your team is focused and are on track with deadlines. You will also facilitate communications between all teams such as product development and product management to ensure effective coordination and the successful execution of the program. 

A well-designed SAFe Scrum Master Certification course gets you ready for the certification exam by boosting your Scrum knowledge and training you to execute a program increment (PI) that drives excellent coordination on all levels in a company. Your role will be more specific as opposed to a SAFe Agilist and your primary role will be to imbibe Scrum into your organization.

Although there is nothing stopping you from attending a SAFe Scrum Master course, there are some prerequisites recommended if you want to become a certified SAFe Scrum Master. You must have previously worked in a Lean-Agile environment, which would make you aware of Agile principles, be aware of Kanban and Scrum, and possess actionable knowledge of software and hardware development.

As a certified SAFe Scrum Master, you learn how to:

  • take up the role of a Scrum Master on a company-wide level and not just for the team.
  • learn and contribute to the global Scaled Agile Inc. community with our one-year membership.
  • scale Scrum and Lean-Agile methods across your company.
  • use SAFe principles to solve real-world problems.
  • help your organization gain maximum business value using SAFe.
  • manage large teams across departments.
  • expand your career opportunities considerably.

The table below should give you a defined idea on the difference between the SAFe® Agilist and SAFe® Scrum Master courses.

Features to compareSAFe AgilistSAFe Scrum Master
ContentEstablishing and utilizing Business Agility, Team and Technical AgilityLean-Agile leadership Agile Product Delivery for effective solutions Learning the principles of Lean Portfolio ManagementLearn how to train and mentor Agile TeamsLearn about Program Increment FinishLearn Iteration ExecutionUnderstand Program Increment PlanningFulfilling the role of a Scrum MasterScrum application in a SAFe environment
EligibilityIt is recommended to know the basics of Agile before going for the SAFe Agilist or the Leading SAFe course. It is also recommended that you have 5+ years of experience in the domains of project management, software development, and business analysis.Must have adequate understanding of AgileKanban, eXtreme Programming (XP), and Scrum knowledge are important should understand how hardware and software development works
Possible attendeesDevelopment, QA, and Infrastructure ManagementExecutives and LeadersProgram and Project ManagersEnterprise, System, and Solution ArchitectsPortfolio Managers, PMO, and Process LeadsAgile Coach, Release Train Engineer, Scrum Master, Consultant, Product Owner, Portfolio Managers, Business Analyst, Solution Architect

A SAFe Agilist or a SAFe Scrum Master: What Counts More?

This is a conundrum that's difficult to resolve with a straight answer. To decide upon SAFe Scrum Master vs SAFe Agilist, it is very important to first acknowledge that both have their redeeming features that make them invaluable. SAFe is a framework that scales Agility throughout the enterprise and there are also various other layers present at high-levels such as Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, and Full SAFe. You can choose to deep dive into the Agile framework with the Leading SAFe certification or you can start building up your Scrum Master career and enhance your skills on an enterprise level with the SAFe Scrum Master certification.

Leading SAFe® is all about getting you into SAFe foundations and driving home the critical principles and practices that will help you, as a SAFe Agilist, to successfully drive a Lean-Agile transformation throughout your enterprise. The Leading SAFe certification equips you with the necessary skills and tools to lead teams in remote environments, which is particularly useful in the post-pandemic era. You will get to learn how companies build Business Agility, and make SAFe an integral part of your organization. Lead improvement in quality, productivity, and time-to-market and align the company around clearly defined goals, while enhancing flow of value. This certification will make you someone who can execute SAFe events, such as PI Planning, while being customer-focused.

The SAFe Scrum Master, on the other hand, is primarily focused on helping their team achieve goals or targets. They accomplish this by mentoring the teams under their supervision in SAFe ScrumXP and SAFe, implementing and driving SAFe principles, and completely removing all roadblocks to progress and flow of value. Coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences, SAFe Scrum Masters are in high demand, as within SAFe, they aren't simply Scrum Masters but also servant leaders who instruct the team on Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, and SAFe, which perfectly ensures that everyone is on the same page on what needs to be achieved and follows the predetermined Agile process to the letter. A Scrum Master in a SAFe environment needs to be more proficient in a variety of tools that go beyond Scrum. They keep in touch and work with the global Scrum Master community, with experts such as Release and Solution Train Engineers that definitively improves SAFe efficacy all across enterprises that adopt Lean-Agile methods

The decision to take one or both of these effective certifications, therefore, depends on where you want to go in your career and on the level of your knowledge. Make smart and informed decisions – develop skills and gain knowledge that elevate you to the next level.

Trying to make up your mind? Read up on “7 Industries Looking for Scrum Master Certification” or “How To Choose The Right SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework Certification) For You” to better understand the potential opportunities awaiting you out there!

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