Why SAFe 5.0 | Difference between SAFe 5.0 vs SAFe 4.6

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What’s New! SAFe 5.0 vs. SAFe 4.6

Safe 5.0

Nick Reddin

Published February 26, 2020

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Link to webinar: What’s New! SAFe 5.0 vs. SAFe 4.6

The new updates to SAFe 5.0 are a significant step in the right direction, as organizations look to promote agility across the length and breadth of their businesses. With their latest version, Scaled Agile Inc., has emphasized on customer centricity and has expanded Agile thinking beyond technical teams, and highlighted the impact of enabling agility at the portfolio management level.

SAFe 5.0 is framed around seven core competencies that define a Lean Enterprise. There are significant updates to the five fundamental competencies introduced in SAFe 4.6. Organizational Agility and Continuous Learning Culture have been added as two new core competencies. In this webinar, ATC’s Expert SAFe Program Consultant, Nisha Bajaj, will help us discover what’s the latest and greatest in SAFe 5.0.

Are you interested in being a speaker on our webinar? Let's chat!


Elizabeth Kramer: Hi, everyone. Thank you, guys, so much for being here. We will go ahead and get things started. I just want to thank everyone for being here this afternoon. We’re going to get started with our Vice President here at American Technologies, Nick Reddin, and then from there, we’ll go to our featured panelist Nisha Bajaj. So, without any further ado, I will kick things over to Nick.

Nick Reddin: Great. Thank you, Elizabeth. So, welcome everybody today to the webinar, and I want to thank Nisha. My name is Nick Reddin, Vice President at ATC. I’m very proud for this webinar that we have today in the subject matter that we’re going to be covering.

We have as our guest and our speaker today, Nisha Bajaj. She’s our SAFe program consultant and SPC, 15 plus years of experience in global IT application development, delivery, and portfolio management. Provides SAFe certifications, training, coaching in Kotter’s and Agile practices for candidates and organizations for digital transformations. She has a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, PMP, Pragmatic Marketing certifications as well.

At ATC, we use a fully customized mix of on-site consulting, offshore resources, enterprise-grade tools and frameworks, and highly talented staff placements. We help organizations bridge key knowledge, technology, and process gaps to help you accelerate growth. We solve problems at every stage of your product development lifecycle, enabling you to focus on your core business while we manage the details of transforming your business and delivering success. One of the ways that we do that is through these webinars and through providing knowledge and information that is not always readily available, through our expertise.

And so, with that, I want to hand it over to one of our experts in this field, and that’s Nisha Bajaj. Nisha, go ahead and take over. Thank you.

Nisha Bajaj: Sure. Thank you, Nick.

Dual OS & Core Competencies

Nisha Bajaj: So, yes, I’m going to take you guys through what are the new things in SAFe 5.0. This is the material directly provided by Scaled Agile Framework, and I’m not allowed to kind of change anything and update anything. So, we’re going to go through this material. It does have a number of slides, but I’ll try my best to kind of, you know, get this going in about 20 to 30 minutes so that we can get some questions and answers at the end of the session.

Okay, so, those who master large-scale software delivery will define the economic landscape of the 21st century. I think what Mik is just trying to bring us up to the speed that we have about five technology revolutions till today. Industrial, and then steam, and then steel, and then oil, and then software and digital.

But are we at the turning point right now, like, are we at the point where we need to do things differently, we need to bring innovation?

You know, we have some examples where Apple is now the biggest watchmaker or Tesla has a better market capital than Ford, and they weren’t even, you know, it’s about the technology. It’s not just about what you produce, but it’s about how do you transform, how do you disrupt the market and be the leader.

So, the problem is not with our organizations realizing that they need to transform; the problem is that organizations are using managerial frameworks and infrastructure models from the past revolutions to manage their businesses in this one.

I mean, every organization realizes that there is a problem. They need to kind of bring the business agility and transform things and do differently. But it depends on how many organizations are really able to do that.

So, John Kotter, the renowned business transformation and change leader and author, thinks the world is not changing at a rate at which the basic systems, structures, and cultures built over the past century cannot keep up with the demands being placed on them.

I’ve had a real good time and experience and the pleasure of working with Dr. John Kotter’s International Team and performed some of the accelerate initiatives at one of the organizations that I was working.

So, the way they explain the dual operating system is really interesting. We say we started with a network. I mean, initially, any company who is building new products and new services, you are already an entrepreneur, you’re starting with a network of customers who are really at the center of it.

And then the when you kind of grow, you add hierarchy for stability and execution and divide the departments and teams. So, what we realize is that it kind of hampers a little bit speed on innovation and what happens at the end, customer-centricity is actually compromised. Now we are working too much on the processes, on the hierarchies, the approvals, and whatnot, that does impact customer-centricity.

So, Kotter says solution is not to trash what we know and start over. But instead to reintroduce a second system, one which could be familiar to most successful entrepreneurs. You need a dual operating system here.

So, he is saying that we do need the hierarchy, official efficiency, and sustainability, but we also need innovation and entrepreneurial culture here, which focuses on customer-centricity. Which means we need two operating systems. It’s possible that your hierarchy is actually most of the organization, but the innovation and entrepreneur network start with some of the teams, some of the systems, some of the processes where there is real value.

And we have just such an operating system at our fingertips. One that will be more of a value-driven, value stream network where you think of innovation, you think of entrepreneur network, not so much of a rigid hierarchy and guidelines and processes whereas you have all of that for the stability and execution of your business, which is the kind of dual operating system here.

So, here we are introducing SAFe 5.0, the operating system for business agility. How do we really achieve that using Scaled Agile Framework 5.0?

SAFe 5.0 brings the focus back to what it takes to bring great solutions to the marketplace. Achieving a state of business agility means that the entire organization, not just development, is engaged in continually and proactively delivering innovative business solutions faster than the competition.

Business agility today is not just a few teams running in an agile fashion, and doing their sprint planning. SAFe 5.0 is much more beyond that and includes your management, literally end to end, top to bottom, having all the teams engaged in really delivering the business agility.

Business agility requires technical agility and a business-level commitment to product and value stream thinking. And it requires that everyone involved in delivering business solutions use Lean and Agile practices. And again, by everyone, they really mean your executive team, your operations, your IT, all the departments including the c-suite, including your engineers. Everybody really needs to commit to being agile and lean to bring about business agility.

So, let’s have a look at the big picture highlights. They definitely included business agility at the top. We have the seven core competencies that we will go through one by one. We have our palette on the right. We have two new competencies, which are ‘Organizational Agility’ and ‘Continuous Learning Culture.’ And then ‘Enterprise Solution Delivery,’ was previously ‘Business Solutions and Lean Systems Engineering’ in the SAFe 4.6 version. And then previously ‘DevOps and Release on Demand’ was a core competency, and is now part of the new ‘Agile Product Delivery.’ So, these are some of the updates. And again, we’re going to go to all the seven core competencies for a little more detail. We have a new SAFe Overview tab. You can see this when you go to scaledagileframework.com, again explaining a little bit about all the seven core competencies here. Okay.

Competency 1 - Team and Technical Agility

Nisha Bajaj: So, let’s get into the seven. The first one we are targeting is ‘Team and Technical Agility.’ So, coming back, let’s talk first about ‘Team and Technical Agility.’

Agile teams and teams of Agile teams create and support the business solutions that deliver value to the enterprise’s customers. Consequently, an organization’s ability to thrive in the digital age is entirely dependent on the ability of its teams to deliver solutions that reliably meet a customer’s needs.

I mean, to really begin with, it’s the technical team who has to be really thorough and knowing that how they have to thrive in this digital age. Again, it comes in with the support of executives, your management, and you know, finance team and all other teams, but ‘Team and Technical Agility’ focuses on your technical practices and the team.

  • High-performing, cross-functional, Agile teams
  • Business and technical teams build business solutions with built-in quality
  • Quality business solutions delight customers

So, we have Agile teams, Teams of Agile Teams, and Built-in Quality as three areas within ‘Team and Technical Agility.’

Here, we are talking about Essential SAFe, which actually combines the teams and the program level events.

SAFe for Business Teams, again, business teams are really agile teams, which are Product Owner, Scrum Master, and any other Agile Teams.

Agile Business Team Maturity, so let’s just see how you have a flow where your agile business team really gets to a point where it’s now pretty mature in handling business agility. So, first of all the teams have to be really agile. Going back to the house of lean, going back to the agile manifesto, lean and agile principles, changing your mindset to be lean and agile of each and every member of the agile team. That’s clearly the first step in order to achieve maturity. Once you have some of the team’s built, you want to kind of expand it to join the value stream. So, now you don’t have one team, but teams of team, ART (Agile Release Train), and then the Solution Train may have the teams of ART, I mean the groups of ART, number of ART. So, it is all about more and more teams joining the value stream. And the third is ‘Specialize the Principles & Practices.’ This really means expanding it to all other teams, including finance, HR, marketing. It takes time for an organization to be really mature and come to this point where all of these teams are having a lean-agile mindset, having the processes along business agility.

Competency 2 - Agile Product Delivery

Nisha Bajaj: So, now we are talking about the second, ‘Why Agile Product Delivery?’

In order to achieve Business Agility, enterprises must rapidly increase their ability to deliver innovative products and services. To be sure that the enterprise is creating the right solutions for the right customers at the right time, they must balance their execution focus with a customer focus. So, this is the second core competency, Agile Product Delivery, talking about really delivering the right products out in the market, and it should have a focus on execution but also on the customer.

It is again divided into three areas, Customer Centricity, Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand, the DevOps, and the Continuity Delivery Pipeline.

Customer Centricity and Design Thinking is really the center of Agile Product Delivery. You know, one of the reasons why the dual operating system exists in SAFe 5.0 is because customer centricity was compromised.

So, how do we really bring back the customer-centricity?

So, we are saying design thinking really helps us get the customer-centricity back, and for that, you have to define your problem space and then your solution space. When you define your problem space, you really want to just understand the problem. You may want to discover multiple options. You may want to diverge options there. You could do it through Gemba Walks by talking to the customer by going on-site, knowing from the teams, whatnot. And then you converge, you then define your problem. You then see what is the exact problem that we are trying to solve here. We could do that through Personas and Empathy maps; I think it is explained on the next few slides, how we really use Personas and Empathy maps to define the problem. So, once the problem is defined, you want to develop the solution, you want to diverge, and you want to develop multiple solutions, and you want to keep your options open. We could do that through Journey Maps, Story Mapping, and Prototyping, and ultimately, we converge and deliver the right solution, that is sustainable, is desirable, is feasible, and is viable.

Personas and Empathy maps are used to define a problem; you definitely want to use some the tools and techniques given by SAFe 5.0, which help us understand the personas, and help us understand your customer better, and their problems better and then you know, it places us in a position where we can design the solution better.

So, they have defined one of the personas here, ‘Cary the Consumer.’ You know, by literally speaking about what does he think? What is his objective? What does he want to achieve? There is a fact matrix. I think this the same as SAFe 4.6, but now there is a benefit-feature matrix. We first focus on the benefit and then define the feature; they have just flipped it.

Empathy maps, as we said, they use the customers perspective to inform solution development. You know, you just want to see what do the customers see. What do they see? What do they think? You just want to hear, and you just want to plot each and every aspect of your customer.

Customer journey maps, story maps, and prototyping. Again, some of the design thinking tools for operational value streams, so when your teams are trying to do some of the value stream workshops, you know, it is always good to plot the customer journey to see the entering value that the customer brings. You know, plot the applications, systems, and the processes and the teams underneath to see where the value is. We could do story maps again that’s something which defines some of the activities to perform your goals and then list the activities, you list the must-stories that are needed in the system and some stories which are more of a delightment and enhancement. Definitely, prototyping is another method which increases your feedback. You want to keep, you want to test, and you want to try. And you want to fail quicker, you want to get quicker feedback, and kind of evolve from there.

Continuous Delivery in Iterations, here there are focusing that continuous delivery is not just you deliver up to the iteration, but you could literally explore, integrate, and deploy within the iteration as frequently as possible.

In SAFe 5.0, we have a small update that we have an Uncommitted objective here. Again, committed is something which we are sure in the platforming, where the team commits to certain objectives. However, uncommitted is when you have it calculated in your capacity, but if there is uncertainty in achieving these objectives, it is uncommitted, and this just increases the predictability of your delivery. One other point to note is that uncommitted objectives where earlier labeled as stretch objectives until SAFe 4.6, and now they have changed it to uncommitted.

Competency 3 - Enterprise Solution Delivery

Nisha Bajaj: So, another core competency is ‘Why Enterprise Solution Delivery?’ Humanity has always dreamed big, and scientists, engineers, and software developers then turn those big dreams into reality. That requires innovation, experimentation, and knowledge from diverse disciplines. Engineers and developers bring these innovations to life by defining and coordinating all the activities to successfully specify, design, test, deploy, operate, evolve, and decommission large, complex solutions.

Enterprise solution delivery really touches upon some of the aspects of systems thinking. You kind of need to see the whole systems thinking, even if there are systems solutions that are deployed, they also need to be evolved with the market changes.

So, there are three areas in here:

  • Lean System and Solution Engineering
  • Coordinating Trains and Suppliers
  • Continually Evolve Live Systems

There are nine best practices for Enterprise Solution Delivery:

  • Continually refine the fixed/variable Solution Intent
  • Apply multiple planning horizons

Different enterprises could have multiple products and systems. Some could be where they have their current maximum revenue coming from. Some products could be where they really are emerging; they are next generation. There could be horizon three which is not even emerging yet, but that’s something they want to pay attention, and it’s probably coming in a few years, so that’s the planning applied that they are talking about here.

  • Architect for scale, modularity, releasability, and serviceability
  • Continually address compliance concerns
  • Build and integrate solution components and capabilities with Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Solution Trains
  • Apply ‘continuish’ integration, as early as possible again
  • Manage the supply chain with systems of systems thinking
  • Evolve deployed systems

Competency 4 - Lean Portfolio Management

Nisha Bajaj: One more competency is ‘Lean Portfolio Management.’ Traditional approaches to portfolio management were not designed for a global economy or the impact of digital disruption. These factors put pressure on enterprises to work under a higher degree of uncertainty, and yet deliver innovative solutions much faster.

LPM again has three areas:

  • Strategy & Investment Funding
  • Agile Portfolio Operations
  • Lean Governance

Revised enterprise strategy formulation guidance, enterprise strategy we just need to focus on what are the inputs and outputs of your enterprise strategy in vision, mission, core values, portfolio context, business drivers, distinctive competency, financial goals, competitive environment, they are all part of the enterprise strategy. Strategic themes and portfolio budgets are also part of the enterprise strategy.

Strategic Themes with OKRs, so we have the matrix now where you can decide how you can define your strategic theme. You can define it by defining the objective and the key result (OKR). So, OKR is a new matrix to define your strategic theme by defining what the objective is and what the key results of the objective are.

Focus on the Portfolio Vision, portfolio vision, and the added tools and analysis. Everybody might have heard about the SWOT analysis: strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat. We are going a step ahead here, and we are saying let’s explore the possibility of TOWS, as in T and O, as to how would you really make use of your strengths top tackle your threat, or how would use your strength to gain opportunity. So, you basically put ideas in all the four matrices here, and then you explore possibilities and options of making things happen, and ultimately you converge and make decisions.

Let us look at the Enhanced SAFe Lean Startup Epic Lifecycle, a little bit. We have the same stages, which are funnel, reviewing, analyzing, portfolio backlog, implementing, and done. However, in implementing, we really focus on MVP and persevere. It means there is a time; there is a space for trying it out, for innovating, for failing, and for failing faster and getting the feedback loop out. And then, if it is really the right solution, really the right decision that you have made, then you persevere. Enhance SAFe Lean Startup Epic Lifecycle; here we are saying that you have your Kanban, you have your Epic, you want to build your MVP and evaluate the MVP, hypothesis proven ‘yes.’ Development continues and you persevere on your epic. If it is a ‘no,’ you pivot, and you stop the development. And in addition to that, when portfolio governance is no longer required, your epic state will be at that time ‘done.’ And then basically at that point in time, you are breaking your epic into local features, and more further user stories, and kind of doing WSJF and going in the same loop of development lifecycle.

Competency 5 - Organizational Agility

Nisha Bajaj: So, one other competency is Organizational Agility, without organizational agility, enterprises simply cannot respond sufficiently to the challenges and opportunities that today’s rapidly changing markets present. Without it, employees and the enterprise associate an individual’s value with their functional skill, rather than business outcomes.

It has three areas:

  • Lean-Thinking People and Agile Teams
  • Lean Business Operations
  • Strategy Agility

This is how we map our value stream. You kind of map your entire journey in any transaction, any output that your organization brings. You calculate your profit times, your delay times, and then you focus on the delay.

Visualize flow everywhere, using backlog, messaging, staging, testing, releasing, and done. And I think they’ve added two statuses under each stage, that is ‘in process’ and ‘done’ that can really give more ideas and information on what really is done and what is still in process.

Respond quickly to opportunities and threats:

  • Continuous market sensing
  • Make strategy changes decisively
  • Organize and reorganize around value
  • Innovate like a startup
  • Implement changes quickly
  • And ignore sunk costs

Competency 6 - Continuous Learning Culture

Nisha Bajaj: Next is ‘Why Continuous Learning Culture?’

In order to thrive in the current climate, organizations must evolve into adaptive engines of change, powered by a culture of fast and effective learning at all levels. Learning organizations leverage the collective knowledge, experience, and creativity of their workforce, customers, supply chain, and the broader ecosystem.

It is divided into:

  • Learning-Organization
  • Relentless Improvement
  • Innovation Culture

You know here, we are just saying that we exploit ‘innovation riptides.’ Basically, riptides going from top to bottom, bottom to up. At the top you have the epic and the backlog. Then you get to the MVP, and you test it and you fail faster and if you are to persevere, you get it into the backlog. As a result, when teams identify something, there is an innovation there going from bottom to top and getting it evaluated and coming back down for implementation. So, that’s innovation riptide, which is highly recommended and supported in SAFe 5.0.

Competency 7 - Lean-Agile Leadership

Nisha Bajaj: Why Lean-Agile Leadership?

An organization’s managers, executives, and other leaders are responsible for the adoption, success, and ongoing improvement of Lean-Agile development and the competencies that lead to business ability. Only they have the authority to change and continuously improve the systems that govern how work is performed.

Lean-Agile Leadership has three areas:

  • We first focus on the Mindset and Principles of your teams
  • Then you Lead by Example
  • And you know they have a map of how do you really Lead Change

Mindsets CAN change:

  • Lean to identify where you have a fixed mindset
  • Recognize that changing mindset is a choice
  • Take growth mindset actions that align to the new mindset

It’s really being aware and being open to trying new things, being inspired by the success of others, my effort and attitude determine my abilities, this is the Growth Mindset, which helps us grow and help us innovate. And there is a Fixed Mindset, but in SAFe 5.0, the Lean-Agile mindset is really the Growth Mindset.

Enhanced SAFe House of Lean, they’ve added ‘Generative culture,’ which is all about people, all about teams, with teams having productive output, and that matters. And then under Flow, they’ve added ‘Move from projects to products.’ Under Innovation, they’ve added ‘Innovative people,’ ‘Experimentation and feedback,’ and ‘Innovation riptides.’ And under Relentless improvement, they’ve added ‘Problem solving culture’ and ‘Base improvements on facts.’ Leaders apply Lean thinking as the basis for decision-making, model the Lean-Agile mindset in daily activities, and teach it to others.

We have a tenth principle in Lean-Agile Principle, and that is ‘Organize around value.’ That’s the new addition in the principle.

We have a little bit of enhancement in the implementation roadmap. We have Lean Portfolio Management that can be a training that can be done at the beginning when we are training executives, managers, and leaders. There is APSM, which is Agile Product and Solution Management, which is a part of solution management, and that can be done after training the teams and launching the ART. And I believe that it has now been changed to ‘APM.’ We have LPM added in the implementation roadmap when the organization is ready to extend SAFe principles and framework to the portfolio. And then there is Kotter’s accelerate methodology and the way of working towards the end when we want to talk out sustainability.

Why Upgrade to SAFe 5.0?

Nisha Bajaj: Configurations, you know we have Essential configurations, which is the basic the beginning foundation, has Lean-Agile Leadership, has Team and Technical Agility, and at the end Agile Product Delivery, as the three core competencies.

The ten critical ART success factors, as you can see, they are labeled, and these are the ten success factors if we want to have a successful ART in a PI training and business agility around that.

Large Solution SAFe includes the Enterprise Solution Delivery as the competency in the Large Solution level on top of the essentials.

Portfolio SAFe has two competencies, Organization Agility and LPM as two added competencies on top of the train.

Full SAFe has all the seven core competencies that we just discussed.

The one-off topic on Measure and Grow is on the right side of the scaledagileframework.com. This really explains how do we measure the business agility of the organization. If we don’t measure, we cannot improve, and we cannot grow. So, it is a really important topic, and knowing how we can do it.

So, Measure and Grow is the way portfolios evaluate their progress towards business agility and determine their next improvement steps. It is basically all your three areas in every competency. There are seven core competencies that we will measure on the three topics that each one has. It’s 21 factors on the score of 1 to 5. We literally map the 21 factors of your organization with business agility on the score of 1 to 5, and then we draw the map and basically see how the business agility is today in an organization. You definitely want to get to the 5. You may have factors where your organization is 1, where your organization is 2, where is organization is 3. The closer you are to the center, the lesser business agility exists in your organization, and the farther you are, you are better off. So, this is just a way of basically measuring and then planning on how to go from here.

Okay, so this is the end of the SAFe 5.0 updates. I think we have a few minutes, and I just want to see if there are any questions that anyone has, and I will try my best to answer those.

Elizabeth Kramer: If there are any questions, you guys can go ahead and send it through the chat right now, and we will answer those as soon as possible.

Nisha Bajaj: The question is, my organization is still showing SAFe 4.6, will it still help to upgrade my certification to SAFe 5.0?

Yes, I would say, it is helpful to upgrade the certification to SAFe 5.0, for a number of reasons.

  1. It gives you the enhancement and the updates that SAFe 5.0 has.
  2. Secondly, just by being a Lean-Agile Leader, the thing is that it is our responsibility to keep those updates and enhancements flowing through your organization. So, if there are some concepts that you would be able to take from SAFe 5.0 back to your organization for improvement, I am sure there would be an open channel on upgrading other employees and the processes and the systems on SAFe 5.0

So, this is just me recommending to do it, being a Lean-Agile change agent, that there is evolving every minute, and there is continuous learning every minute. And, it’s just about being agnostic to the new changes and updates that are helping other organizations and definitely would help you too.

Nick Reddin: Great, let’s just give it a second to see if any more questions come in.

It doesn’t look like it, and that’s okay.

So, one thing that we want people to know is that we do a lot of training. You can look at the training calendar on our website american-technology.net/trainings.

I would encourage you to do that, see what training comes up and get your certifications.

We have training happening this weekend with Nisha. She is doing the training in Texas for us, and we are excited about that and have a tremendously large class that she’s going to be working with, so we are excited to see that happen.

So, Nisha, thank you very much for walking us through the information today. I think it was great.

Nisha Bajaj: Thank you, thank you so much.

Nick Reddin: Great, thanks, everybody.

Elizabeth Kramer: Thank you, guys. We’ll see you in the next one.

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