SAFe® 5.1 – 8 things, you should know about the new update  - Peak Consulting Group A/S - UK




SAFe® 5.1 – 8 things, you should know about the new update 

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In February 2021, SAFe® 5.1 came onto the scene. We take a closer look at the changes involved, and what this means for you as a user.  

First and foremost: 5.1 is not an all-encompassing and confusing update, that introduces new, big concepts. It is primarily intended to explain and convey the framework more effectively, as SAFe® becomes increasingly widespread throughout different fields and departments. We have collected the most important changes for you, regardless of whether you already practice SAFe® or if you are considering getting started.  

  1. Value streams come first 

SAFe®’s primary purpose has always been to organize itself according to the value streams. But this has meanwhile also been the weak point of many SAFe® implementations. Because no matter which name changes and terms the framework updates, it will not make a difference, if they still do not hit the full value streams. SAFe® is very aware of this, and this is why 5.1 adds further guidance and focus on value streams. The material “Operational Value Streams” and “Development Value Streams”, and the relationship between the two, will help you reflect on your own organization. 

  1. Teams, ARTs and value streams and value streams will be connected 

SAFe® also describes, how you can organize yourselves according to Agile Teams, ARTs and Solution Trains. Now, that is a lot terms to keep track of! In 5.1, as a new addition, SAFe® introduces and describes different types of teams and ARTs, and how they work together to deliver value.  

  1. New types of teams will be introduced 

In earlier versions of SAFe®, Feature teams and Component teams were mentioned. With those, it was recommended that both types should contribute to an agile organization. With SAFe® 5.1, SAFe® now separates the agile teams into 4 different groups: 

  • Stream-aligned team 
  • Complicated sub-system team 
  • Platform team 
  • Enabling team  

This new grouping is a response to how things actually work at most large companies. Here, safe has a more pragmatic approach than, for instance, the more radical framework LeSS, which only contains feature teams (stream-aligned teams). The message is, that it is very possible to make it work with different types of teams and this change in terminology attempts to shift the focus away from the eternal debate about Feature vs. Component teams. 

  1. … and more types of ARTs 

SAFe® 5.1 has scaled the concept about different types of teams to also include different types on ART level. Just as different team types can form part of the same ART, different ART types can also form part of the same Solution Train. 

  • Stream-aligned ART 
  • Complicated subsystem ART 
  • Platform ART 

This is another example of how SAFe® adapts to the reality of very large organizations, and there is no doubt, that many will see it as a step back with regard to organizing according to value streams and with focus on products. But the idea behind SAFe® has always been evolution rather than revolution, and the new instructions will be the catalyst for many good reflections and discussions about how an organization can organize its ARTs.  

  1. Budgeting becomes common property  

Budgeting and allocation of resources to value streams and ARTs has long been a loose end for many businesses in their transformation toward Lean Portfolio Management. And contrary to our earlier statement about SAFe® not wanting revolution, SAFe® has actually been advocating for some time, for a radical change to how businesses allocate resources to their initiatives. The concept is called “Participatory budgeting”, and essentially means, that a wide range of stakeholders gather and are separated into small groups across competencies. Hereafter, every participant is given an amount of money, that they now have to agree how to distribute. Participatory budgeting has with SAFe® 5.1 become visible in “the big picture” and is SAFe®’s clear recommendation for your portfolio management.  

  1. From DevOps to DevSecOps 

SAFe® has for several years incorporated DevOps as a central concept in the framework. And in 5.1 the instructions expanded to cover the fast development in the area. Especially, how the strong focus on security in DevOps practice now means it is called DevSecOps. SAFe® now describes in more detail the different DevOps practices, which are fundamental to making SAFe® a success. In this way, they bring clarity to an area filled with many different terms.  

  1. SAFe® is not just a tool for IT and developers (anymore) 

SAFe® quickly spreads to more areas than just software development. Both in product development for organizations developing hardware products, but also further throughout the business to areas such as marketing and HR. In that vein, 5.1 provides new guidance for how agile teams and development can organize in different types of departments. Both the new article about SAFe for Hardware product development and a new, updated guide about agile teams both in IT and in the rest of the business.  

  1. It is still (very) relevant to have a SAFe® certification! 

As you have read, 5.1 has not brought the biggest changes and updates – this same is also true for SAFe®’s many courses. But! As you read in point 5, budgeting and portfolio management is heading towards a revolution. As an agile practician, it is therefore a good idea to become familiar with Lean Portfolio Management (LPM), which is SAFe®’s idea of how agile organizations should manage their portfolio. With an LPM certification, you ensure a spot among the people, who propel their organizations into an agile mode, and create the necessary cohesion between portfolio management and product development. 

New to SAFe®? 

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) has become the whole world’s preferred framework for working agile on a large scale across entire businesses. And in the best agile spirit, the framework is not written down in a big book, but on a free-to-access website. SAFe® is thus updated regularly in order to stay up to date. This also means, that on any given week, several small updates can happen. So, to make it easier to coordinate changes across the framework’s many components (and communicate it to the many users) the larger updates and changes come out in versions. Therefore, you are probably already familiar with for example SAFe® 4.6 or 5.0. Now, the time has come for SAFe® 5.1. Are you new to agile? Then you can become SAFe® certified right here.  

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Jonas Högstrand

Jonas Högstrand

Management Consultant

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) has become the whole world’s preferred framework for working agile on a large scale across entire businesses

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