SAFe® for Lean Enterprises


What’s New in SAFe 4.5?

We are delighted to announce the release of SAFe 4.5, the result of research from hundreds of implementations, customer and community feedback, and advances made in the knowledge areas SAFe is built on. As you learn more, we believe you’ll find SAFe 4.5 to be leaner, more Agile, and more supportive of faster innovation and learning than any of its predecessors. Moreover, SAFe 4.5 helps enterprises get better, business results, faster, more consistently and reliably.

SAFe 4.5 can be configured to match your organization’s needs. This new version allows companies to:

  • Test ideas more quickly using the Lean Startup Cycle and Lean User Experience (Lean UX)
  • Deliver much faster with Scalable DevOps and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline.
  • Simplify governance and improve portfolio performance with Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) and Lean Budgets.

But we all know that organizational change is hard. It requires adopting new behaviors, leadership styles, practices, and culture. SAFe accelerates Lean-Agile transformation with the new Implementation Roadmap, which guides enterprises every step of the way. And the SAFe journey is supported by a worldwide network of Scaled Agile Partners and SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs).

SAFe 4.5 maximizes the speed of product or service delivery, from initial idea to release, and from customer feedback to enhancements, providing a 360-degree build-measure-learn feedback cycle.

The SAFe 4.5 release focuses on the following key areas of improvements:

  1. Essential SAFe and Configurability
  2. Innovation with Lean Startup and Lean UX
  3. ­Scalable DevOps & Continuous Delivery
  4. Implementation Roadmap
  5. Other Important Stuff

Backwards Compatible with SAFe 4.0

SAFe 4.5 is backwards compatible with SAFe 4.0, as shown in Figure 1 below. This means that organizations can adopt the new features in SAFe 4.5 at their own pace.

Figure 1. SAFe 4.5 is backwards compatible with SAFe 4.0

Essential SAFe and Configurability

SAFe’s new configurable framework provides just enough guidance to meet the needs of your product or service. Essential SAFe helps companies sprint out of the gate quickly and start simply. As company needs grow, SAFe scales to meet those challenges.


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There are four configurations of SAFe that provide a more configurable and scalable approach:

  1. Full SAFe
  2. Portfolio SAFe
  3. Large Solution SAFe
  4. Essential SAFe

Using the menu shown in Figure 2, you can choose the SAFe configuration that’s right for your needs. Whenever you return to the home page, SAFe remembers your choice. Each configuration is described below.

Figure 2. Portfolio SAFe

Essential SAFe

Figure 3 illustrates Essential SAFe, the most basic configuration. The starting point for implementing SAFe, it describes the most critical elements needed to realize the majority of the framework’s benefits.

Figure 3. Essential SAFe

Portfolio SAFe

The Portfolio SAFe configuration (formerly 3-level SAFe) is for enterprises that build multiple, largely independent, solutions that also need to incorporate portfolio concerns. These may include strategy and investment funding, innovation across various value streams, and lean governance. It adds the Portfolio Level to Essential SAFe, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Portfolio SAFe

Large Solution SAFe

The Large Solution SAFe configuration is intended for enterprises that are building large and complex solutions that require the contribution of multiple Agile Release Trains and Suppliers, but do not require portfolio considerations. It consists of Essential SAFe and the Large Solution level, as illustrated in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Large Solution SAFe

Along with other changes, note that the SAFe 4.0 Value Stream Level name has been changed to the ‘Large Solution Level‘. This necessitated the terminology changes shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Terminology changes resulting from renaming the Value Stream level

Build Big Systems with the New Solution Train

The Solution Train (Figure 7) describes the SAFe organizational construct used to build large and complex solutions that need to coordinate multiple Agile Release Trains (ARTs), as well as the contributions of Suppliers. Using a common Solution vision, backlog and roadmap—and an aligned Program Increment (PI) cadence—the Solution Train aligns ARTs and Suppliers around a shared business and technology mission.

Figure 7. New Solution Train

Solution Train Engineer (STE)

The Solution Train Engineer (STE), previously known as the Value Stream Engineer, is the train’s servant leader. By identifying and resolving bottlenecks across the entire solution, the STE helps the Solution Train run smoothly.

Bringing Compliance into SAFe

Compliance (Figure 8) is now part of Solution Intent. It describes how to achieve high quality results while meeting regulatory and industry requirements using Lean-Agile development.

Compliance enablers schedule and manage specific compliance activities, including Verification and Validation (V&V), documentation and signoffs, and regulatory submissions and approvals.

Figure 8. Introducing compliance into SAFe 4.5

Agile Architecture

Agile Architecture is still an element of Solution Intent. However, it has been moved off the big picture and into the guidance page. The Agile Architecture guidance can also be accessed from Built-in Quality, where it is discussed briefly.

Full SAFe

Full SAFe (Figure 9) is the most comprehensive configuration. It supports those enterprises building large, integrated solutions that typically require hundreds of people or more to develop and maintain.

Figure 9. Full SAFe

Refine Configurations with the Spanning Palette

Changed from landscape to portrait orientation, the spanning palette was now truly spans all levels of the framework—team, program, large solution, and portfolio.

A key element of SAFe’s flexibility and configurability, the spanning palette permits organizations to apply only the elements needed for each level. It dynamically adjusts depending upon the configuration chosen, as shown in Figure 10. Other changes include:

  • Abbreviated Communities of Practice to ‘CoP’ due to the new spanning palette design
  • Moved from UX to Lean UX and expanded on user experience development
  • Removed the Release Management icon and incorporated the content into Release on Demand


Figure 10. Spanning Palettes

Innovation with Lean Startup and Lean UX


The new content in Lean Startup Cycle, Lean UX, Lean Portfolio Management (LPM), and Lean Budgets helps you innovate rapidly and implement strategy more quickly to realize better business outcomes.

Lean Startup Cycle

The Lean Startup movement embraces the highly iterative “Hypothesize-Build-Measure-Learn” cycle, which fits quite naturally into SAFe. Specifically, this model can be applied to any Epic-level initiative, whether it arises at the Portfolio, Large Solution, or Program Level. No matter the source, the scope of an epic calls for a prudent and iterative approach to investment and implementation via a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), as reflected in Figure 11. Learn more about the Lean Startup cycle in the Epic article.

Figure 11. The Lean Startup Cycle

Epic Hypothesis and Lean Business Case

To foster the new Lean Startup approach in SAFe, the Epic Value Statement and Lightweight Business Case have been refactored to become the Epic Hypothesis Statement (Figure 12) and Lean Business Case  respectively (Figure 13). More than just name changes, they represent a whole new way of thinking and working. Learn more about the Epic Hypothesis Statement and Lean Business Case in the Epic article.

Figure 12. Epic Hypothesis Statement
Figure 13. Lean Business Case

Lean User Experience

The Lean UX process (Figure 14) starts with an outcome hypothesis: Agile teams and UX designers accept that the ‘right answer’ is actually unknowable in advance. Rather, they apply Agile methods to avoid Big Upfront Design (BUFD), focusing instead of creating a hypothesis about what business outcomes to expect from a new feature. They then implement and test the hypothesis incrementally. This results in faster feedback, which steers the solution toward success more effectively.

Figure 14. Lean UX

As a result of the hypothesis-driven approach of Lean UX, the Features and Benefits (FAB) matrix has been updated to describe features and capabilities with a Benefit Hypothesis, as illustrated in Figure 15.

Figure 15. Features have a benefit hypothesis

Lead and Govern with Lean Portfolio Management

Formerly Program Portfolio Management (PPM), each SAFe portfolio has an LPM function that is responsible for strategy and investment funding, Agile program guidance, and Lean governance, as illustrated in Figure 16.

Figure 16. Lead and govern with Lean Portfolio Management

Scalable DevOps & the Continuous Delivery Pipeline

Together, scalable DevOps and the continuous delivery pipeline helps accelerate the build-measure-learn cycle that supports faster innovation and more frequent releases.

DevOps is a mindset, a culture, and a set of technical practices. It provides communication, integration, automation, and close cooperation among everyone needed to plan, develop, test, deploy, release, and maintain a Solution.

SAFe enterprises implement DevOps to break down silos and empower each Agile Team, ART and Solution Train to continuously deliver new features to end users. This is indeed achievable, as “high-performing IT organizations deploy 30x more frequently with 200x shorter lead times … 60x fewer failures and recover 168x faster.” [1]

DevOps consists of the following elements, shown in Figure 17 and described briefly below:

Figure 17. Realize flow with a CALMR approach to DevOps
  • Culture – Establish a culture of shared responsibility for development, deployment, and operations.
  • Automation – Automate the continuous delivery pipeline.
  • Lean flow – Keep batch sizes small, limit Work in Process (WIP), and provide extreme visibility.
  • Measurement – Measure the flow through the pipeline. Implement application telemetry.
  • Recovery – Architect and enable low-risk releases. Establish fast-recovery, fast-reversion, and fast fix-forward.

Continuous Delivery Pipeline

The Continuous Delivery Pipeline doesn’t operate in a strict linear sequence. Rather, it’s a learning cycle that allows teams to establish a number of hypotheses, build and deliver against them, measure results and learn from that work, as Figure 18 illustrates.

Hypothesize, Build, Measure, Learn

Figure 18. The SAFe Continuous Delivery Pipeline
  • Continuous Exploration – is the process of constantly exploring market and user needs, and defining a vision, roadmap, and set of features that address them.
  • Continuous Integration – is the process of taking features from the Program Backlog and developing, testing, integrating, and validating them in a staging environment that prepares them for deployment and release.
  • Continuous Deployment – is the process that takes validated features from continuous integration and deploys them into the production environment, where they are tested and readied for release.
  • Release on Demandis the process by which deployed features are released to customers incrementally or immediately based on market demand.

The ART uses the Program Kanban to facilitate the flow of features through the Continuous Delivery Pipeline. A typical program Kanban is illustrated in Figure 19. The policies applied to each state, and some examples of WIP limits are highlighted. The example program Kanban states were updated to support DevOps, Continuous Delivery Pipeline, and releasing.

Figure 19. Visualize and manage full value flow

Implementation Roadmap

The SAFe Implementation Roadmap (Figure 20.) consists of a clickable, interactive graphic linked to a 12-article series that describes the major activities that have proven to be effective in successfully implementing SAFe.

The implementation roadmap article is accessible from both the foundation on the big picture and the implementing menu on the SAFe website.  You can download a .pdf or .ppt version of the roadmap from this article.

Figure 20. Implementation Roadmap

The critical role of the SAFe Program Consultant

SAFe Program Consultants (SPC) are change agents who combine their technical knowledge of SAFe with an intrinsic motivation to improve their company’s software and systems development processes. They play a critical role in successfully implementing SAFe.  SPC’s are now represented as part of the SAFe Foundation and are described in the new SPC article, as illustrated in Figure 21.

Figure 21. SAFe Program Consultant article excerpt

Other Important Stuff

What’s New in SAFe Enablement Video

In addition to the new 4.5 content, all the 4.0 articles have been updated as well, so there is much more to learn, and benefit from. Anyone who is certified, will find a What’s New in SAFe 4.0 video on the SAFe Community Platform that that highlights and explains the new features of the framework.

SAFe Version 4.0 Available Through June, 2018

We encourage you to adopt SAFe 4.5 to take advantage of the new features. But we also recognize that there are enterprises that will need the SAFe 4.0 version for some time to come. It will be supported until June, 2018, and remains available at

Courseware Updates

Three courses from Scaled Agile’s role-based curriculum have been already updated to reflect the new features of SAFe 4.5. They include: Implementing SAFe, Leading SAFe, and SAFe for Teams.

The remaining courses will be updated over the coming weeks. We hope this new version helps you and your enterprise achieve the benefits you deserve for working so hard at building the world’s biggest, and best, software and systems.

More About SAFe’s New Name

We think of SAFe as a big-tent framework that can accommodate any organization, regardless of size or complexity. As you know, SAFe is for business, not just for IT, systems, and software. It’s part of a larger solution development picture, and we want make sure that message is front and center for our internal and external business partners, and for the community at large. So we’ve updated the name to reflect this more inclusive theme. The Framework is now known as, SAFe for Lean Enterprises.

Improved Big Picture Look and Feel

We’ve improved the readability of the big picture by making hundreds of small changes. These include more white space, standardized font sizes and colors, and reduced visual clutter by moving less popular icons to guidance. For example:

  • CapEx & OpEx – The icon was taken off the big picture and the article content was moved to the guidance page.
  • Release Management – The icon was removed and the article content was incorporated into the Release on Demand article.
  • Enablers – The enablers icon shown below was removed, but the types of enablers are still described in the Enablers article. Removing this icon also increases the flexibility of SAFe to add new enablers (e.g. Compliance) without having an impact on the big picture.
  • Value Stream and Program Epics – The icons were removed but the descriptions remain in the Epics.

Refactored Article Architecture

The format of articles was changed to improve consistency. Each article is consistently structured as follows:

  • Article title – Shows the title of the article minus the word ‘abstract’ to reduce visual clutter
  • Glossary definition and overview – Each article now includes the glossary definition first, followed by a brief introduction
  • Details – Contains sub sections to describe the topic
  • Learn More – Lists resources to learn more about the topic

 Increased Alignment with the Scrum Guide

The following changes were made to improve alignment between SAFe and Scrum:

  • Iteration Review (Sprint Review) was added to the big picture and now includes the Team Demo as part of that event. This will help reduce confusion between the Team Demo and System Demo events.
  • Dev Team, which consists of three to nine people, was added to the big picture. An Agile/Scrum Team in SAFe now consists of three roles: The Dev Team, Product Owner, and Scrum Master. Many Kanban teams may not use the Scrum Master or Product Owner roles, however, most find them useful.
  • The Scrum events (see Figure 22) were moved next to the ScrumXP icon . The font size is also easier to read and click.
Figure 22. Scrum Events

Simpler Glossary and Translations

The glossary has been translated into nine languages and has a new dropdown widget (see Figure 23) to support downloading both US letter and A4 .pdf formats. The glossary entry is now the first element of each SAFe article.

Figure 23. Glossary with dropdown for language selection

 Combined SAFe Foundation Elements

As illustrated in Figure 24, SAFe’s foundation contains the supporting principles, values, mindset, implementation guidance, and leadership roles needed to successfully deliver value at scale.

The foundation appeared in two places on the big picture—the left side and bottom. It has now been consolidated to one level at the bottom of the framework. Additional changes include:

  • Communities of Practice (CoP) was relocated from the left-side foundation to the spanning palette.
  • Lean Agile Leaders was moved from the left-side foundation to the bottom.
  • SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) was added to the foundation. SPCs are a key part of the leadership that is needed to implement SAFe.
  • Implementation Roadmap replaced Implementing 1-2-3.
Figure 24. SAFe 4.5 Foundation

Thanks to You, Our SAFe Community!

We owe a special thanks to you, our SAFe community, for all your feedback and support. Your passion for the best SAFe possible has driven us to deliver what we like to think of as the most adaptable—and now configurable—framework in the world. We do all this simply because ‘better systems make the world a better place.’

Learn More

Read the blog post: ‘SAFe 4.5 Goes Live: Top 5 Reasons to Update’

There are two new articles on the site that provide an overview of SAFe:

  • What is SAFe – provides a high-level overview of the framework.
  • Why SAFe – describes why businesses need SAFe

[2] Ries, Eric. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Random House, Inc.

Last Update: 22 June 2017