Agile vs Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) vs Scrum

Agile vs Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) vs Scrum: How are they Different?

Agile, Scrum, SAFe. If you work in the project management industry, these are terms you’ve likely heard over the past few years as these approaches have gained popularity. However, you may not have a full understanding of how these concepts differ and where they overlap. Agile, Scrum, and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) are all popular methods of project development that can increase efficiency and improve your processes. Before you’re able to apply these concepts to your own organization, you need to know a little more about how they differ. In this article, we’ll look at Agile vs. Scaled Agile Framework vs. Scrum, and their differences and similarities. Once you know more about how each approach is unique, you’ll be able to choose the best option for your business.

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What is the Agile Methodology?

The Agile Methodology is a high-level approach for developing software and has been in use since its development in 2001. Think of this as the methodology the other two implementation processes use as a foundation.

The basis of the Agile Methodology is an incremental, iterative development process. Products evolve with every iteration, ensuring rapid delivery, and constant quality assurance efforts. This means a functional, bare-minimum version of a product is delivered, and each completed task builds on the foundation until the final version of the product is delivered.

Teams are cross-functional, working collaboratively with minimal oversight. Each team member is accountable for his or her own work, and teams self-organize for more efficient and streamlined processes. Because projects are constantly evolving and developing, teams must regularly check their previous work. This cuts down on glitches, mistakes, or irregularities.

At the end of each iteration a functional product is delivered to the client, which means faster delivery times and a likely increase in client happiness. The ultimate goal of Agile is rapid delivery of high-quality software and with this approach the goal becomes a reality.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a way of applying the Agile Methodology to everyday processes. Scrum also uses iterative methods to deliver software or products to clients as quickly as possible, with each version of the product building on the last one. Scrum iterations are organized into “sprints” which usually last about two weeks to a month.

Teams using Scrum have regular meetings built into their schedules to ensure they’re operating in the most Agile way possible. Prior to the beginning of each sprint team members commit to the tasks they will complete before the sprint ends. This occurs during the sprint planning meeting. Each day starts with a daily huddle, in which every team member discusses what they completed the day before, what they plan to complete that day, and any issues preventing them from completing these tasks. At the end of each sprint, the entire team discusses the successes from the sprint and the areas for improvement. The team then plans how these problems can be solved for the future.

What is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)?

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is an approach to implementing Agile into daily operations. This approach builds off Scrum, scaling the Scrum approach for larger teams and organizations. SAFe was designed to accommodate DevOps, a method of constantly building, deploying, testing, and releasing software.

Scrum, while highly popular in the software development space, is not ideal for application in extremely large organizations. Thus, SAFe was developed using a highly structured framework which applies Agile concepts in an enterprise setting. Implementing Scrum at an enterprise level is no easy feat, but with SAFe’s decentralized approach to Agile you can maintain much of your organizational structure, while still using iterative development and delivery processes.

Should your organization be using SAFe? If you want to use Agile, but you work in a large organization, you should evaluate your current processes to make this determination. One benefit of SAFe is you can maintain your centralized decision making processes. This ensures there is little disruption to your company, while your processes still benefit from Agile principles.

Similarities: Agile vs Scaled Agile Framework vs Scrum

Because Agile is the foundational methodology for both Scrum and SAFe, all three processes have commonalities. Think of Agile as the umbrella methodology. Scrum is a framework for using Agile in your business, and SAFe is a way to scale Scrum, making it workable for even the largest enterprises.

All three have a common goal, as well – develop high-quality products, as quickly as possible, using iterative methods. While there may be operational differences, the overall goal is the same.

Differentiators: Agile vs Scaled Agile Framework vs Scrum

Agile, as the overarching methodology, doesn’t really fall into the same category as either Scrum or SAFe. Because it is the foundation for these operational frameworks, it’s best thought of as a high-level concept.

The basic difference between Scrum and SAFe is the size of the teams they can accommodate. Scrum is best used by companies with a simple organizational structure. If you have multiple departments and more than 100 employees, your needs are better aligned with SAFe’s approach to Scrum.

Now you know a little more about Agile vs. Scaled Agile Framework vs. Scrum, you’re ready to choose the best option for your agile project management approach. You also need to ensure you have the professional skills to make this project a success. The best way to develop these skills is through project management training.

With the right project management training partner, you can learn more about the intricacies of Agile vs. Scaled Agile Framework vs. Scrum, and you can find out how to personally manage projects using these frameworks. You also may want to consider pursuing a certification in one of these areas.

By engaging in the proper training and selecting the right Agile approach for your project management team, you’re sure to see improvements in client happiness, project success, and overall profitability.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO