Scrum exists for 25+ years as a Team level process framework and SAFe exist for a decade driving Lean-Agile-DevOps thinking, however, this question keeps coming to me – what is the difference? OR why do we need SAFe when we have Scrum?
The purpose of both frameworks is different, and they don’t solve the same problem. Scrum solves team agility issues and SAFe solves organizational & scaling agility issues. For those, who are still not clear about the differences, let me address this with the below comparison.
|1||Scrum is focused on process agility for a single Agile team. It helps the team of 9 people work together and address their problems.|
This is derived out of 4 values and 12 principles of Agile.
|SAFe focuses on Lean-Agile transformation, not just Agile. |
SAFe is derived from proven Lean principles, Agile principles, DevOps, and Lean Startup Thinking. It addresses the process, practices, and cultural elements of the enterprise. Every element of SAFe is focused on “Business Agility” issues.
It helps the large organization with 100’s teams to address complex problems and resolve organizational systemic issues.
|2||Scrum’s focus is on team-level transformation, not scaling agility. Hence, its focus is on 1 team and 1 iteration at any point in time.||SAFe addresses scaling agility issues. Scaling varies for every organization or even Bus within the organization.|
SAFe has multiple configurations like Essential, Large Solution, Portfolio, and Full SAFe. The organization has the option to choose the configuration based on their problem & complexity.
|3||This focuses on an engineering team with 3 roles – developers, Scrum Master, and Product Owner.||Engineering is one part of a product in SAFe. Delivering value needs the support and involvement of multiple roles and departments. SAFe guides everyone (beyond Engineering) to “organize around value delivery”. There are many other teams that play a critical role in product release – PMs, Finance, HR, Purchase, Legal, Marketing, Sales, Support, etc. |
SAFe brings everyone under one roof and brings Systems Thinking (Value Stream thinking).
|4||Roles & EventsThe roles (SM, PO, Dev Team) and events (iteration plan, Daily Scrum, Backlog refinement, iteration review, iteration retrospective) are focused on team-level agility.||SAFe has additional roles (Prod. Mgmt., Sys. Architect, Release Train Engineer -RTE, Solution Train Engineer – STE, Solution Mgmt., Solution Architect, Epic Owner, etc.) and events (PI Planning, Scrum of Scrum, PO Sync, System Demo, Inspect & Adapt). They help the program collaborate consistently throughout the execution. This again brings “Systems Thinking”.|
|5||Team-driven transformation; Leader has a minimal role to play. The other way to describe – without a leader learning Scrum, Scrum can still be pushed to the team.||Leadership-driven transformation approach that helps get sustainable business results. Top-down approach starts with the leadership helps first leader understand and then support teams in implementation.|
|6||Scrum is easy to understand, however implementation gets difficult because of the challenge in Leader’s involvement and teams implement as per their understanding.||SAFe is bit of prescriptive (for valid reasons), well-structured framework that that addresses the systemic issues. It guides the teams and leaders on how to implement the framework and|
|7||Scrum is very specific to Software teams.||SAFe can be applied to Hardware, Firmware and Software teams. In fact, SAFe can be implemented even for non-software product development as well.|
|8||Scrum helps build more of team agility competency from process stand-point.||SAFe helps build 7 competencies in the organization – 1. Team & Technical Agility2. Agile Product Delivery3. Enterprise Solution Delivery4. Lean Portfolio Management5. Continuous Learning Culture6. Organizational Agility and as a foundation 7. Lean-Agile Leadership.|
Since these competencies are built in a structured way during the transformation journey with the “Business Agility” in mind, the organization gets power to resolve complex organizational, systemic issues.
|9||Backlog is a source of truth. Scrum addresses backlog to be built, however it doesn’t guide how to build a backlog and format of backlog etc. It’s up to the teams to define their backlog structure and format.Prioritization of backlog is key to product success. Scrum guides the team to rank the backlog. It doesn’t recommend on how to prioritize the backlog. It’s up to the product owner to choose the prioritization technique.||Backlog management is very effective.SAFe has clear requirements model right from Portfolio (epic) till team (stories). It also differentiates the backlog as business and enabler backlog.SAFe has a proven prioritization technique called Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) that helps deliver value in a shortest sustainable lead time, based on cost of delay and the size of the job.|
|10||Scrum is all about 1 iteration. It doesn’t address beyond, by design.||Since the complexity of product is much higher, SAFe enables organization to define long-term vision, multi-quarter / multi-year roadmap. This helps the entire Value Stream / ART to get thorough understand the future state of the product and build a stable product.|