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SAFe Interview Questions with Answers

safe interview questions with answers
Scaled Agile is popular for its incremental and iterative approach that helps in short-term developmental cycles and quick delivery. It has witnessed a revolutionary change with the introduction of SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework). It helped overcome one of the biggest challenges that Agile had faced otherwise, which was scaling. With SAFe, Agile can now be deployed even at an enterprise scale. In this article, we will look at some of the most important SAFe interview questions with answers that will help you get through the SAFe interview questions seamlessly. 

The Importance of SAFe Agile Interview 

Since the Scaled Agile Framework has become very popular and there are many SAFe-related jobs that are opened, SAFe certifications are in high demand these days, and many people are pursuing the SAFe certification courses to be well acquainted with the skills required to gain expertise in this framework. Since opportunities are pretty high in SAFe, it is imperative to thoroughly learn about SAFe interview questions and answers. If you are interested in going for the course, you must also thoroughly learn about the objectives of SAFe, along with the most asked scaled agile interview questions. Let’s look at some of the most important SAFe interview questions below: 

SAFe Interview Questions And Answers

  1. Explain Agile and some of its related frameworks. 

Agile is simply 4 values and 12 principles to deliver value incrementally and iteratively. It is neither a framework nor a methodology. It was derived to provide software incrementally with high quality. Scrum and SAFe are the two frameworks that follow Agile. Scrum is all about the team and SAFe is for scaling agility.

  1. What do you know about the levels of SAFe?

There are three levels of the latest version of SAFe, as follows: 

1. Essential SAFe
2. Large Solution SAFe
3. Portfolio SAFe and

Essential SAFe is a mandatory level in SAFe, which is for a single program (we call it Agile Release Train) of 50 to 125 people. The other 2 levels are optional. 

When there are more than 125 people and more complex, for ex., 300 people working for 1 product/solution, we need Large Solution SAFe

Portfolio SAFe can be implemented when the entire portfolio wants to move to SAFe, which means, multiple programs / ARTs within the portfolio including the Portfolio leadership want to follow SAFe.

  1. How do you measure Lead Time and Cycle time?

Read “Lead Time and Cycle Time: Get all insights here!” to understand more about the concepts.

  1. Explain the metrics in SAFe.

Metrics by definition are agreed-upon measurements that help evaluate the progress of the organization. There are measurements in SAFe as well. They help measure the performance of the team, ART, Value Stream, and Portfolio based on the metrics collected. Let’s look at various metrics that help SAFe organization measure and improve.

Team Metrics

Every Agile team in SAFe ART measures metrics that are critical for the team. Here are a few key metrics that Agile teams measure

  • Velocity – Average story points delivered per iteration
  • Predictability in every iteration (story points committed vs. delivered per iteration)
  • % Unit test automated – % Code coverage through unit test automation
  • Number of open defects – Number of open defects at any point in time

ART Metrics

Flow-based metrics are key metrics that help ART measure and improve.  Here are a few Flow-based metrics.

  • Flow Predictability: This helps measure the predictability of the team and ART based on business value points
  • Flow Distribution: Percentage of backlog item type (business features, enabler features, technical debts), etc in each PI
  • Flow Load: This indicates the total number of Work In Progress items at any point of time during the Program Increment execution. A cumulative Flow Diagram is used to measure this. 
  • Flow Time: Measures the total elapsed time for all steps in the workflow to deliver a backlog item or feature. This helps in increasing the speed of delivery in the shortest time.
  • Flow Efficiency: This measures the value-added time spent in delivering value as against the total time. This helps identify all the wastes in the system and remove them.

Assessment based measurements

There are also assessments that can help measure the competency of the organization – for example, team and technical agility, agile product delivery, continuous learning culture, etc.

  1. What are the features of SAFe version 6.0?

There are many changes in the SAFe 6.0 version, here are a few to highlight

  • Big Picture changes – New measure and growth assessments, program and team levels combined into essential SAFe, more clarity on the continuous delivery pipeline, focus on Agile teams beyond technology, etc
  • 2 new competencies were added – continuous learning culture and organizational agility
  • 5 restructured competencies – All the other 5 competencies were restructured to provide more dimensions and a detailed explanation
  • Focus on Business Agility is one of the highlights of SAFe 6.0
  • New Overview tab with 7 core competencies listed
  • A New Assessment called “Business Agility” assessment added
  • Lot more focus on “Customer Centricity” and “Design Thinking”
  • “Organize around Value” is the 10th principle added to SAFe 6.0
  • LPM and APM certifications are added to the SAFe Implementation Roadmap
  1. What is Innovation and Planning iteration?

Innovation and planning iteration is one of the iterations in the Program Increment. This iteration is the last iteration in every PI. The uniqueness of this is as the same says – it focuses on “Innovation”, “Planning preparation” and “PI planning”. It also helps the teams upgrade themselves through continuous learning.

IP iteration is the iteration where the Inspect & Adapt event is conducted which includes PI System Demo, PI Retrospective, and Problem-solving workshop.

The other key difference in IP iteration compared to other iterations is – there is no value delivery planned during this iteration. It’s primarily for innovation focus, learning, planning preparation, and PI planning.

  1. What are some pros and cons of SAFe?

Please read the detailed blog written on “Pros and Cons of SAFe”.

  1. What are “story”, “Feature” and “epic” in SAFe?

Epics, features, and stories are the backlog structure in SAFe. 

Epics are the large backlog items that require more than a PI to deliver the value. Epics can be Portfolio epics, Solution epics, and program epics. They are large enough that it takes more than a PI or two. Epics can be business epics or enabler epics. Features are the ART level backlog, that will be delivered by the ART within a PI. Like epics, they can also be Business Features and Enabler features.

The story is a team-level backlog that the Agile team can deliver within an iteration. They are small enough that a single Agile team can deliver multiple stories within a PI.

  1. Explain the principles of SAFe.

SAFe principles are the guiding principles to implement SAFe in an organization. The SAFe framework was built on these principles.

SAFe has 10 principles. They comprise Agile principles, Lean and Systems thinking, product development flow practices, and Lean & DevOps processes. The entire framework was built on these principles.

  1. What do you understand about a Value Stream?

Value Streams are the steps that any organization uses to implement and deliver solutions and provide a continuous flow of value to their customer. The organization is typically sliced based on functional or organizational silos that don’t allow the organization to deliver customer value in the shortest time. The silo-ed structure causes many challenges like

  1. Value delivery is slowed down due to handoffs and delays
  2. The organizational boundaries don’t enable customer-centricity adoption
  3. An organization is designed to optimize the work in silos, not as a whole

Value Stream thinking helps remove these challenges by bringing all the functions together and delivering value to customers as one team.

There are 2 types of Value Streams.

1. Operational Value Stream
2. Development Value Stream

Here are the benefits of implementing value-stream thinking in the organization

  1. Delays and Handoffs are fewer
  2. Enables the teams to work as a single, long-lived unit that focuses on delivering continuous value to customers
  3. It enables the shortest sustainable lead time by identifying and removing waste in the system
  4. Increases the quality of the product

11. What is the purpose of having a System Demo?

System Demo is the demonstration of the whole system built by all the teams of an ART incrementally in every iteration. This helps the leaders, and all stakeholders understand the system that is built by the entire ART.

It provides an integrated view of all the features that are built in the recent iteration by all the teams of an ART. It takes place at the end of every iteration. This helps stakeholders provide feedback on the system the moment it is built.

Participants of the System Demo are Product Managers, Product Owners, System Team members, System Architects, Business Owners, other executives and stakeholders who are interested in seeing the demo, and ART agile team members as needed.

  1. What do you understand by Release on Demand?

Release on Demand is a process that enables the deployment of new functionality into production and releases instantly or incrementally based on the demand of the customer. Release on Demand is part of the Continuous Delivery pipeline. “Based on demand” raises the following questions to be answered

  1. When should we release the new functionality?
  2. Which elements of the system that is built should be released?
  3. Who should receive the release content (ex., end users, market, etc)

A few practices that contribute to effective release on demand are

  1. Dark launches
  2. Feature toggle
  3. Canary releases
  4. Decouple release element

13. Is there any difference between User Stories and Enabler Stories?

Primarily, user stories refer to the stories in which the delivery directly corresponds to the user who would utilize them.  User stories deliver value to customers.

Enabler stories don’t deliver any value directly however they enable value delivery. There are 4 types of enablers
1. Infrastructure enablers
2. Exploration enablers
3. Architectural enabler
4. Compliance enablers

To know more about enablers, read “What are enablers in SAFe?”

  1. Explain the role of a Release Train Engineer.

Release Train Engineer, also known as RTE, is a chief scrum master of the Agile Release Train. He/she is the servant leader and coach for the Agile Release Train. The critical responsibility of RTE is to facilitate all ART events and help teams in delivering value to customers faster.

A few key responsibilities of RTE are

  1. Manage and optimize the flow of value
  2. Facilitate all ART events (PI planning, System Demo, Scrum of Scrum, PO Sync, Inspect & Adapt)
  3. Coach leaders and teams on Lean-Agile practices and mindset
  4. Escalate and track impediments
  5. Help manage risks and dependencies
    To know more about RTE, read the article “What is RTE in SAFe?”
  1. How is SAFe different from Scrum?

Scrum is the agile framework followed by the team to deliver value in an incremental and iterative way. It helps one single team to work on a backlog and deliver value with high quality. Scrum focuses on 1 single team. It’s not designed to make more than 1 team deliver common value to customers.

SAFe is a Lean-Agile framework followed by multiple agile teams that work together to deliver 1 common product or solution. When there are 5 or more teams working together to deliver a solution, SAFe is the right framework. SAFe borrowed the best of its values from Lean, Agile, Systems Thinking, and DevOps.

  1. What is Kanban?

To read more about the Kanban board, please read the article “Kanban Board”

  1. How do agile teams define PI objectives and how is it useful?

Read the blog “Drive your Agile teams in SAFe through PI objectives”

  1. Why do you need an “Inspect & Adapt” event in every PI?

The blog written on I&A “What is Inspect and Adapt in SAFe Framework and How does it Work?” will help you understand this event better.

  1. What is the role of Product Management in SAFe?

Product Management in SAFe owns the definition and support building desirable, viable, feasible, and sustainable product that meets customer needs. The product Management team in SAFe drives a customer-centric mindset using Design Thinking tools.

The top responsibilities of Product Management are
– Meet business goals
– Get it built
– Get it off the shelf
– Leverage support

It is one of the key roles of Agile Release Train to define the vision, roadmap, and backlog for the entire ART.

  1. How do you measure Lead Time and Cycle Time?

Read the blog “Lead Time vs Cycle Time: Get all insights here!”

Although the list of these SAFe interview questions is certainly not exhaustive, you must keep them in mind while preparing for your SAFe interview. Remember to keep yourself updated on the latest version of SAFe as well and how it can be improved further. With the increasing value of SAFe Agile certification these days, pursuing the SAFe course can go a long way in helping you get accustomed to the intricacies of this project management software. We wish you all the best for the course and the interview!

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