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SAFe Implementation Roadmap: The Definitive Guide

SAFe Implementation Roadmap
Any transformation journey is not that simple, as it involves changes at different levels in the organization. SAFe implementation is also not an exception. However, to make the transformation journey smooth, the Scaled Agile Framework has defined the ‘SAFe Implementation Roadmap’ which guides the organization on how to Implement SAFe.

Organizations that are keen to achieve Business Agility and are highly customer-centric prefer to go with SAFe implementation. SAFe Framework helps in achieving Faster deliveries, enhancing the quality of the value delivery to the customer, and at the same time increasing Employee engagement with a high rate of Productivity.

As rightly described by Dan and Chip Heath in the book Switch: – “In order to achieve the desired organizational change, leadership must “script the critical moves,”, SAFe also has scripted the step by steps to be followed in the Implementation Journey.

safe implementation process
img source: Scaled Agile Inc

In this article, we will understand what is SAFe Implementation Roadmap through the twelve robust steps.

The Roadmap has 12 steps that have been followed by various large-scale enterprises religiously in the SAFe implementation journey and are proven to be successful. You can learn more about the SAFe Implementation Roadmap by pursuing the SAFe agilist / SAFe Program Consultant certification.

What do we know about the SAFe Implementation Roadmap?

SAFe Implementation Roadmap describes the strategy to be followed and a sequential set of steps to be followed for successful SAFe implementation. 

Now let’s look into the 12 steps to understand the SAFe Implementation roadmap better:

  1. Reaching the Tipping Point 
  2. Train Lean-Agile Change Agents 
  3. Train Executives, Managers, and Leaders 
  4. Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence 
  5. Identify Value Streams and ARTs 
  6. Create the Implementation Plan 
  7. Prepare for the ART Launch 
  8. Train Teams and Launch the ART 
  9. Coach ART Execution 
  10. Launch More ARTs and Value Streams 
  11. Extend to the Portfolio 
  12. Accelerate
  13. Reaching the tipping point.
  1. Reaching the tipping point.

Organizations usually go for any transformation mainly because of two reasons:- either the current way of working is just not beneficial for them to satisfy their customer needs and sustain their business or maybe because Visionary leaders who are thinking from a future perspective for the betterment of the organization. 

So, in either of these cases, we can say that the organization has reached the tipping point, and definitely, there is a need for transformation. Identifying the need for transformation is very critical before starting the implementation.

2. Train the Lean-Agile Change Agents

SAFe is a Top-Down transformation, which means the Leaders are first transformed and then the team members. Hence it is very important to train a few influencing people (either within organizations or can hire external consultants) who can act as change agents in the entire Transformation journey. Identify the change agents who can implement specific process changes.

They also need to have the Lean-Agile Mindset and should impart the same qualities to the leaders and the team members. The identified Change Agents go through the SAFe Program Consultant Certification and become SPCs who are thoroughly aware of the SAFe implementation Process and guide the ARTs and organizations in the SAFe journey.

3. Train Executives, Managers, and Leaders 

Training the Change Agents is just not sufficient in the SAFe Implementation Journey. However, the Executives, Managers, and Leaders need to be trained in SAFe and imbibe in them the Lean-Agile Mindset. At this stage, Leading SAFe or SAFe Agilist Certification Training is conducted.

4. Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence 

Lean Agile Centre of Excellence popularly known as LACE consists of a group of dedicated individuals who can effectively drive the transformation. It is suggested that a group of 4-6 dedicated individuals can support a couple of  hundreds of SAFe Practitioners, while 8 -12 dedicated individuals in LACE can support multiple hundreds of SAFe Practitioners

Members of LACE have multiple responsibilities. They will be discussed in a separate article, The main responsibilities of LACE are: Communicating the vision, need, and urgency for the transformation, Fostering SAFe CoP (Communities of Practice), Facilitating Value Stream Identification, training the executives, leaders, and specific roles such as Product Owner, Product Manager, Scrum master or Release Train Engineer in SAFe practices.

  1. Identify Value Streams and ARTs 

A value stream is a set of events involved in delivering value to the Customer. SAFe defines two types of Value streams Operational Value stream and a Development Value Stream.

Identifying these value streams is an important step in the Implementation Journey, as it helps in identifying what is the trigger, steps, values, people and system, and Leadtimes.

Once the Value Stream is identified, based on what solution it delivers, people who are required to build the solution are identified and the ART is formed.

  1. Create the Implementation Plan 

The SAFe Implementation Journey always starts with one Agile Release Train. To identify the first ART and start preparing the implementation plan for different teams across the ART for a couple of PIs to start with.  Draft the activities that need to be carried out during the next couple of PIs.

  1. Prepare for the ART Launch 

During this phase, different role-specific SAFe pieces of training are conducted for SM, PO, PM, and Architects. It is very critical that each of these roles understand SAFe practices.

  1. Train Teams and Launch the ART 

Here, the team developers who build the product are given the SAFe training. This is done just before the PI planning activity.

  1. Coach ART Execution 

Once, the PI Planning activity of 2 days is completed, the ART needs to be coached on how to practice SAFe processes to ensure teams deliver value incrementally within Iterations and also within PIs. Teams are trained on how to do Iteration Planning,  Execution, Retrospective, SOS, PO sync, ART Sync, etc.

  1. Launch More ARTs and Value Streams 

On completion of the first PI, after the I&A and PI System Demo, metrics are collected to measure the progress of an ART. Based on the success of the PI for the first ART, multiple other ARTs are launched for various Value Streams.

  1. Extend to the Portfolio 

After multiple ARTs are launched and the Benefits of SAFe like faster time to market, high quality, enhanced Employee engagement, and enhanced productivity are achieved, organizations may wish to expand the SAFe Implementation to mature the Lean Portfolio Management competency of SAFe at the Enterprise level.
LPM would include handling the budgets for portfolios, approving initiatives, finalizing the strategy, etc.

  1. Accelerate:

In this step, the performance of portfolios is measured, and different assessments like Team and technical Agility, Agile Product Delivery, Continuous learning culture, etc. are conducted to measure the progress. As a result, any changes to be brought to the culture are introduced and any learnings from the SAFe implementations are applied across the enterprise.

To conclude, the SAFe Implementation Roadmap facilitates the execution of a project in the SAFe framework in a strategic, sound manner. You can understand the SAFe roadmap in its entirety with a leading SAFe or SPC certification


SAFe – Scaled Agile Framework 
RTE – Release Train Engineer
ART- Agile Release Train
PO – Product Owner
PM – Product Manager
PI – Program Increment
SoS – Scrum of Scrum
PO Sync – Product Owners Synchronization
CoP – Communities of Practice

FAQs about the SAFe Implementation Roadmap
1. What are the first three steps of the SAFe implementation roadmap?

The first three steps of the SAFe Implementation Roadmap are:
1. Reaching the threshold point
2. Training Lean-Agile Change Agents
3. Training leaders, supervisors, and teams

2. What are the last three steps of the SAFe roadmap?

The last three steps in the SAFe Implementation  roadmap are : 
Launch More ARTs and Value Streams 
Extend to the Portfolio

3. What is the role of the Program Roadmap in SAFe?

The Program Roadmap in SAFe enables the product owners, stakeholders, and team members, and the entire ART members to visualize work for the upcoming PIs,long-end and near-end terms, or deliverables.

4. Mention three steps that companies must undergo to foster agents of change in lean-Agile.

The three steps that companies must undergo to promote change agents are:
Establishment of a leading coalition
Identify the Change Agents and train them as SPCs
SPC’s effective involvement in the Implementation journey

5. What are the different certifications in SAFe?

There are different certifications in SAFe,  which are specific to roles like Leading SAFe for Leaders, SAFe POPM, SAFe for Teams, SAFe for Architects, SAFe Scrum Master, etc.