Nonfunctional Requirements in SAFe

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Mar 27, 2024

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Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) refer to the essential system attributes such as performance, security, usability, and reliability that support the system's functionality. Unlike functional requirements that describe what a system should do, NFRs describe how a system should behave. In SAFe, NFRs are considered just as critical as functional requirements. They are captured early in the development process and are used to guide architectural and design decisions. NFRs are typically maintained in the Team and Program Backlogs to ensure they are addressed throughout the development lifecycle. Ensuring these requirements are met is crucial for delivering a system that not only meets its intended functions but also provides a reliable, efficient, and user-friendly experience.

Importance of NFRs in Agile Development

Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) are essential in Agile Software development, but they might not get as much attention as functional requirements. NFRs set the standards for a system's usability, dependability, performance, and security, which are very important for keeping users happy and the system running for a long time. Let’s have a look at it in detail:

1. User Experience

  • Impact on Satisfaction: NFRs like usability and performance directly affect how users interact with the system, influencing their overall satisfaction.
  • Adoption Rates: Systems that meet NFRs are more likely to be adopted and recommended by users, as they provide a smoother and more efficient user experience.

2. System Scalability and Sustainability

  • Growth Management: NFRs ensure that the system can handle increased loads and user growth without degradation in performance.
  • Long-Term Viability: By focusing on scalability and performance from the beginning, systems are more adaptable to future needs and changes.

3. Quality Focus in Agile Development

  • Early Integration: Incorporating NFRs early in the Agile process, such as in backlogs and sprint planning, ensures they are not overlooked.
  • Continuous Improvement: Addressing NFRs in each sprint promotes a continuous focus on enhancing system quality beyond mere functionality.

4. Risk Management

  • Proactive Identification: NFRs help identify potential risks related to security, reliability, and compliance early.
  • Mitigation Strategies: Teams can develop and implement strategies to mitigate identified risks before they become critical issues.

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Capturing and Managing NFRs in SAFe

Capturing and managing Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a critical aspect of ensuring that solutions meet quality standards, user expectations, and operational efficiency. The process involves several structured steps and practices:

1. Identification and Documentation

  • Collaborative Discovery: Teams, including product owners, system architects, and stakeholders, collaborate to identify NFRs based on user needs and system constraints.
  • Explicit Documentation: NFRs are documented with clarity and precision, often as part of the Agile artifacts like user stories, enablers, or part of the definition of done.

2. Backlog Integration

  • Incorporation into Backlogs: NFRs are treated as backlog items, ensuring they are prioritized and addressed alongside functional requirements during PI (Program Increment) planning and iteration planning sessions.
  • Visibility and Transparency: This integration ensures that NFRs are visible to all team members and stakeholders, promoting transparency and collective ownership.

3. Architectural Enablement

Guiding Architectural Decisions: NFRs significantly influence the architectural and design decisions to ensure the system architecture can support these requirements.

System and Solution Enablers: SAFe introduces the concept of enablers, which include architectural and infrastructure work that supports NFRs, facilitating their implementation.

4. Iteration and Incremental Development

  • Iterative Refinement: NFRs are addressed through iterative development, allowing for continuous refinement and validation against the system's evolving state.
  • Definition of Done: Incorporating NFRs into the criteria for the definition of done ensures that each increment of the solution meets the desired quality standards.

5. Validation and Verification

  • System Demos: Regular system demos and solution showcases provide opportunities to validate NFRs with stakeholders, offering feedback loops for adjustment and improvement.
  • Quantitative Measures: Where possible, NFRs are quantified, making them easier to measure and validate, such as specifying response times or availability percentages.

Types of  NRF 

SAFe Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) encompass a broad range of system attributes that dictate how a system operates, rather than what it does. These requirements are pivotal in ensuring the system's usability, reliability, efficiency, and overall quality. Here are some common types of NFRs:

Type of NFRKey AspectsDescription
PerformanceResponse Time, Throughput, CapacityMeasures how fast and efficiently the system processes requests and handles loads.
ScalabilityHorizontal Scalability, Vertical ScalabilityThe system's ability to grow and handle increased demand by adding resources.
ReliabilityAvailability, Fault ToleranceThe system's uptime and its ability to continue operation under partial failure conditions.
UsabilityUser Interface, Accessibility, User ExperienceHow intuitive, accessible, and satisfying the system is for end-users.
SecurityAuthentication/Authorization, Data Encryption, Vulnerability ManagementProtecting system and data integrity from unauthorized access or breaches.
MaintainabilityModularity, Code Readability, Update/Upgrade PathThe ease with which the system can be modified, understood, and updated.
ComplianceRegulatory Compliance, Standards ComplianceAdherence to relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards.
PortabilityCross-Platform Support, Data PortabilityThe system's ability to operate across different environments and ease of data transfer.
Disaster RecoveryBackup and Restore Business Continuity PlanningPreparedness for recovering from failures and maintaining operations under adverse conditions.



NFRs and the System Architecture

Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) play a critical role in shaping the system architecture. They influence the fundamental decisions that define the system's structure, its components, and the interactions between those components. Unlike functional requirements, which dictate what a system should do, NFRs focus on how the system performs its functions, directly impacting the user experience, system resilience, and operational efficiency. Here’s how NFRs influence system architecture:

1. Foundational Influence

  • Architecture Design: NFRs are considered early in the architectural design phase to ensure the system's architecture can support these requirements. For example, scalability NFRs might lead to a microservices architecture to facilitate easier scaling.
  • Framework and Technology Selection: Decisions on frameworks, programming languages, and technologies are often guided by NFRs, such as choosing a database that ensures data integrity and meets performance NFRs.

2. Quality Attributes

  • Defining Quality Attributes: NFRs are synonymous with the quality attributes of a system. Attributes like performance, scalability, and reliability are defined through NFRs, guiding architectural patterns and styles.
  • Trade-off Analysis: Architects often perform trade-off analysis between conflicting NFRs (e.g., security vs. performance) to find a balance that meets the overarching system goals.

3. Modifiability and Evolution

  • Future-proofing: NFRs like maintainability and portability influence the system's flexibility and its ability to evolve in response to future changes, ensuring the system remains viable over time.
  • Design for Change: Architectures are designed with NFRs in mind to accommodate changes without significant rework, such as modular designs that allow for easier updates or enhancements.

4. Operational Efficiency

  • Resource Utilization: NFRs concerning efficiency dictate how resources are utilized, driving architectures towards more cost-effective and resource-efficient designs.
  • System Optimization: Continuous monitoring of NFRs like performance and scalability can lead to architectural optimizations that enhance system throughput and reduce latency.

5. Security and Compliance

  • Incorporating Security Layers: Security NFRs lead to architectures that include dedicated security layers, encryption mechanisms, and secure communication protocols.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Compliance-related NFRs necessitate architectures that facilitate data protection, audit trails, and secure data storage to meet legal and regulatory standards.

6. Reliability and Availability

  • Fault Tolerance: Architectures are designed with redundancy, failover mechanisms, and self-healing capabilities to meet reliability and availability NFRs.
  • Disaster Recovery: Architectural considerations for backup, restore, and disaster recovery strategies ensure business continuity and data integrity.

7. User-Centric Designs

Usability and Accessibility: Usability NFRs influence the architectural decisions related to the user interface and user experience design, ensuring they are intuitive and accessible to all users.

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Ensuring Compliance with NFRs

Ensuring compliance with Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) is a critical aspect of software development, especially in Agile environments where rapid iterations and incremental delivery are the norms. Compliance with NFRs ensures that the software not only meets its functional objectives but also adheres to standards of performance, security, usability, and more, contributing to a high-quality end product. Here's a structured approach to ensuring NFR compliance:

1. Clear Definition and Documentation

Specificity and Measurability: Ensure NFRs are well-defined, specific, and measurable. This clarity is crucial for validation and compliance efforts.

Shared Understanding: Foster a shared understanding of NFRs among the team and stakeholders to ensure alignment on expectations.

2. Integration in Development Lifecycle

  • Early Consideration: Integrate NFR considerations early in the development lifecycle, including planning, design, and architectural decisions, to avoid costly rework.
  • Continuous Focus: Maintain a continuous focus on NFRs throughout the development process, ensuring they are addressed in each iteration or sprint.

3. Automated Testing and Monitoring

  • Automation: Where possible, automate the testing of NFRs (e.g., performance testing, security scanning) to ensure continuous compliance.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Implement tools and processes for the continuous monitoring of NFRs, providing real-time feedback on compliance.

4. Review and Inspection Processes

  • Regular Reviews: Conduct regular reviews and inspections focused on NFR compliance, involving relevant stakeholders and technical experts.
  • Peer Reviews: Utilize peer reviews and pair programming practices to ensure adherence to NFRs from the coding phase.

5. Incorporation into Quality Assurance Practices

  • Dedicated QA Efforts: Ensure that QA practices and test plans explicitly include tests for NFRs, not just functional requirements.
  • Nonfunctional Test Scenarios: Develop detailed test scenarios and criteria for each NFR to guide testing efforts.

Also Read: What is Quality Assurance Automation and it's Benefits

6. Stakeholder Engagement and Feedback

  • Stakeholder Demonstrations: Regularly demonstrate NFR compliance to stakeholders through system demos, leveraging their feedback for continuous improvement.
  • User Feedback: Incorporate user feedback, especially regarding usability and performance, to assess and improve NFR compliance.

7. Training and Awareness

  • Team Training: Provide training and resources to the team on the importance of NFRs and techniques for ensuring compliance.
  • Culture of Quality: Foster a culture that values quality and understands the importance of NFRs in achieving high-quality software.

8. Adaptation and Continuous Improvement

  • Inspect and Adapt: Leverage Agile ceremonies like retrospectives to reflect on NFR compliance efforts and identify areas for improvement.
  • Iterative Enhancement: Treat NFR compliance as an iterative process, continuously enhancing the system's nonfunctional aspects over time.


In conclusion, Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) are indispensable in shaping high-quality, resilient, and user-centric software systems, especially within SAFe and Agile methodologies. From influencing architectural decisions to integrating seamlessly into backlogs and iterative development cycles, NFRs ensure that software is not only functional but also meets critical performance, usability, security, and reliability standards. Ensuring compliance with these requirements through systematic approaches, automated testing, and continuous stakeholder engagement enhances the overall software quality and ensures that the final product aligns with user expectations and operational needs. The inclusion of NFRs in system demos and iterations provides regular checkpoints for validation and feedback, ensuring continuous improvement and alignment with project objectives. Ultimately, a balanced focus on both functional and non-functional aspects throughout the software development lifecycle is key to delivering successful, sustainable, and well-received software solutions.

If you're looking to deepen your understanding of Agile and SAFe methodologies and how to effectively integrate NFRs into your development processes, consider enrolling in StarAgile's "SAFe Agilist Certification". This comprehensive program is designed to equip you with the knowledge, skills, and insights needed to excel in Agile environments and drive high-quality software development initiatives. Take the next step in your professional journey and join a community of certified SAFe Agilists committed to delivering excellence. 

Also Read: Expert Tips to Crack the SAFe Agilist Exam in 2024


1. What are Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs)?

Nonfunctional Requirements are criteria that specify how a system should behave and include aspects like performance, security, usability, and reliability, which are essential for ensuring the system's overall quality and user satisfaction.

2. Why are NFRs important in Agile and SAFe?

In Agile and SAFe environments, NFRs ensure that, alongside meeting functional objectives, the software delivers a high-quality user experience, maintains operational efficiency, and adheres to security and reliability standards, contributing to a sustainable and robust system.

3. How are NFRs integrated into Agile backlogs?

NFRs are treated as first-class citizens in Agile backlogs, either as individual backlog items or as part of the acceptance criteria for functional user stories. They are prioritized and refined alongside functional requirements throughout the development process.

4. What role do NFRs play in system demos and iterations?

NFRs are showcased in system demos to validate compliance with performance, security, usability, and other standards. During iterations, they are continuously refined, tested, and validated, ensuring the system evolves to meet both functional and non-functional requirements.

5. How can teams ensure compliance with NFRs?

Teams can ensure NFR compliance through clear documentation, automated testing, continuous monitoring, regular reviews, dedicated QA efforts, stakeholder engagement, and iterative refinement, all aimed at maintaining high standards of software quality.

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