What are the Four Levels of the Scaled Agile Framework

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Mar 27, 2024

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Software development projects found a relief when Agile methodology was implemented. It has several advantages over the waterfall method. The repetitive iteration approach added value to the product implementation at each stage.
Now, there needs improvement to effectively implement Agile in enterprise environments. That is when scaling Agile became very important. In the year 2011 Scaled Agile Framework in short called as SAFe, Scaled Agile company gifted this framework to the society. Since then it is grabbing the attention of development projects and the latest version was released in 2018 Oct, the SAFe 4.6. Continuously people are looking for SAFe training courses across locations to learn and implement in their projects.

Let us understand a detailed overview of SAFe framework and different levels of SAFe Framework which will certainly motivate you to know SAFe Agilist Certification cost in India.

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What is SAFe?

First, we will define and know about this framework in simple terms. Then we shall deep dive into its layers and levels. The need to construct larger and complicated systems without compromising the quality and time made us look at SAFe training. Yes, to understand and implement this framework in organization SAFe certification training became mandatory.

SAFe is an industry-proven method that comes with 3 safe levels. For the ones who are looking for an approach that can help them to deliver fully tested as well as valuable products to their customer and definitely is a most efficient manner, there is nothing that beats agile development at the team level. One of the methods that add value for scaling Agile to an enterprise-level as the business grows in size, is SAFe which is short for Scaled Agile Framework.

The lean-Agile transformation required mindset, as well as deeper understanding and both, are covered in every SAFe Agile certification program. Scaling up of the team is the primary motive of this framework, which is similar to that of the other popular frameworks including LeSS, Nexus, and DAD.

In this framework, the adoption of lean-Agile happened with the four layers namely the TEAM, PROGRAM, VALUE STREAM, and PORTFOLIO.

In this article, we shall discuss each SAFe level and understand their importance and how this framework helps build both smaller and complex systems which are discussed in our SAFe Agilist training .

Different Levels in SAFe Framework

Before we move directly to the four levels of scaled agile framework, let us dig the path to know how Scaled Agile arrived at a conclusion that these 4 layers are vital for smooth Agile-lean adoption.

Essential SAFe                      

The very basic configuration released by Scaled Agile is the “ESSENTIAL SAFe.” Per the Agile Manifesto, minimizing the work done is the smart way and maximizing the work not done is a simple way. Keeping this in mind, implementing this framework with two essential layers was produced and they include the Team and the Program Level.

When this framework is good to go with both larger complicated and smaller systems, then even the basic framework should have the basic 10 elements as its subset. Those 10 components are listed below.

1. Lean-Agile Principle

2. Real Teams and Trains (Agile) – ART

3. Rhythm and synchronization

4. Product Increment (PI) planning

5. DevOps and Releasability

6. Demo at the System level

7. Inspection and adapting

8. Planning iteration and Innovation

9. Architectural Runway

10. Leadership – Lean-Agile

With these elements, it is possible to implement any complicated enterprise projects.

Large Solution SAFe

For coordinating multiple ARTs (Agile Release Trains), extra events, roles, and artifacts were required and this introduced Large Solution Level on top of the Essential framework. Here Agile manifesto of simplicity is little modified. Simplicity is required for a simple system and when the system demands complexity, then one must not build a simpler one.

Therefore in addition to team and program level, large solution level was added. Large solution level had the following elements in addition to the basic 10 elements.

1. Solution train to coordinate multiple trains.

2. Solution Intent is used to build a quality system

3. Solution context was described to know how the system will interface.

4. Solution kanban was there to manage the capability flow

In a nutshell, for a huge and complicated system, large solution elements were also required.

Portfolio SAFe

This level aligns the enterprise strategy with portfolio execution. Roles, principles, and practices are present in this level that governs and initiates the development set for every value stream. Small and medium-size enterprise takes help from portfolio to govern the complete solution set technically. But, for larger enterprises with 500+ practitioners, multiple SAFe portfolios will be used per business line.

Portfolio level highlights the following

1. The lean budget that allows quick and authorized decision-making.

2. Each value stream focus on funding people and resource required to build a solution and deliver value to the customer.

3. Portfolio kanban creates work in progress by making every work visible.

4. Portfolio canvas describes and defines the objective of the this framework portfolio.

Full SAFe

Considering the benefits of essential, large solution and portfolio, scaled Agile built a comprehensive level that will include all the four layers team, program, large solution, and portfolio.

With this basic insight about the Scaled Agile Framework, let us know in detail see about the four layers and their role in the lean-Agile transformation which is deeply covered in every SAFe Agile certification course.

Four Levels of SAFe

Now further in the article, we are going to discuss four levels of the infamous scaled agile framework and discuss their importance in building an Agile-powered system for a business. These levels are:

  1. Team Level
  2. Program Level
  3. Portfolio Level
  4. Value-Stream Level

Let’s unfold these levels one by one and gain a better insight into each one of them.


Layer in Scaled agile framework

Lowest Layer – Team Level 

Product Owner, Agile Team (developers, testers), and Scrum Master are some of the various team roles that are included in SAFe. This level acts as a foundation layer for the whole framework. This level aims at delivering value at the team level. Teams at this level typically work following Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, or XP frameworks which promise to deliver a better product at the end of each sprint. 

Here, the requirement is drawn from the backlog and this is managed by the product owner of the team. Aforementioned requirement is then elaborated, built, and tested within the iteration. ART’s (Agile Release Train) cadence is used to fix the team’s sprint length. 

Program Level

The level which is above team level and contains the ART concept is the Program Layer. This is the level where the system team along with the BA, DevOps, and architect of the system, UX, and release train engineers collaborate. System and DevOps teams are two primary teams. The role of the system team is to work towards the goal to conduct an environment for development while building a development infrastructure. Also, the team is responsible for staging system sprint demo and provides support in test automation.
On the other hand, the DevOps team plays a major role in the deployment and automation of that deployment process. 

Portfolio Level

When it comes to the promise of delivering on the enterprise’s core competencies, portfolio level ups the ante again. The roles that are part of this level are program portfolio management, with enterprise architecture, and also epic owners. While these are the roles that participate at this level, there is no tightly bound rule at this level. 

This is one of three levels of scaled agile framework where the business incorporates investment funding, lean portfolio management along with focussing on lean governance as well as organizational agility. This is used to enable best practices for lean budgeting that will be used by enterprises to fund products.

Value Stream Layer

While above are the 3 levels of scaled agile framework, this additional level is included in SAFe version 4.0. It is the level that is the combination of both ARTs and the program teams to make sure that the quality products are being delivered to the clients. The value stream level plays a major role when the business is looking to stay at par with their competitors. This level is bifurcated into two types:

  1. Operational stage: It is a stage where the company provides its services to the clients which can also be regarded as a money-making stage. 

Also Read: Operational value Streams

  1. Development stage: It is a stage where the development of new products and system capabilities is done.

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Why SAFe?

After looking at the different layers and the growth phase of SAFe versions, let us now see why this framework is catching attention the recent years. Mainly coping with the competition can happen only when organizations stand on their toes and deliver. This framework help in such a scenario to handle complexity both in the system and in the technology.

If you are looking for a way which can help you answer questions like “How do we do the budgeting?”, “How to plan using Agile methodology?”, “How do we implement cross-functioning in DevOps and architecture?” and also “How to target organizational agility?” - SAFe is your answer. When an enterprise expands, the need to introduce more complex and complicated systems arises. But this has to be achieved without any dent in the quality. To implement this framework at such a large level, safe training plays a major role. With a deep understanding to attain a lean-Agile mindset, SAFe certification training became indispensable.

Top 7 reasons for businesses to adopt SAFe and grow their revenue 7x

 Quality is more important than quantity. Having said that the customer expects both quantity and timely delivery. This framework offers increased solution quality.

1. Productivity increases as the team are empowered to work and they discuss all issues during the sprint retrospective leading to improve their morale.

2. Lean-Agile method let the business to deliver value within quick time and even complex system can be worked out with multiple ARTs.

3. Transparency in this system is achieved as different layers team has different roles and hence it is easy to share their views.

4. Scaling Agile with SAFe can be done for any enterprise size and also learning the method does not throw much challenge.

5. Each release train will allow the client to check the product quality and hence customer satisfaction can never be a problem irrespective of the complexity.

6. Team synchronizes together due to the practice of scrum-of-scrum in the ARTs.


To conclude, the framework including safe levels is going to add much more value to the agile methodology which can be followed throughout the organization. This is going to fuel the growth of the agile framework and can be integrated well with the system.

Every individual must earn SAFe Agile Certification in India to stay at par with the business. Working in an Agile project for a while is worth considering SAFe training and certification for moving up in the career ladder. Lean development works perfectly with the SAFe 4.6 agilist certification course. You can align the technical and business goal of your company if you can understand this framework principles. Attend the training and get access to all SAFe agilist certification exam questions and answers to crack the exam quickly.

This framework offers enterprises an opportunity to quickly deploy Agile to huge parts of the information technology value stream. It also offers common thinking and language to teams. Final words, this framework is the best addition in the Agile landscape and is the appropriate framework that allows rapid deployment of Agile in their organization.

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