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Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) 5.0 - The Easy Agile Review

Tue Nov 26 2019
Teagan Harbridge
Written by Teagan Harbridge, Customer Experience Manager

I was fortunate enough to travel to San Diego for the recent Global SAFe Summit. It was there that the folks from Scaled Agile Inc. unveiled SAFe 5.0 to the audience of 2,100 people from all around the world.

Like many in attendance, I was both excited and overwhelmed with all the changes including the refreshed Big Picture, renewed focus on customers and concepts of Business Agility just to name a few.

After the long flight back to Australia, and having had time to share my learnings with the team, we're super excited about what these changes mean for scaling organisational agility and we wanted to share a few of them here with you.

What's new in SAFe 5.0

1. Introduction of Business Agility

How is this different? Business agility now incorporates the whole business in the move towards value streams rather than individual departments.

2. Refreshed look and feel to the SAFe Big Picture

SAFe Big Picture

3. New SAFe Overview

SAFe overview

4. SAFe 5.0 'revamps' 2 of the Core Competencies of the Lean Enterprise:

  • Agile Product Delivery from DevOps and Release on Demand
  • Enterprise Solution Delivery from Business Solutions and Lean Systems Engineering

Plus, Addition of 2 new Core Competencies:

5. A 10th SAFe Principle was announced

NEW: Principle #10 - Organise Around Value

Why are we excited about SAFe 5.0?

It's not the updated Big Picture diagram, or the more approachable and "business friendly" overview that have us excited about SAFe 5.0. What we're more excited about than anything, is the renewed focus on customers - hooray!

While we enjoyed playing a customer version of 'Where's Wally?' in previous SAFe Big Pictures, this renewed focus on customers represents a shift in the level of maturity of organisations adopting SAFe.

They are no longer at a point where "doing" agile is their primary objective. This shift towards customer centricity embodies what it truly means to be agile, where satisfying the customer is our primary objective.

We've also seen this shift more broadly, as customer/user satisfaction was cited as the #1 success metric for both agile initiatives and individual agile projects in this year's #StateOfAgile report.

How does SAFe 5.0 encourage customer centricity?

The revamped Core Competency of Agile Product Delivery (previously called DevOps and Release on Demand) is what really has us using emoji's like ❤️ and has us feeling jazzed.

The DevOps and Release on Demand competency was all about "delivering value to customers" by forming value streams and optimising continuous delivery pipelines to ship stuff into the hands of customers quicker.

The idea that value to customers = shipping working software more regularly is 💩.

A 💩 feature is still a 💩 feature no matter how much faster it lands in the laps of customers. Worse still, a 💩 feature that your customers don't use, or didn't want, or doesn't make them better at their job...... I think you know where I'm going with this.

This revamped Agile Product Delivery competency instead places the focus waaaaaayyyy before anything is actually built - the first order of business should be having a customer centric mindset by:

  • focusing on the customer
  • understanding their needs
  • thinking and feeling like the customer #bethecustomer
  • building whole product solution
  • knowing customer lifetime value

How do we achieve customer centricity?

Putting customers at the centre of all decisions and incorporating Design Thinking practices into the mix well before we even think about building anything is key to achieving customer centricity.

This all sounds great, but what does this look like in practice? The diagram below is probably our favourite asset in the entire SAFe catalogue and we think it showcases practical examples of Design Thinking in practice:

design thinking

Our personal favourites

Personas 💁🏽‍♀️

It might seem trivial at first, to come together as a team, creating what seem like fake dating profiles for your customers.

However, this exercise sets the foundation for other agile practices down the track, and its perceived benefits are often undervalued.

Teams that have a shared understanding and alignment around the types of people using the solution they are delivering are more likely to succeed.

We want to make sure we're building the right solutions, for the right people, to help solve the right problems at the right time, otherwise we risk the following scenario:

cookie monster bad christmas

Knowing the customer deeply is no longer the sole responsibility of a (traditional) Sales and Marketing team. Agile practices have called for the development of cross-functional team members to step up and help connect with customers.

Related blog post: how to create personas with your team.

It's no secret as the makers of Easy Agile TeamRhythm that we love user story maps (shameless 🔌).

So what about this agile practice do we love so much that we decided to form a business off the back of it?

The purpose of engaging in this activity is to create a shared understanding of who our customers are, how they interact with our products and how we should focus our development efforts on stories in order to provide our customers with the most value.

In other words, it gives us a way to say, ok I'm working on building this user story, I know who the user I'm building this story for is, and I can understand which part of the customer's journey this will be directly impacting.

user story mapping

We believe this shared understanding is incredibly powerful for both building with empathy and putting our customers at the heart of of all our development decisions. We believe this practice exemplifies what it means to be customer centric, and that's why we ❤️ it.


Easy Agile welcomes the big changes introduced in SAFe 5.0, especially calling out customer-centricity, design thinking and business agility. We can't wait to see how our customers start introducing this in their teams.

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