SAFe Implementation Roadmap: A Full Guide on Steps 2024

Key Takeaways: The 12 Steps of SAFe Implementation
  1. Reach a tipping point — The realization that current project management methods aren’t working.
  2. Train Lean-Agile change agents — Hire or train change agents who can help large teams accept organizational change.
  3. Train executives, managers and leaders — Once SAFe has been agreed upon, executives, managers and leaders must be trained in SAFe methods.
  4. Create a Lean-Agile center of excellence — A Lean-Agile center of excellence (a small team) is formed to help implement SAFe across the organization.
  5. Identify value streams and ARTs — Methods for communicating with clients and stakeholders are discussed and agreed upon, and the rules and policies for development teams (agile release trains, or ARTs) are formed.
  6. Create an implementation plan — Create a plan to help iteratively roll out the SAFe method to the organization.
  7. Prepare for ART launch — During this stage, agile release trains (teams) should be formed, backlogs should be created and team members should be assigned.
  8. Train teams and launch the ART — All SAFe teams receive training, and the initial product increment strategy should be formed.
  9. Coach ART execution — Now that the ART has been trained and launched, leaders should shift from training modes to offering support and coaching.
  10. Launch more ARTs and value streams — To increase earning potential, more ART teams should be created so they can work on other projects.
  11. Extend the portfolio — Deliver more customer value by extending your portfolio and training teams that can collaborate efficiently.
  12. Accelerate — Leaders must continue to coach and train teams, and ensure that a culture of continuous improvement is in place.

Facts & Expert Analysis About the Agile Implementation Roadmap:

  • Large-scale Scrum: Terminology aside, SAFe is similar to Scrum. Multiple scrum teams work together in agile release trains (ARTs) to produce iterations of products and services; program increments (PIs) take the place of sprints, and PI planning sessions replace sprint planning.
  • SAFe roles: There are multiple roles within SAFe. Those who hold the roles must be trained and aligned with the business’s new culture and goals. The roles include a release train engineer, a product manager, business owners, scrum masters, product owners, team members (developers) and system architects.
  • SAFe benefits: According to the founder of SAFe, Dean Leffingwell, organizations that adopt SAFe can see a 20-50% increase in productivity, a 25-75% improvement in quality, products moving to market 30-75% faster and a 10-50% increase in employee engagement and satisfaction.1 

If you want scaled Agile projects to succeed, you must choose a framework that suits your organization, appeases clients and works with the best project management software. Have a plan with actionable steps to help you implement the framework. This sounds easy but can be tricky. Fortunately, the SAFe implementation roadmap can help make adoption easier.

If you want to implement SAFe but aren’t sure what goes into making the switch from your current project management methodology, stick around. In this guide, we’ll explain SAFe, its core competencies and the roadmap. We’ll also cover the benefits of the SAFe roadmap. We know you’re eager to learn, so let’s get started.

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What is SAFe?

SAFe, also known as the scaled Agile framework, is a set of principles and practices for large organizations that wish to use Agile work methods at scale. SAFe, which uses multiple scrum teams — known as an agile release train (ART) — incorporates many Lean-Agile principles so the company implementing it can be as efficient as possible while working on complex projects.

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SAFe is a scaled Agile framework that operates similarly to Scrum.

Competencies Used in SAFe

SAFe is built upon seven core competencies. Each of the competencies enables Agile methods of working at scale. The seven competencies are:

  • Team and technical agility: This competency enables teams to produce high-quality products and value quickly via an iterative approach, open communication and team collaboration.
  • Lean-Agile leadership: Managers lead teams with a servant leadership mindset (promoting flexibility, empathy, stewardship and listening) to enable the team to deliver top value. 
  • Agile product delivery: Teams use iterative methods to rapidly create, test and deliver products to clients and stakeholders. 
  • Lean portfolio management: Executing a Lean-Agile portfolio requires leveraging Lean-Agile principles that match the organization’s strategy. 
  • Enterprise solution delivery: Teams can deliver complex products at scale thanks to Agile mindsets.
  • Continuous learning culture: Cross-functional teams foster continuous learning environments through inspections and adaptations.
  • Organizational agility: Teams are organized in a way that allows them to respond swiftly to new opportunities and changes.

What is the SAFe Implementation Roadmap?

The SAFe implementation roadmap is a guide that helps organizations and enterprises adopt the SAFe framework. The roadmap details 12 steps that must be followed if organizations want to teach employees how to have a Lean-Agile mindset and succeed in Lean product development at scale.

Even with a roadmap, rolling out SAFe is challenging, and hiring change managers to help facilitate the move to this framework is highly recommended. The roadmap enables organizations to efficiently implement critical moves during the adoption process, reduce errors and keep the switch to SAFe moving forward at a sustainable pace.

Purpose of SAFe Implementation Roadmap

Implementing an Agile framework like SAFe without a guide would not be fun for the business, employees or clients. Therefore, the SAFe implementation roadmap was designed to guide organizations through the required steps to implement and adopt SAFe efficiently. With the roadmap, you can:

Ensure Implementation Efficiency

SAFe is a complex framework with many moving parts. The SAFe implementation roadmap is designed so that leaders and change managers can ensure every step is followed and implemented correctly and in a timely manner. The last thing an organization wants is a new framework that takes too long to implement.

Define a Work Culture

The roadmap includes several steps related to teaching employees — from executives to managers to developers — how the framework operates, the benefits of being agile, how to identify stream values and ARTs, how to launch agile release trains and more. With the roadmap, you can swiftly put your new work culture in place.

Enable Measurable Progress

Time is of the essence when it comes to overhauling a company’s work methods and culture. The roadmap is an excellent tool for those who like to measure progress, as leaders can quickly see which stage of the process they are in and whether they are meeting any self-imposed deadlines.

Risk Mitigation

Every project manager, scrum master or leader can tell you that a well-laid-out plan can help teams identify risks and devise solutions to deal with them if they occur. With the SAFe implementation roadmap, strategic change agents, leaders and executives can create risk mitigation plans to ensure problems can be dealt with successfully.

SAFe Implementation Roadmap Steps

Now that we know what SAFe is and what the roadmap is for, it’s time to examine the 12 steps to implementing SAFe. Remember, the roadmap aims to create a new work culture and teach all employees about Agile principles and functions. Let’s dive in.

Reach the Tipping Point

There will come a time when the work culture and the methods used to complete projects at your business simply do not work anymore and you need change. This is known as reaching the tipping point, which is the first step on the SAFe roadmap. When you reach this point, it’s time to discuss with your employees why change is needed.

Train Lean-Agile Change Agents

Once you have moved past the tipping point and the team is on board, it’s time to hire or train change agents. Change agents help individuals accept change, influence teams to align themselves with the company’s new direction, balance business agility and offer help along the way. Change agents can and will help make switching to SAFe more palatable.

Train Executives, Managers and Leaders

Every SAFe team member must be trained, but this is especially true for executives, managers and leaders. Individuals in these roles are responsible for planning, monitoring, managing risk, budgeting and leading others to success. Step three of SAFe implementation is one of the most critical steps in Agile transformation because success starts at the top.

Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence

A Lean-Agile center of excellence, also called a LACE, should be formed. A LACE is a small group of people from various functional teams who are committed to implementing SAFe Lean-Agile ways of working.

Each member has different responsibilities for the remainder of the roadmap. Still, all are responsible for communicating the organization’s new vision, implementing the plan and coaching others.

Identify Value Streams and ARTs

Step five of the roadmap covers operational value streams and agile release trains. Operational value streams, or channels, are methods that customers can use to communicate with the team. The communication methods need to be identified and created as soon as possible so that communication channels can be established.

Similarly, agile release trains (ARTs), which are development value streams, are the teams that develop and build products for stakeholders and clients. During this stage of implementation, it’s vital to form the business practices and Agile practices that your ART team will adhere to. 

Create an Implementation Plan

Now that the foundations for SAFe implementation have been laid, it’s time to create a strategy to get the organization where it needs to be. When implementing SAFe, teams are recommended to adopt an iterative approach that will allow them to create simple plans, execute and assess them, and then create a plan for the next rollout.

Like any Agile methodology, the goal is to strive for continuous improvement. By working on small parts of the implementation plan and assessing how it went, future mistakes can be avoided.

Prepare for ART Launch

By this point, you should have identified your ARTs; now it’s time to nail down the final details. During this step, schedules, project leaders and administrators should be listed, and training should commence. In addition, backlogs for the project should be created, and the individuals who will make up the teams should be assigned.

Train Teams and Launch the ART

You must ensure the ART team is adequately trained for continuous value delivery. After training, the team can work on its initial PI strategy. For clarification, a PI or program increment is a time-boxed period that usually lasts eight to 12 weeks. During this time, development teams create iterations of the product being produced.

Coach ART Execution

Once training has concluded and the first program increment has been formed, it’s time to launch the ART. Now the organization should move away from planning and focus on support and coaching. You can use individuals within the organization to offer help and support, or you can hire a SAFe consultant to spearhead the continuous development cycle.

Launch More ARTs and Value Streams

Now that your organization has learned Lean-Agile practices and the first agile release train launch has occurred, realizing other value streams is essential. To increase the return on your investment in SAFe, train and coach more ART teams so your enterprise can work on multiple projects at a time.

Extend the Portfolio

Now that SAFe is up and running, business agility has improved and multiple teams are working well, it’s time to deliver more customer value by extending your portfolio. The main objective in extending the portfolio is to build on the SAFe foundation that has already been laid and continue training so that teams can collaborate efficiently.


By this stage, you should have an incredibly efficient, highly productive team that has adapted well to the new organizational culture. Customer demands are being met, the iterative process is working well and organizational change has been accepted, but you can’t rest on your laurels. The transformation journey and SAFe training must continue.

Leaders must continue to coach teams to ensure that SAFe practices are followed, and solution development should continue to ensure that roadblocks can be overcome rapidly. If you continue to follow the last three steps after you implement SAFe, your business and your teams will thrive.

Benefits of SAFe Implementation Roadmap

If you’re still unsure whether following a SAFe framework implementation roadmap is worth it, perhaps the benefits listed below will help change your mind.

Step-by-Step Guide

Changing a company’s culture and way of working without a plan will only lead to disaster. With the roadmap, executives, managers and leaders will have a visual plan that offers global views of the SAFe adoption process. At a glance, leaders can quickly see what needs to happen during each critical step thanks to the clear roadmap.

Helps Build Culture

The roadmap contains steps to help build a solid Agile culture in your place of work. Additionally, training stages are built into the plan. You will know precisely when to form, train, coach and support teams. The roadmap takes the guesswork out of the process.

Spurs Growth

Not only does the roadmap help align teams with Agile principles but it also spurs individual growth and, thanks to the increased business agility, can open the door to more value streams.

Improves Business Alignment

Perhaps one of the roadmap’s most important benefits is its ability to foster business alignment. If the plan is followed correctly and change managers and leaders successfully convince everyone that this large-scale Scrum method is worth the time and effort, every team member will be aligned with the company’s new business strategy, which will be priceless.

Final Thoughts

If you’re considering implementing SAFe, we recommend following the SAFe implementation roadmap. The guide helps ensure critical steps aren’t missed, that teams are aligned with business goals and that new value streams can be discovered. It’s not an easy process, and change managers will be needed, but adopting this Agile approach will pay off. 

Have you implemented the SAFe framework, or did you choose another scaled Agile approach, like the scrum of scrums? Do you hold the SAFe Agilist certification? If so, has it helped you implement the framework? Let us know in the comments and, as always, thanks for reading.

FAQ: Agile Implementation Plan

  • The SAFe Implementation roadmap is a visual guide that can help managers, leaders and executives adopt and implement the Agile SAFe framework.

  • An implementation roadmap is a guide that features step-by-step instructions on how to implement a plan.

  • Once the first part of the roadmap, which includes identifying value streams, has been implemented, leaders should create simple iterative plans to efficiently roll out training and other SAFe elements.

  • The 12 roadmap steps outlined in this guide should be followed to implement a SAFe project.


  1. Scaled Agile Framework

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