What are the Three Levels of the scaled agile Framework?

Before the release of the versions SAFe 5.0 and SAFe 6.0, there were three levels of the Scaled Agile Framework– Team Level, Program Level, And Portfolio Level. 

However, these levels were not sufficient to provide solve all the problems and drive business agility. So, a new level called Large Solution Level was later added to the SAFe version 5.0. All the levels on the SAFe framework help to provide value through a centralized approach that aligns with the business goals. 

So, in this blog post, we’ve shared these four levels of the Scaled Agile Framework in detail. Stick to the end to learn their processes. 

The Three Levels of Scaled Agile Framework 

1. Essential SAFe

You can consider Essential SAFe as the starting point or the basic level of the Scaled Agile Framework. For large enterprises that want to transform into a Lean-Agile organization using a simple framework, the Essential SAFe is the ideal solution. 

Essential SAFe is the most lightweight version of the SAFe. as it is the base configuration, it has the least number of roles, artifacts,  and events to implement the Agile system. If your organization is working remotely or has an international business environment, you can use Essential SAFe. 

Essential is best suitable for a program with 50-100 people and 10 Agile teams. It has two layers- team and Program. In this level of SAFe, the ART is the heart of delivering value using Lean-Agile principles and practices. 

The Essential SAFE has mainly three core competencies. These are: 

Team and technical Agility

The first competency is Team & Technical Agility. This is all about equipping Agile teams with the skills and principles they need to deliver high-quality products to clients. It’s not just about theoretical knowledge but about practical skills learned on the job and developed through experience.

Agile Product Delivery

The second competency is Agile Product Delivery. This approach puts the customer at the center of everything. It’s all about delivering a continuous flow of valuable products and services that meet the needs and desires of customers and consumers. This means staying agile, adapting to feedback, and always striving for excellence.

Lean-Agile Leadership

The third and final competency is Lean-Agile Leadership. This is all about driving and sustaining change in your organization. Lean-Agile Leaders drive your organization’s transformation, helping individuals and teams reach their full potential. They set the vision, create the conditions for success, and empower their teams to achieve great things.

Recently Scaled Agile Framework launched a new version of SAFe- SAFe 6.0. And CLC, or Continuous Learning Culture, was added to the Essential SAFe configuration to make it part of all SAFe configurations. 

Here are some components of Essential SAFe: 

  • ART or Agile Release Train is a large agile team full of stakeholders, developers, and other team members. ARTs work together to deliver quality solutions in the value streams. 
  • Continuous Delivery Pipeline or CDP defines the flows and operations. And automation is required value consistently to the customers. 
  • Program Increment is the time zone where the Agile Release Train returns the increment value. PI lasts 8-12 weeks.
  • Design thinking is a development process that develops customer-centric products or solutions. These solutions or products are sustainable, desirable, and profitable throughout their development lifecycle. 
  • Customer-centric is a positive work practice that develops valuable, feasible, sustainable, and desirable products. 
  • Built-in Quality makes sure that every step of the development process is of high quality and flexible enough to make quick changes. 
  • ScrumXP is a process that delivers value consistently to agile teams. ScrumXP uses the Scrum and XP approach to manage teams and work. 
  • Team Kanabn is a Lean practice that helps the team visualize the workflow, define WIP, and continuously improve the process. 
  • DevOps helps in connectivity, automation, and integration. It’s technical thinking or practices that close the collaboration between every individual need to plan, test, implement, and release system maintenance. 

2. Large Solution SAFe

If you’re looking to take your Agile practice to the next level, the Large Solution SAFe configuration may be just what you need. This advanced version of Essential SAFe offers a wider range of practices, roles, and guidance specifically designed for huge and complex solutions.

Large Solution SAFe builds upon Essential SAFe and adds enterprise solution delivery competency. This new addition enables organizations with multiple ARTs and suppliers to achieve more intricate results. By leveraging all the elements of the Spanning Palette, Large Solution SAFe creates a synchronized effort that allows larger-scale businesses to incorporate Agile practices.

However, it’s important to note that this configuration is limited to solution and enterprise constructs, with no inclusion of portfolio governance. While this configuration may not be suitable for all organizations, high-stakes industries such as locomotive, government, aerospace, and defense often use it.

The Large Solution SAFe configuration is structured into three layers – Team, Program, and Solution. The Solution Train plays a vital role in this configuration, synchronizing the efforts of multiple ARTs and suppliers to ensure the solution is delivered with excellence.

While Large Solution SAFe is an incredibly powerful framework, it’s important to keep in mind that it focuses solely on governing the solution itself, not portfolio or enterprise governance. This means that the top blue ribbon of Business Agility is missing. But for organizations looking to scale their Agile practices to the next level, Large Solution SAFe may be just what they need.

3. Portfolio SAFe

The Portfolio SAFe configuration takes Agile to the next level by adding Lean portfolio management, organizational agility, and a continuous learning culture. This configuration provides the minimum requirements for a portfolio or enterprise to operate in an Agile manner, with the Blue Business Agility section prominently displayed at the top.

The “measure and grow” approach to quantifying progress is also emphasized in this configuration. By continuously measuring and analyzing data, organizations can track their progress and make data-driven decisions to improve their Agile practices.

The Portfolio SAFe configuration uses three layers – Team, Program, and Portfolio – with a focus on portfolio execution. Enterprise strategy and organization are developed around one or more value streams while also assisting portfolio strategy and investment funding.

The principles of Lean Portfolio Management and Agile governance guide the value stream and ARTs to achieve the desired results while also helping to determine the appropriate level of investment. With this configuration, organizations can achieve greater alignment and visibility across their portfolio and make better decisions based on data-driven insights.

Overall, the Portfolio SAFe configuration is an essential tool for organizations looking to achieve true Business Agility. By incorporating Lean portfolio management, Agile governance, and continuous learning culture, organizations can stay ahead of the competition and achieve their strategic goals more efficiently and effectively.

Why Choose SAFe? 

As creating quality products still remains the highest priory, various large-scale organizations are moving towards Scaled Agile Framework to strengthen their business processes and management. 

Using SAFe can bring several benefits for businesses, for instance, an increase in productivity, greater transparency, better lean-agile principles, team synchronization, and scalability for large organizations. 

The lean-agile principles of the Scaled Agile Framework help companies create added value quickly by working on multiple Agile Release Trains. Also, SAFe is a scaleable framework that can be used in large enterprises. 

One of the best examples that might convince you that the Scaked GAile Framework can help your organization drive business agility is the success story of LEGO

LEGO started its journey to agility with SAFe in 2014 at the team level. At that time, 20 product teams were working at the organization. First, LEGO helped five teams to transform into self-organized Scrum teams. Later, the remaining 15 teams also followed the same steps. 

As a result, individual teams at LEGO had become Agile. But they were still facing issues, as the team didn’t know how to corporate and collaborate together effectively. 

To bring change, LEGO followed the SAfe framework and added the Program level. At the Program Level, they launched ARTs. The ARTs used to meet every 8 weeks for a broad planning session that lasted for about one and a half days. During this meeting, the team performed the following activities: 

  • Showcased their work
  • Worked on the dependencies
  • Estimated risks
  • Planned for the next release period

They also added the portfolio level, including long-term business plans, top management, and stakeholders. 


  • Self-managed developers became more productive. 
  • Developers started giving accurate estimations.
  • The communication of the LEGO team got improved during the big room events. 
  • The gamified planning method helped them focus on work more easily. 

Wrapping Up

Implementing SAFe can offer a wide range of benefits for businesses looking to streamline their Agile methodology and develop cross-functional teams. By providing a framework for managing business processes, SAFe can help organizations achieve greater transparency, productivity, scalability, and high-quality results.

If you also want to gain a competitive advantage, consider having Scaled Agile Certification. The training will help you and your team to learn the lean-agile method, drive business agility, and deliver value.

Author’s Bio

Businesses transform when they realize that the current ways of working can no longer address the fast-changing market dynamics and rising user expectations. Agilemania, a small group of passionate Lean-Agile-DevOps consultants and trainers, is the most trusted brand for digital transformations in South and South-East Asia.

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