Is my company large enough for SAFe®?

Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe®, is riding high on managers' bucket lists. Has the time for SAFe® come for your organization, too?

German project managers are falling in love with SAFe® more than those in any other nation. We realized this during the Tools4AgileTeams conference, organized by //Seibert/Media in Wiesbaden this fall. As managers from German corporations made up the majority at the event, let's ask the question: Is SAFe® suitable for the mythical German 'family' companies, or Mittelstand, that make up the core of the German economy?

Is a small or medium business big enough for SAFe? © Katemangostar -

The short answer

Your organization needs at least 50 people to benefit from SAFe®.

And this is why: Programs are the essence of Scaled Agile Framework. Five to twelve agile teams work on a program. A team consists of 10 individuals. Simple math results in an extended team of 50 to 120 people busy working on a single program. This is Scaled Agile Inc.'s - the author of SAFe® - point of view.

But there are exceptions and other aspects to consider ...

You deliver to enterprise scale

You could be a small business of 30 people, but you deliver software, publications or tailor-made electronics to enterprise scale organizations. You'd better get familiar with SAFe®.

This is our situation. We are a software developer of 30+ individuals, divided into roughly 5 teams. We've implemented the Scaled Agile Framework to better understand it and to be able to integrate SAFe® rules into our flagship BigPicture app. We discuss our situation here.

You're growing rapidly

Even if you're a start-up in an emerging sector, e.g. autonomous cars, or in an emerging market, it may be wise to get comfortable with SAFe®. Test yourself: is my company likely to grow to employ more than 100 people within the next 5 years?

You're in a risky sector or deliver an advanced product

A coal mine might not benefit from SAFe®. While it may employ thousands of miners, the product is not highly-processed, and many consider the sector is in decline.

At the other end of the scale are the new technologies: New payment systems, renewable energy, and gene therapy developers may benefit from SAFe®.

Important SAFe® terms

Program Increment (PI) planning is a crucial term in Scaled Agile Framework. Bet on the wrong thing and you can lose the farm. It costs a ton of money up front to design a new product or technology, and if nobody buys it, you're out of luck, and probably out of business.

SAFe® is the methodology of choice to reduce the risk of market failure. With several agile teams, you need to align them during face-to-face events, in the process of the Agile Release Train.

BigPicture is a great tool to implement SAFe® methodology in your organization.

Tom Kucharski, SoftwarePlant's CEO and SAFe® certified, on the German economy

"Who's migrating to the Scaled Agile Framework in Germany during 2018? Chiefly large organizations who have been using proven classic project management methodologies for years. I believe that the perfectly-tuned processes in post-war Germany have made it the 4th largest economy in the world, based on GDP.

But here is the thing: classic project management is becoming a burden for German corporations in today's rapidly changing world. No wonder I've noticed an explosion of interest in agile project management methods, SAFe® in particular, in Germany in the last two to three years. This is why I predict Germany is looking good to be hugely successful over the coming decades."

Tom Kucharski is a SAFe® advocate and the CEO of SoftwarePlant, a software development startup. He is a PPM enthusiast, entrepreneur and the leader of 2017 Atlassian Marketplace Vendor of the Year. 

Further information

How to migrate from MS Project to agile Jira project management software?
BigPicture - Tempo integration - for those focused on resource management