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The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is not two-dimensional!

20-May-2019 12:19:42 Scaled Agile SAFe 4.6
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Understanding the SAFe model for simple and more complex implementations

When we teach the Portfolio Level this is part of our narrative “SAFe is NOT 2-dimensional” because an Enterprise might have multiple portfolios. 

Indeed, a Portfolio could have multiple Value Streams and Solution Trains or Agile Release trains (ARTs.) Which then led to question in a recent Implementing SAFeclass:

“How do the different elements of SAFe relate to each other? What is the minimum necessary? Can we summarise this in an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) model to cover both simple and complex implementations?”


“An Entity Relationship Diagram is a type of flowchart that illustrates how “entities” such as people, objects or concepts relate to each other within a system”

Great question! So, in the ‘Open Space’ we collaboratively worked on creating the ERD with some further, post course iterations and feedback leading to this final model that also included the correlation between the levels in SAFe and the User Descriptions we use at each level.

Firstly, our thanks to Julieta Gonzalez-Torres and Eva-Maria Schoen in helping us to explore and create the final version.



It looks complicated but it does help explain the three-dimensional aspect to SAFe. 

However, let’s start with SAFe in its simplest configuration – Essential SAFe. A single enterprise with a single Value Stream (maybe just one product) that is realised by a single Agile Release Train (ART) i.e. 5 to 12 teams.


And the ERD would look like this:



And to be honest, this has been the vast majority of our experience in the UK and across Europe. However, we are both now seeing and experiencing more complex configurations of SAFe being used in larger organisations.


© Scaled Agile, Inc.


Let’s take an example of a Large UK Bank. The Enterprise could be the ‘UK Bank Name’ Group but within that Group might be a number of Business Units e.g. Retail, Credit Card, Capital Markets, Wealth which could each have its own portfolio.

Let’s just take Retail Portfolio. That could have a number of Value Streams e.g. Lending, Savings and Current Accounts.


 © Scaled Agile, Inc.


Completing a Value Stream Workshop for just Lending we could determine we need multiple Solution Trains e.g. one for Mortgages and one for Personal Loans. And perhaps just a single ART for Overdrafts.

I guess this would look something like this  😃


 © Scaled Agile, Inc.

The overlays were added by us but the original versions are available at

Hope this helps – let me know your thoughts and whether Julieta, Eva-Maria and ourselves have got the ERD right


Darren Wilmshurst and Virpi Rowe



Darren Wilmshurst

Darren Wilmshurst

With his strategic C-suite-oriented approach to IT leadership – and his infectious energy – Darren has successfully delivered multi-million pound business transformations for e-commerce sites, ERP implementations, outsourcing and offshoring, including multiple Agile transformations. Read more