SAFe or Scrum@Scale – Which Framework is Best for You?

Written by: Hanna Taller

Read Time: 3 minutes

When comparing frameworks for scaling Agile such as SAFe® (the Scaled Agile Framework), Scrum@Scale, Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) or LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum), the the question is not what the best framework for scaling Agile is, but rather which framework is best for you. Taking into consideration your particular environment, processes, and goals will help you decide which scaling framework to use.

What is the Difference between SAFe and Scrum at Scale?

Of the 10 or so distinct frameworks for scaling the Agile methodology, all are based on Scrum to some extent or another (including, of course, Scrum at Scale and SAFe). However only one framework is designed for, mature enough, and sufficiently documented for use at the large enterprise level.

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is by far the most popular framework for scaling Scrum in large organizations. It is also important to note that SAFe is designed to accommodate DevOps, a method increasingly considered a must for future-proof Agile organizations.

SAFe is a prescriptive method that outlines a highly structured framework to adopt and operate an Agile value stream in an enterprise setting. It's best for large organizations looking to retain as much organizational and process structure as possible while reaping the benefits of a decentralized Agile way of working. SAFe is not as easily customizable as Scrum at Scale, so an in-depth analysis of your value creation processes is crucial to planning an Agile transition process using this framework.


Scrum at Scale by Dr. Jeff Sutherland and Alex Brown is the newest of all the Agile scaling frameworks, publicly introduced at Agile 2014 in Orlando. It is therefore relatively untested and undocumented when compared to SAFe, making it less suitable for large enterprise adoption. In short, it's a modular approach to scaling the well-known Scrum framework.

Scrum@Scale is an extension of the core Scrum framework. What this means, essentially, is that wherever Scrum is used, Scrum at Scale can help scale the framework. Therefore, in theory, it is a great solution for organizations of all sizes.

It uses a modular approach to scaling Scrum, the aim of which is to align the entire organization on a shared set of goals. The main argument for a modular approach to scaling Scrum is that no two implementations of Scrum are the same. Therefore, the requirements of the framework for scaling Scrum differ on a case-by-case basis. The modular approach enables developers to only adopt those modules that are necessary in their specific environment.

Which framework is the right one for you?

As elsewhere in the world of Agile, there is no silver bullet solution for all development problems. Your organization's characteristics, goals, environment, and Agile expertise will define which scaling framework works best. 

Overall, SAFe is regarded by some as too rigid: it is based on a top-down approach and introduces several levels, roles, events, and artifacts to retain the organizational structure that enterprises are used to. This adds complexity and means that SAFe can't be as easily adapted to a specific environment as some other frameworks.

Scrum@Scale, on the other hand, is a more flexible choice for teams working with specialized and highly customized processes or in an untraditional environment. This framework is based on the scrum-of-scrums approach to ensure scalability while still adhering to the fundamentals of Scrum. While the flexibility it enables makes it an appealing choice, concepts such as Minimum Viable Bureaucracy render it less ideal for teams working on mission- or safety-critical products where ample documentation is needed to ensure auditability.

Scaled tooling

Agile tooling remains a topic of debate. While the Agile methodology explicitly favors a focus on "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools", most experts agree that adequate tooling is in fact an aspect of great importance, especially in a scaled environment. Alignment, transparency, and collaboration are difficult to ensure when multiple teams work together on complex projects – adequate digital tooling for collaborative development is crucial. 

Tools that support the adoption and scaling of Scrum or any other Agile method can greatly impact the profitability, efficiency, and satisfaction of teams involved. Look for an established tool with proven use cases of scaling Agile, and prioritize capabilities around collaboration and transparency when selecting a development platform.

Global innovators have used Agile platforms such as CodeBeamer ALM to support the transition process and streamline collaboration. Whether you're working with SAFe, Scrum at Scale, or any other Agile method, analyze your needs and evaluate multiple tools to find the one that suits your needs. 


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About the Author

Hanna Taller

Hanna Taller is a content creator for PTC’s ALM Marketing team. She is responsible for increasing brand awareness and driving thought leadership for Codebeamer. Hanna is passionate about creating insightful content centered around ALM, life sciences, automotive technology, and avionics.