I have seen SAFe to be attractive to many small companies. There are good reasons for this. SAFe provides concepts to:

  1. Create a common backlog that can be sequenced across the organization
  2. Coordinate this backlog with a product manager
  3. Create plans for the entire organization
  4. Have teams work together
  5. Have the teams work with a common cadence and frequent synchronization over the life of the time planned for
  6. Coordinate shared services with the teams
  7. Use DevOps
  8. Have management work to make for better team environments

These are all good and not discussed by Scrum. Since SAFe says to start with Scrum teams and have them work together, it shouldn’t be surprising that many companies with 3-5 teams now and expanding to more will look at SAFe as desirable.

However, one should not confuse the objective with the means to get there. SAFe is designed for organizations with at least 50 people in them. If your development group is less than 125 (the maximum number of people who can work as one group), there are significantly simpler approaches than SAFe.

The reasons for this are manyfold, but primarily because:

  1. Even small companies need portfolio management, but SAFe’s portfolio management is burdensome – even for midsize (100-500 people) organizations.
  2. Better value creation structures (how teams are organized) are quite helpful for small to medium-sized companies than SAFe provides.
  3. SAFe uses MVPs for both new products and for extending new ones. While MVPs are great for new products, Minimum Business Increments (MBIs) should enhance existing ones.
  4. While SAFe mentions the value stream, it is not based on it.

As a former SPC Trainer, gold partner, and contributor to SAFe, I know how to provide the objectives small to midsize companies need. However, adopting SAFe is, ironically, not just more than you need. It has significant holes in it as well.

Contact me to help you either by having a couple of your people come to one of my Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant workshops or by doing a collaborative engagement with me.