SAFe 5.0 and what you need to know about it - part 1, Business Agility

Dec 5, 2019, 9:13 AM

It’s been four years since the last major release of SAFe®, Scaled Agile Framework, but in January the framework will be updated to 5.0. With it comes a number of important changes. We will go through the key changes and additions in a series of articles. In this first part we’ll look into the updated Big Picture, Business Agility, and the seven core competencies.


It’s been four years since the last major release of SAFe®, Scaled Agile Framework, but in January the framework will be updated to 5.0. The update has already created quite some buzz since it was announced in SAFe Summit on October 2nd.

Already on the Big picture overview depicted below (preliminary version) you’ll notice that it is visually quite different from the current 4.6 release.

So, what are the major changes that you and your organization can benefit from?


Business Agility - the key ability for thriving in the Digital Age

In the upcoming version of SAFe it is made clear that in order for a Lean enterprise to thrive in the digital age, all people involved in the business need to work together and use Lean & Agile principles as guideposts.

Business Agility is the combination of two abilities; to sense changes in market conditions and to respond to them by adapting the organisation, way of working, products, offerings, services (whatever needed) as a response to that change. Quick response to change is what ensures that the company stays one step ahead of the competition.

As successful forerunners in various business segments have experienced, agility expands far beyond digital development and so does the upcoming framework release.

In SAFe 5.0 there are seven core competencies which all need to be mastered in order to achieve Business Agility. There’s also a new overview illustrating how the seven core competencies combine into Business Agility. In the center of it all is the Customer.


Yes, the Customer has always been at the heart of Agile and when going scaled it is no different. The upcoming release underlines the importance of making an ongoing effort to understand your customers, balancing it with efficient delivery of value. We will discuss the framework additions related to that in a later article. Let’s look closer at the core competencies.

New and changed core competencies - expanding beyond Digital Business Development

The five core competencies of SAFe have become seven; Organizational Agility and Continuous Learning Culture being the two new core competencies.

The first one, Organizational Agility, is defined by:

1. Lean-Thinking People and Agile Teams

Everyone involved in the delivery of a solution have to be trained in Lean & Agile methods and embrace its values, principles and practices.

2. Lean Business Operations

Continuous improvement of end to end business processes by using Lean principles such as Optimize The Whole and Build Quality In.

3. Strategy Agility

Enterprise level ability to sense changes in market conditions combined with adaptability to change the strategic direction whenever never. One is not enough without the other.

The second new core competence, Continuous Learning Culture, addresses the importance of Learning in the Digital Age. Three dimensions express what it means:

1. Learning Organization

Individuals learning and growing on all levels enable organizational learning and the ability to adapt to changes

2. Relentless Improvement

The whole Enterprise focuses on continuous improvement of products, solutions and processes

3. Innovation Culture

Innovation in the Digital Age cannot be limited to a few places in an Enterprise nor happen at rare occasions; it needs to happen everywhere and all the time in order for the company to stay competitive.

As you probably notice, both new competencies are targeting changes at the core of an Enterprise. Many companies have struggled when using Lean & Agile values, principles and practices only within a limited part of the organization while leaving the rest untouched. It should be no surprise that the framework now makes it clear that to enable Business Agility, all parts of an Enterprise have to collaborate. This means that the whole organisation has to work based on the same underlying values and principles.

Two of the previously existing core competencies have changed names. DevOps and Release on Demand have become Agile Product Delivery and Business Solutions and Lean Systems has been changed to Enterprise Solution Delivery. Again underpinning the broadened scope of SAFe.

In the next article we will explore the second big change: Customer centricity. Stay tuned!

As of January all public SAFe courses provided by Nitor will be based on SAFe 5. Go to our Training website for more information about planned courses and sign up to a course near you.



Andreas Tjernsten is on a quest for more effective, efficient and happy organizations where people thrive. He has worked with product and service development in large organizations for over 20 years and learned from many mistakes while changing the way work is done. Andreas is a SPC, appreciated coach and trainer of Lean & Agile thinking, tools and practices.

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