SAFe vs. Scrum: The Better Option

27 Sep · 5 min read

SAFe vs. Scrum: The Better Option

Agile is becoming increasingly popular in organizations as a way to manage a product life cycle effectively. Scrum and SAFe come under the umbrella of Agile methodologies, and each caters to a different use case. Since they both address Agile project management principles, they overlap and differ in different ways. Choosing what option works best is a matter of understanding both. To dive into both of these methodologies, let’s first jog our memories with the Agile principles. 

Understanding Agile

Agile is a way to deal with change. Startups and businesses are turbulent environments, and adapting to all changes are an important aspect of Agile. The set of principles is stated in the Agile manifesto. The manifesto focuses on the following aspects:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Timely delivery
  • Adapting to change
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Iterations with smaller chunks as deliverables as opposed to full-scale delivery at once
  • Autonomous and self-organizing teams

These principles merely help us understand what and not how. The instructions are provided by one of the methodologies. This is why choosing the best methodology for your project is of utmost importance be it Scrum, Kanban, XP, or SAFe. The software development niche has seen a lot of adoption and most products are being shipped using one of the methodologies. 

All new startups in the tech space are adopting Agile frameworks. Although Agile exists to make life easier for companies and project managers, there’s a paradox associated with it. The longer you wait to adopt Agile, the harder it gets to adopt. Most enterprise-level companies that started decades ago are now willing to make a move, but the previous practices are obstacles to newer principles. This is where SAFe or Scale Agile Framework helps these companies to make the shift. SAFe is explicitly defined to scale and to help enterprises fit the Agile mindset.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework within Agile that helps teams address complex problems and generative value by adaptability and autonomy. Scrum usually breaks down a project into iterations. These chunks help with cross-functional teams and help with regular deliveries. This way, Scrum increases team efficiency, communication, and time-saving

As stated above, this method has its dependencies on cross-functioning teams, which can be broken down into three roles:

  • Product Owners - Responsible for planning, communicating, and overseeing the execution. Forms a product backlog by breaking down complex problems.
  • Scrum Masters - Responsible for sprint management. Fosters the environment for Scrum.
  • Scrum Teams - Responsible for execution of sprints timely and with precision.

What is SAFe?

SAFe or Scaled Agile Framework is a solution for enterprises that wish to move to Agile without fully changing the product flows from scratch. The approach of SAFe is to implement Scrum on a larger scale. SAFe describes an organization with four levels:

  • Portfolio Level
  • Program Level
  • Team Level
  • Value Stream Layer

SAFe has three main parts:

  • Lean Product Development
  • Agile
  • System Thinking

Which Option is Better?

There is no wrong or right or objectively better approach when it comes to SAFe and Scrum. It all depends on what your goals are as an organization. Setting the right goals before going towards adopting one of these methods is of absolute necessity. To understand the options better, let’s break them down for a better comparison.


Both of these methodologies are adopted to reach a common goal: to build better products in an iterative process. Although the operations side might differ, the end goal remains the same.
SAFe and Scrum both come under the umbrella of Agile. Scrum is a way to adopt Agile methodologies, while SAFe is a way to scale Scrum into large organizations. 


The main difference between Scrum and SAFe lies in the number of employees and the scale of an organization. Scrum is used for organizations with simpler structures, while SAFe accommodates multiple teams and a large number of employees. SAFe also focuses on release planning and retrospect while Scrum lacks these approaches. 

Pros and Cons:

Since both options are used for different use cases, they have inherent pros and cons that help make the decision easier for organizations wishing to adopt Agile’s best practices. 


Pros Cons
Great for small to mid startupsScrum is harder to scale
Gives room for team members to grow through its autonomous approachThere is a lot of dependency on team members
Keeps all stakeholders on the same page through efficient communicationWorks better for projects as opposed to business processes


Pros Cons
Easier to shift an old company to SAFeDoesn’t fully commit to the Agile manifesto
SAFe applies to the whole company as opposed to a single or a few teamsCan be very problematic if not implemented properly
SAFe focuses on release planning for efficient deliveries

It is clear that Scrum works best for small to mid-sized startups where there are limited but autonomous teams. This approach can massively help ship products iteratively and swiftly. The software industry has seen a lot of adoption of Scrum and we can see the demand for Scrum-based skills increasing every day. On the other hand, enterprises that wish to become Agile can adopt SAFe. If the implementation is done properly, the teams and processes see a lot of positive change. All in all, there are no “wrong” methods in Agile. As long as the use cases are identified and the method is picked accordingly, it is all a matter of implementation.

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