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Safe Agile vs Agile: Difference Between Agile and Safe Agile

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10th May, 2023
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Safe Agile vs Agile: Difference Between Agile and Safe Agile

Traditionally, project developers used to apply the waterfall technique to the software development lifecycle. Today, the waterfall technique has been replaced with Agile and SAFe frameworks. Agile refers to an incremental methodology of project development in a dynamic environment. On the other hand, SAFe scales the elements of the Agile framework to enable teams to work on complex projects. 

If you want to dive deeper into concepts of Agile and SAFe frameworks, then you can pursue a course in Full Stack Software Development Bootcamp at upGrad. Read this non-exhaustive Agile vs Safe blog to gain a deep insight into the difference between Agile and SAFe Agile frameworks.

What is Agile?

Agile encapsulates methodologies of software development focusing on team collaboration, continual learning, incremental delivery, and constant planning. The term “Agile” represents different practices and methods that align with the statements of the Agile Manifesto. Agile practices, or frameworks, refer to the detailed methodologies of the DevOps lifecycle phases. 

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What is a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)?

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) refers to a framework business organisations employ to deliver goods and services to end-users rapidly. SAFe uses the following set of Agile framework elements:

Adopting an economical approach to planning 

An economic approach requires you to make decisions based on the project’s budget constraints.

Rendering variability in the project work 

Scaled Agile encourages the optimal consideration of various requirements and designs for project development.

Decentralisation of decision-making 

Every developer can be part of the decision-making team for speedy implementation of changes. However, decision-making that requires discussing the project budget and related matters may be centralised in the Scaled Agile approach.

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Key Differences Between Agile and SAFe

The primary difference lies in the number of iterations of execution of both frameworks. While Agile sets no time limit for the iterations, the scaled Agile framework allows only four iterations in every release plan. Agile helps move fast from the concept generation through the validation of ideas and ultimately to their delivery. 

On the other hand, the SAFe Agile framework is project-oriented and emphasises the launch of reusable software applications over a prolonged period. The differences between Agile and SAFe are tabulated below:

Parameter AgileSAFe
FrameworkAgile principles form the framework of Agile.A scaled-up framework of the Agile principles forms SAFe.
Decision-makingAgile encourages independent decision-making.SAFe allows decision-making based on the scope of the issues at either the team level or enterprise level.
Organisation of teamsHierarchies or sub-teams do not exist in Agile. Agile focuses on completing small objectives, one after the other, for the final creation of the end product.The frameworks of SAFe come with ART-Agile release trains. ART-Agile release trains refer to the online groups of Agile teams that plan and work simultaneously to complete the Value Stream objectives.
PlanningIn Agile, developers engage in short-term planning that is convenient. SAFe emphasises more on the bigger picture, which requires long-term planning for the entire development cycle of the project.
Alignment with organisational goalsAgile follows a bottom-up approach which tends to make the testers and developers lose focus on the business goals while working on the project.SAFe follows a top-down approach which involves strategic decision-making at every level to ensure compliance with the business goals.
Roles of the team membersAgile requires the team members to dedicate their time and expertise to the project work. SAFe focuses on establishing permanent leadership roles for working on a project. The software development team members work on large-scale projects along with the members of the top managerial levels of the organisation.
ChangeabilityThe methods and practices of Agile are designed to accommodate changes. SAFe does not allow easy execution of changes as the projects are generally of a large scale. 

Agile Manifesto vs SAFe Core Values

The core values of Agile are given below:

  • Interactions and individuals over tools and processes 

Agile encourages eloquent interaction among team members.

  • Working software over documentation

Agile focuses on the software obtained instead of documenting every stage of project development.

  • Customer cooperation over contractual negotiation 

The Agile approach encourages customer involvement in every phase of the project development lifecycle.

  • Response to plan modifications 

The Agile approach focuses on the creation of strategies that are flexible and responsive to variations.

The tenets that are fundamental to the approaches of SAFe are given below:

  • Transparency 

The SAFe Agile framework encourages working in a trust-based environment to maintain transparency. The environment mandates frank communication, ready accessibility to information, and visualisation of the project with the help of tools.

  • Alignment

For creating and maintaining alignment, the scaled Agile framework promotes the clear communication of the mission and strategy of the organisation to the team members. 

  • Persistent improvement

The SAFe Agile framework also encourages persistent improvement. To promote improvement, Scaled Agile creates a problem-solving culture to provide scope for experimentation and innovation.

  • Respect for all

The SAFe approach fosters healthy corporate culture by valuing people’s diversity and opinions. SAFe also promotes respectful treatment of customers and end-users.

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Team Structure and Communication in Agile vs SAFe

Agile teams boast a flat structure, with every member shouldering equal responsibilities. An Agile team is self-directed and cross-functional. It works under shared leadership and focuses on multiple domains.

SAFe teams are cross-functional groups working iteratively to design, develop, test, and deliver to their clients. SAFe practices allow the creation of complex subsystem teams to work on highly technical projects.

Agile and SAFe Metrics

Agile metrics refer to the measurements of evaluation of the development, performance, and efficiency of project management. The metrics of Agile include lead time, cycle duration, throughput, the efficiency of flow, progress of work, blocked time, work item age, and more. 

SAFe metrics refer to a predefined set of measurements that evaluate the organisation’s progress on the portfolio, technical and business goals of the Agile team, ART, and large solutions.

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Pros and Cons of Agile and SAFe

Agile framework:


  • The approach of Agile allows active collaboration between the stakeholders and developers, which ensures the highest customer satisfaction.
  • Agile allows the developers to improve in every stage of the project development lifecycle.


  • Stakeholders often make undue demands for improvements in the project. 
  • The end product is never defined for such projects, so developers have to constantly rely on client feedback to make continual improvements in the projects, making them strenuous at times.

SAFe Agile framework:


  • Scaled Agile framework allows the developers to use the Agile framework by scaling it up according to the necessary modifications.
  • SAFe allows developers to work on complex, large-scale projects.
  • The scaled Agile framework also helps organise the workflow for multiple teams to work in coordination to complete large-scale projects.


  • A scaled Agile framework can be slightly rigid, which limits experimentation and innovation during project work.
  • SAFe involves enterprise-level decision-making, making it difficult for team members at the lower levels to understand the project.

Which One to Choose: Agile or SAFe?

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Project developers need to keep the following factors in mind while choosing between Agile and SAFe:

  • Organisational goals
  • Degree of managerial involvement in project development
  • Framework of the company and the size of its workforce
  • The policies of project management of the organisation

It is essential to understand the differences between the two frameworks to choose between Agile and Scaled Agile frameworks. If you aspire to achieve mastery over the frameworks, you may enrol in the Executive PG Programme in Full Stack Development from IIITB, offered at upGrad.

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Wrapping Up

Both Agile and SAFe are beneficial approaches for project management. While Agile suits small teams and straightforward projects, SAFe is preferred for coordinating multiple teams working on complex, large-scale projects. If you seek a deeper understanding of Agile and SAFe, sign up for the Master of Science in Computer Science from LJMU at upGrad. Upskill yourself at upGrad by learning about Agile vs Safe and becoming an expert in the field. 


Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What are the most common forms of Agile methodology?

A few examples of the Agile approach include Scrum, Feature Driven Development, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal Methodology, and Dynamic Systems Development Method.

2How is Agile more advantageous than the waterfall technique of software development?

The Agile approach is more advantageous than the traditional waterfall technique as the former allows simultaneous development and testing during the DevOps lifecycle.

3What are the types of Agile metrics?

The three kinds of Agile Metrics include Kanban, Lean, and Scrum metrics.