Comparing SAFe and Scrum has become increasingly popular among organizations due to each approach's numerous benefits. However, as awareness grows, many individuals need more precise and practical understanding, leading to assumptions that the two methodologies are identical. This misconception can impede the effective performance of various job roles, particularly those of Product Owners, Stakeholders, Scrum Masters, and teams. The article outlines the definitions of both SAFe and Scrum before delving into a detailed comparison.

Importance of Choosing the Right Framework for Project Success

Choosing the right framework for project management is crucial for ensuring project success, and the decision between Scrum and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) depends on various factors, such as the size and complexity of the project, organizational culture, and industry requirements. Let's break down the importance of choosing the right framework for project success in the context of Scrum vs. SAFe:

1. Project Size and Complexity

  • Scrum is ideal for small to medium-sized teams working on simple projects. Its short iterations (sprints) promote flexibility, adaptability, and continuous improvement.
  • SAFe is suited for large-scale projects involving multiple teams, complex systems, and dependencies. It provides a structured framework for coordinating efforts across various teams and ensuring alignment with organizational goals.

2. Organizational Culture

  • Scrum fosters a culture of collaboration, self-organization, and transparency. It empowers teams to make decisions and adapt quickly to change.
  • SAFe requires a more structured and hierarchical approach, which might align better with organizations accustomed to traditional project management methodologies. It emphasizes roles, responsibilities, and clear governance.

3. Flexibility vs. Standardization

  • Scrum offers flexibility and encourages experimentation. Teams can tailor the process to suit their needs and adapt it as they learn and grow.
  • SAFe provides a standardized set of practices and guidelines, which can be beneficial for ensuring consistency and alignment across large organizations. However, compared to Scrum, it may limit flexibility and creativity.

4. Risk Management

  • Scrum focuses on delivering value incrementally, which can help mitigate risks by allowing early feedback and course correction.
  • SAFe incorporates risk management practices at program and portfolio levels, enabling organizations to identify and address risks across multiple projects and teams proactively.

5. Stakeholder Involvement

  • Scrum encourages close collaboration with stakeholders throughout the development process, leading to a better understanding of their needs and priorities.
  • SAFe provides mechanisms for involving stakeholders at different organizational levels, ensuring alignment with strategic objectives and facilitating effective decision-making.

What Is Scrum? 

Scrum is a widely adopted framework used in agile software development. Scrum offers a structured yet adaptable method for product development, prioritizing collaboration, transparency, and iterative advancement. Work is segmented into time-bound iterations known as sprints, typically two to four weeks. Each sprint commences with a planning session where the team collectively chooses tasks from the product backlog, aligning with a prioritized list of requirements. The team holds daily stand-up meetings throughout the sprint to discuss progress, identify obstacles, and adjust plans as needed. At the end of the sprint, a review meeting is held to demonstrate completed work to stakeholders, gather feedback, and plan the next sprint. Scrum also includes retrospective meetings to reflect on the team's performance and identify areas for improvement. This iterative approach allows teams to respond quickly to change, deliver value incrementally, and continuously improve their processes.

Key Components of Scrum

Scrum, as an agile framework for managing complex projects, comprises several key components:

1. Roles

  • Product Owner: Represents the stakeholders, prioritizes the backlog, and ensures the team is working on the most valuable features.
  • Scrum Master: Facilitates the Scrum process, helps the team stay focused, removes impediments, and ensures adherence to Scrum principles and practices.
  • Development Team: This self-organizing, cross-functional group delivers potentially shippable product increments at the end of each sprint.

2. Artifacts

  • Product Backlog: A prioritized list of all desired work on the project maintained by the Product Owner. It evolves as requirements change or new insights emerge.
  • Sprint Backlog: The subset of items from the Product Backlog that the team commits to delivering during a sprint.
  • Increment: The sum of all the Product Backlog items completed during a sprint and all the increments of previous sprints. It should be usable and potentially releasable.

3. Events

  • Sprint: A time-boxed period (usually 2-4 weeks) during which a potentially releasable product increment is created.
  • Sprint Planning: A meeting where the Product Owner and the team agree on the work to be done during the sprint and how it will be achieved.
  • Daily Scrum: A brief daily meeting where team members synchronize their activities, discuss progress, and identify obstacles.
  • Sprint Review: A meeting at the end of the sprint where the team presents the completed work to stakeholders and receives feedback.
  • Sprint Retrospective: A meeting at the end of the sprint where the team reflects on their performance, identifies what went well and could be improved, and makes adjustments for future sprints.

Benefits of Using Scrum

Using Scrum offers several benefits for teams and organizations:

  1. Flexibility and Adaptability: Scrum's iterative approach allows teams to adapt quickly to changing requirements, market conditions, or customer feedback. This flexibility enables teams to deliver valuable product increments regularly, even in uncertain or dynamic environments.
  2. Improved Transparency: Scrum promotes transparency by making work and progress visible to all stakeholders. Through artifacts like the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Burndown charts, everyone involved in the project clearly understands what is being worked on, what has been completed, and what remains to be done.
  3. Increased Collaboration: Scrum encourages collaboration among team members, stakeholders, and customers throughout development. Daily Scrum meetings allow team members to synchronize their work, discuss challenges, and make decisions collaboratively. This collaborative environment fosters innovation and creativity.
  4. Faster Time to Market: Scrum enables teams to release valuable features to customers more frequently by breaking down work into smaller, manageable increments and delivering them regularly at the end of each sprint. This iterative delivery approach reduces time to market and allows organizations to gather feedback early and often.
  5. Higher Product Quality: Scrum emphasizes delivering a potentially shippable product increment at the end of each sprint. This focus on delivering working software ensures that quality is built into the product from the outset. Additionally, the regular inspection and adaptation process in Scrum, including Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives, helps teams identify and address quality issues early.
  6. Increased Customer Satisfaction: Scrum increases customer satisfaction by involving customers and stakeholders in the development process and delivering value incrementally. Customers have opportunities to provide feedback throughout the project, ensuring that the product meets their needs and expectations.
  7. Empowered Teams: Scrum empowers teams by giving them autonomy and responsibility. Self-organizing teams are encouraged to make decisions, solve problems, and continuously improve their processes. This autonomy fosters a sense of ownership and commitment among team members.
  8. Predictability and Control: Scrum provides mechanisms for tracking progress, such as burndown charts and sprint velocity. These tools help teams and stakeholders forecast work completion and make informed decisions about priorities and resource allocation, increasing predictability and control over the project.

Limitations of Scrum

While Scrum offers many benefits, it also has limitations that teams and organizations should be aware of:

  1. Complexity Management: Scrum can become challenging to manage in complex projects or large-scale organizations. As the number of teams and dependencies increases, coordinating efforts and ensuring alignment across teams can become difficult.
  2. Inadequate Documentation: Scrum prioritizes working software over comprehensive documentation. While this benefits agility, it may lead to insufficient documentation, which can pose challenges for maintenance, onboarding new team members, or complying with regulatory requirements.
  3. Limited Scalability: While Scrum can be scaled using frameworks like Scrum of Scrums or Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), scaling it for very large projects or organizations with numerous teams can be complex. This can result in challenges with communication, coordination, and maintaining consistency across teams.
  4. Dependency Management: Scrum teams work independently and focus on delivering value within their sprint. However, dependencies between teams or external dependencies can pose challenges. If not managed effectively, dependencies can slow progress and impact the ability to deliver valuable increments regularly.
  5. Resistance to Change: Adopting Scrum requires an organizational cultural shift, challenging traditional command-and-control management practices. Resistance to change from stakeholders, management, or team members can hinder the successful implementation of Scrum.
  6. Time and Resource Commitment: Scrum requires dedicated time and resources from all team members, including the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and development team. Committing to Scrum practices may be challenging in organizations where resources are limited or teams are distributed.
  7. Lack of Predictability: While Scrum provides mechanisms for tracking progress and forecasting delivery, the inherent variability of complex projects and uncertainties in customer requirements can make it challenging to predict outcomes accurately.
  8. Overemphasis on Velocity: While velocity can be a useful metric for estimating a team's capacity, overemphasizing it can lead to a focus on quantity over quality. Teams may feel pressured to increase the velocity at the expense of delivering valuable and high-quality increments.
  9. Dependency on Team Collaboration: Scrum relies heavily on collaboration and self-organization within the development team. If team members lack the necessary skills, experience, or willingness to collaborate effectively, it can hinder the success of the Scrum implementation.

What Is SAFe?

SAFe, which stands for Scaled Agile Framework, is a comprehensive framework for scaling agile and lean principles across an organization. It was created to address the challenges of applying agile practices at scale, particularly in large enterprises with multiple teams working on complex projects.

SAFe provides a structured approach for implementing agile methodologies across various organizational levels, from teams to portfolios. It incorporates principles from agile, lean thinking, systems thinking, and DevOps to facilitate alignment, collaboration, and value delivery at scale.

Key Components of SAFe

Three Levels of Scale

  • Team Level: Agile teams use Scrum, Kanban, or other agile practices to deliver value incrementally.
  • Program Level: Agile Release Trains (ARTs) align multiple teams working on a common mission or product. ARTs deliver value through fixed-length iterations called Program Increments (PIs).
  • Portfolio Level: Strategic Themes, Epics, and Value Streams help align the organization's portfolio with its business objectives. Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) ensures investment decisions align with strategic goals.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Release Train Engineer (RTE): This position facilitates ART processes and execution, ensures alignment, and serves as a team servant leader.
  • Product Manager/Product Owner: Defines and prioritizes features and manages the product backlog.
  • System Architect/Engineering: Provides architectural guidance and technical leadership to support the development of large, complex systems.

Cadence and Synchronization

  • PI Planning: A cadence-based, face-to-face event where teams plan their work for the upcoming Program Increment (PI).
  • System Demo: A showcase of the integrated solution delivered by all teams at the end of each PI.
  • Inspect and Adapt (I&A): A regular event held at the end of each PI to review progress, identify systemic issues, and plan improvements.

Built-In Quality

  • SAFe emphasizes the importance of quality throughout the development process, incorporating practices such as Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Deployment (CD), and Test-Driven Development (TDD).

Lean-Agile Leadership

  • SAFe promotes a culture of lean-agile leadership at all organizational levels, encouraging leaders to empower teams, foster collaboration, and support continuous improvement.
  • SAFe is designed to provide organizations with a flexible and scalable framework for implementing agile practices while maintaining alignment with business objectives, ensuring transparency, and enabling faster customer value delivery. It is one of the most widely adopted frameworks for scaling agile practices in large enterprises across various industries.

Benefits of Using SAFe

Implementing SAFe offers several benefits for organizations looking to scale agile practices:

  1. Improved Alignment: SAFe helps align the efforts of multiple teams and stakeholders with the organization's strategic objectives. By defining Value Streams and implementing Lean Portfolio Management, SAFe ensures that resources are allocated to initiatives that deliver the most value to the business.
  2. Enhanced Collaboration: SAFe promotes collaboration among teams, stakeholders, and business units at all levels. Agile Release Trains (ARTs) unite cross-functional teams to work towards a common mission or product, fostering communication, coordination, and shared accountability.
  3. Increased Transparency: SAFe provides visibility into the progress of initiatives at all levels of the organization. Regular events such as PI Planning, System Demos, and Inspect and Adapt (I&A) sessions facilitate transparency by allowing stakeholders to review progress, provide feedback, and identify opportunities for improvement.
  4. Faster Time to Market: By breaking down work into smaller, manageable increments and delivering value through fixed-length Program Increments (PIs), SAFe enables organizations to deliver products and features to customers more frequently. This iterative approach reduces time to market and allows organizations to respond quickly to changing market conditions and customer needs.
  5. Improved Quality: SAFe emphasizes the importance of built-in quality throughout the development process. Practices such as Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Deployment (CD), and Test-Driven Development (TDD) help ensure that quality is maintained throughout the product development lifecycle, leading to higher customer satisfaction and reduced rework.
  6. Empowered Teams: SAFe empowers teams by giving them autonomy and responsibility. Agile teams within ARTs can make decisions, solve problems, and deliver value independently while aligning with the organization's objectives.
  7. Scalability: SAFe is designed to scale agile practices from individual teams to large, complex organizations. By providing a structured framework for scaling agile, SAFe helps organizations maintain agility while managing the inherent complexities of large-scale projects and distributed teams.
  8. Continuous Improvement: SAFe fosters a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging regular reflection and adaptation. Inspect and Adapt (I&A) sessions at the end of each Program Increment (PI) provide opportunities for teams and stakeholders to review progress, identify areas for improvement, and make adjustments for future iterations.

Limitations of SAFe

While SAFe offers numerous benefits for scaling agile practices across large organizations, it also has some limitations that organizations should consider:

  1. Complexity: SAFe introduces a significant amount of structure and processes, which can increase complexity, especially for organizations new to agile practices. Implementing SAFe requires a thorough understanding of the framework and may require significant investment in training and coaching.
  2. Rigid Structure: While SAFe provides a structured approach for scaling agile, some organizations may find the framework too prescriptive or rigid. The fixed roles, ceremonies, and artifacts may not fit well with every organization's unique culture or context, leading to resistance or inefficiencies.
  3. Dependency Management: Managing dependencies between teams and ARTs can be challenging in SAFe, particularly in organizations with complex systems or interconnected projects. Failure to manage dependencies effectively can lead to delays, conflicts, and decreased agility.
  4. Overhead: SAFe introduces additional overhead regarding planning, coordination, and governance processes. Organizations may find that the administrative burden associated with implementing SAFe outweighs the benefits, particularly if they are not well-prepared or the framework is not tailored to their needs.
  5. Team Autonomy: While SAFe empowers teams within Agile Release Trains (ARTs) to make decisions and deliver value independently, some teams may feel constrained by the fixed cadence and dependencies imposed by the framework. This can limit creativity, innovation, and agility at the team level.
  6. Resistance to Change: Implementing SAFe requires a significant cultural shift within organizations, particularly for those accustomed to traditional command-and-control management practices. Resistance to change from stakeholders, management, or team members can hinder the successful adoption and implementation of the framework.
  7. Tooling and Infrastructure Requirements: SAFe often requires specific tooling and infrastructure to support its practices and processes, such as dedicated Agile project management tools or DevOps pipelines. Implementing and maintaining these tools can add complexity and cost to adopting SAFe.
  8. Lack of Customization: While SAFe provides a comprehensive framework for scaling agile, it may not be fully customizable to fit every organization's unique needs and context. Organizations may find that certain aspects of the framework do not align with their culture, industry, or business objectives, requiring adaptations or customizations that can be challenging to implement.

Common similarities between SAFe Agile and Scrum

Here's a comparison table highlighting common similarities between SAFe Agile and Scrum:


SAFe Agile


Framework Type

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Agile Framework

Primary Focus

Scaling Agile practices across the organization

Agile project management for small to medium-sized teams

Iterative Approach

Both follow an iterative approach to software development

Both follow an iterative approach with short development cycles

Empowered Teams

Emphasizes empowering cross-functional teams

Empowers self-organizing, cross-functional teams


Defines specific roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, RTE, and more

Defines roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team


Utilizes artifacts like Program Backlog, Product Backlog, and Sprint Backlog

Utilizes artifacts like Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Increment


Features events like PI Planning, System Demo, and Inspect and Adapt

Features events like Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective

Continuous Improvement

Encourages continuous improvement through Inspect and Adapt sessions

Encourages continuous improvement through Sprint Retrospectives


Provides flexibility in implementing agile practices at scale

Provides flexibility for teams to adapt practices to their needs

Customer Focus

Prioritizes delivering value to customers frequently

Prioritizes delivering increments of product frequently to meet customer needs


Promotes transparency through artifacts and events

Promotes transparency through artifacts and daily meetings


Emphasizes collaboration among teams and stakeholders

Emphasizes collaboration among team members and stakeholders

Adaptive Planning

Supports adaptive planning through PI Planning and backlog refinement

Supports adaptive planning through Sprint Planning and backlog refinement

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Key Differences Between Scrum and SAFe

Here are the key differences between Scrum and SAFe:

1. Scale and Scope

  • Scrum: Primarily focuses on agile project management for small to medium-sized teams.
  • SAFe: Designed to scale agile practices across the entire organization, including multiple teams, programs, and portfolios.

2. Framework Type

  • Scrum: A specific agile framework that defines roles, events, and artifacts for managing iterative development.
  • SAFe: A comprehensive framework that provides guidance on scaling agile, incorporating roles, events, artifacts, and additional constructs for large-scale implementation.

3. Roles

  • Scrum: Defines roles such as Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team.
  • SAFe: Introduces additional roles such as Release Train Engineer (RTE), Product Manager, System Architect/Engineering, and Lean Portfolio Manager.

4. Artifacts

  • Scrum: Utilizes artifacts like Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Increment.
  • SAFe: Introduces artifacts like Program Backlog, Portfolio Backlog, and Solution Backlog in addition to those used in Scrum.

5. Events

  • Scrum: Features events like Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.
  • SAFe: Adds additional events such as PI Planning, System Demo, and Inspection and Adapt sessions to facilitate coordination and alignment at scale.

6. Flexibility

  • Scrum: Provides flexibility for teams to adapt practices to their specific context and needs.
  • SAFe: Offers more prescriptive guidance and structures, which may be less flexible but provide a standardized approach for scaling agile across the organization.

7. Dependency Management

  • Scrum: Teams manage dependencies within their scope, which can become challenging in larger organizations with complex systems.
  • SAFe: Introduces mechanisms for managing dependencies between teams and ARTs, facilitating coordination and alignment at scale.

8. Continuous Improvement

  • Scrum: Encourages continuous improvement through Sprint Retrospectives at the team level.
  • SAFe: Extends continuous improvement to the program and portfolio levels through Inspect and Adapt sessions, fostering organizational learning and adaptation.

9. Customer Focus

  • Scrum: Prioritizes delivering increments of products frequently to meet customer needs.
  • SAFe: Emphasizes delivering value to customers at scale by aligning teams, programs, and portfolios with strategic objectives.


While SAFe and Scrum may appear alike at first glance, they boast distinct differences. Both adhere to the agile framework and strive to deliver advantages to companies, yet they diverge significantly in scale and various other aspects. Consequently, they offer unique benefits to both teams and organizations. Explore these disparities further and enhance your understanding through the CSM Certification course Simplilearn offers. Master the intricacies of Scrum and elevate your proficiency in agile methodologies to drive success in your projects.


1. What are the differences in cost between SAFe and Scrum implementation?

The cost of implementing SAFe is typically higher due to its larger scale and additional framework layers, such as the Program and Portfolio levels. Scrum implementation costs tend to be lower since it focuses primarily on team-level processes and roles.

2. How can I decide whether SAFe or Scrum is a better fit for my team?

To determine whether SAFe or Scrum is a better fit for your team, consider factors such as the size of your organization, the complexity of your projects, and the level of alignment needed across multiple teams. SAFe is suitable for large enterprises with complex projects requiring synchronized delivery across multiple teams, while Scrum is more appropriate for smaller teams focused on iterative development.

3. Is SAFe Scrum Master better than CSM?

The suitability of a SAFe Scrum Master versus a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) depends on the organization's context. A SAFe Scrum Master is trained to facilitate agile practices at scale within the SAFe framework, whereas a CSM is focused on leading Scrum teams at the team level. The choice depends on whether your organization operates within the SAFe framework or utilizes standalone Scrum practices.

4. What are the prerequisites for Scrum and SAFe certification and training?

Prerequisites for Scrum certification typically include attending a certified training course and passing an exam. For SAFe certification, prerequisites may vary depending on the certification level but generally involve attending a certified training course and demonstrating experience in agile practices and frameworks.

5. Can SAFe and Scrum be applied together in any way?

SAFe and Scrum can be applied together in certain contexts, particularly in large organizations where SAFe is implemented at the program and portfolio levels while Scrum is used at the team level. This hybrid approach allows for alignment across multiple teams while maintaining Scrum's iterative and collaborative nature within individual teams.

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