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Implementing SAFe At The Program Level

Implementing SAFe typically starts at the Program Level by identifying the first Agile Release Train (ART) and preparing to launch it. (see the SAFe Implementation Roadmap). As part of preparing for ART launch, the Program Backlog needs to be prepared. This is the right time to introduce a Program Kanban Board and start using it to support backlog readiness activities such as backlog workshops.

SAFe Program Kanban Board

At the Program Level, the main entities are Business Features and the various types of Enablers. These are reflected in the card types set up in this board template. Note that example cards are available in the template guidance on the board.

Visualizing Different Types of Enablers

Enablers build up the architectural runway required to deliver business capabilities. They help organizations to balance emerging architecture with intentional design. The 3 types of Enablers in SAFe are:

  • Exploration - Learning/Understanding
  • Architecture - build the architectural runway
  • Infrastructure - enable developing/testing/deploying

There are several options available in LeanKit to help you visualize and manage Enablers. These options can be applied according to your preference:

  1. Tags: Use a tag according to the Enabler type (see the tags on the example enabler on the board)
  2. Card Types: use a different card type for each type of Enabler. Different card types are available in the board template.
  3. Card Title and Card Header: Indicate the type in the title of the card e.g. "Exploration - SAFe impact on AgilePlace SAFe template". As an alternative, consider using the Card Header field to indicate enablers. The latter is especially useful for indicating groups of related enablers, as it’s also possible to filter your board view on Card Header.

Program Backlog

To help you visualize the Program Backlog more effectively, LeanKit templates are set up to visualize the backlog via two separate lanes: 

  • Current PI Backlog: The current PI Backlog can be split into Iterations to reflect when prioritized Features/Enablers are scheduled to start in the current PI. This approach emphasizes focus on the current PI. 
  • Program Backlog:  The Program Backlog looks beyond the current PI. It is shaped like the SAFe Program Roadmap so that you can capture current thinking and assumptions about content for upcoming PIs. This approach emphasizes a more forward looking approach to PI planning.

Optional: Releasing Stage

If you have a release stage in your process where the completed capabilities queue up prior to being released, we recommend using this a lane on your Kanban board.

Optional: Learning/Feedback

SAFe recommends closing the feedback loop and making sure that the benefits of the capability have been realized. Including this lane on your Kanban board as a stage in your process will help you to inspect and adapt future capabilities accordingly.