SAFe 4.0 vs SAFe 4.5 – what is the difference?

So SAFe 4.0 has been with us since Jan 2016 and has been fighting it out with LeSS in enterprises all over the world ever since for the crown of scaling king. This week we got SAFe 4.5. So I’ll go through my first impressions of the changes. A more detailed post will come once I’ve tried it with one of my clients.

It’s changed its name

It’s now SAFe for Lean Enterprises rather than its predeceases SAFe for Lean Software and Systems Engineering. One can guess that they are trying to make the framework more inclusive to non technical work streams. Heresy I hear you cry! Well any large portfolio is bound to include some finance work or TMO updates that until recently you’d hide away in excel or give them a token KanBan board to say there are ‘agile’.

I think this is biggest challenge faced by scaling frameworks is what they do with the non agile work. Some try and accommodate it badly and some just ignore it – neither great options.

We have a new poster 

They’ve cleaned up their canvass a little bit. You get it in 4 flavours depending on how ambitious you want to go:

  • Full SAFe – the big daddy building large integrated solutions, 100+ people
  • Portfolio SAFe – Enterprise size model
  • Large Solution SAFe – Program level agile
  • Essential SAFe – stripped down framework for teams
Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 16.08.20
Full 4 tier SAFe

All aboard the Solution Train

Pretty straightforward, they’ve renamed the old SAFe 4.0 Value Stream Level to ‘Large Solution Level’. In doing so their are a name changes, so Value Stream Epics becomes Solution Epics and a Value Steam Engineer now becomes Solution Train Engineer.  You get the jist. I’m not too hot on name changes like this, especially when your mid way through coaching teams as it just leads to confusion.

More Hypothesis Driven Design

Great to see a better inclusion of Lean principles in SAFe 4.5. Although doing this at Epic level could be challenging for some organisations as you could be looking at a few months build of an MVP to just then it away. Why not prototype it, digital or even paper based at a lower level to try and get the hypothesis tested in a week. Still at least it is provoking the right sort of thinking.


Using more Lean Startup approaches they’ve adopted an Epic Hypothesis Statement. These will then flow through the Portfolio Backlog.


I’ll add to this post once I’ve had a feel of the other new changes.

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