Portfolio SAFe


Portfolio SAFe helps align portfolio execution to the enterprise strategy by organising Agile development around the flow of value, through one or more streams.


Aligns strategy / execution with LPM - Lean Portfolio Management


  1. Fund value streams, not projects
  2. Empower local decision making
  3. Provide objective evidence of fitness for purpose
  4. Manage Epic-level initiatives responsibly
  5. Forecast predictability
  6. Budget value streams dynamically


1. Fund value streams




Problem: "Projects" increase the Cost of Delay


When overruns happen, project accounting and re-budgeting increases the Cost of Delay and impacts culture



  • Wait for new budget approval; increase Cost of Delay
  • Costly variance analysis; blame game; threatens transparency
  • Resources scramble and re-assignments


Solution: Lean-Agile budgeting


Fund value streams, not projects!


Funding value streams provides for full control of spend, with:

  • No costly and delay-inducing project cost variance analysis
  • No resource re-assignments
  • No blame game for project overruns



Control Costs with increased flexibility


ART budgets and resources are unaffected by feature cost overruns or changing priorities




Strategic Themes influence funding


Business objectives that connect a SAFe portfolio to the enterprise strategy



Examples (for a retail eCommerce company):

  • Appeal to a younger demographic (18 - 30)
  • Reduce warehousing cost by 50%



2. Empower local decision making


Empower ART content authority

  • PM - Product Management has the content authority, over features


  • PO - Product Owners have the authority , over stories


  • PMs and POs represent the customer, understanding their needs and creating features and stories which drive better products


Strategic themes influence what gets built


Strategic themes influence ART funding, Portfolio Backlog, Program Vision and Roadmap.

  • Adjust ART and Value Stream funding to track to changing strategic priorities


  • Assist with Epic evaluation and decision making


  • Influence each Program Vision and Roadmap



3. Provide objective evidence of fitness for purpose


  • The system demos are an objective measurement of progress and usage of funds


  • LPM, senior managers and high level stakeholders, review the progress of the solution under development and its fitness for purpose


  • Action and investment decisions are based on this objective evidence



4. Manage Epic-level initiatives responsibly


Large initiatives require Lean Portfolio Management approval


Epics are enterprise initiatives sufficiently substantial in scope so as to warrant analysis, understanding ROI, a lightweight business case and approval.


  • Portfolio Epics cut across value streams
  • Program Epics can be implemented in a single train
  • Business Epics are customer facing
  • Enabler Epics enable solutions to address business needs
  • Developed and analysed in the kanban systems



Foster innovation with a Lean Startup cycle




Epic Hypothesis Statement template


PO / Product Management creates:





Approve Epic level initiatives

Investments in Epics is a serious matter. Analyses and informed decision making is crucial


  • Just the right amount analysis
  • Avoid over specificity
  • Understand ROI
  • Understand implementation impact
  • Develop incremental implementation strategy
  • Gain approval from LPM


Govern Epic flow with the Portfolio Kanban system


The Portfolio Kanban system manages the flow of epics


  • Makes largest business initiatives visible
  • Brings structure to analysis and decision making
  • Provides WIP limits to ensure the teams analyse responsibly
  • Helps prevent unrealistic expectations
  • Helps drive collaboration amongst the key stakeholders
  • Provides a transparent and quantitative basis for decision making



Prototypical Portfolio Kanban system




5. Forecast predictability


The business needs to forecast


  • SAFe enhances enterprise adaptability, providing faster response to changing market opportunities
  • Yet, the enterprise, its partners and customers need to plan some sense of the future
  • Estimating must:
    • Be as fast and efficient as possible to be reasonably accurate
    • Support "what if" analysis of various implementation scenarios
  • Traditional Work Breakdown Structure to task level estimating binds the teams to waterfall practices



Estimating Epics in SAFe

  1. Epics are broken down into potential features during the Portfolio Kanban analysis stage


  1. Potential features are estimated in story points
  • Typically performed at the PM-System Architecture level, based on history and relative size
  • Individual teams are engaged as necessary
  1. Feature estimates are aggregated back into the Epic estimate as part of the lightweight business case



Forecasting from the Portfolio Backlog


Given the knowledge of Epic sizes and ART velocities, applying "what if" capacity allocations informs decisions and forecasting.



Allows forecasting of which trains can work on these trains and % of their capacity can be applied?




6. Budget value streams dynamically


Exercise fiscal governance with dynamic budgeting


Financial governance is still in place. Adjust budgets dynamically to meet changing business needs.