When comparing frameworks for scaling Agile such as SAFe or Scrum at Scale, the question is not what the best framework for scaling Scrum is but rather which framework is best for you considering your knowledge base, your starting point, and what you are looking to achieve. Then you need to consider what you think you need to achieve this. By going through this analysis, you move from the point of asking the question of what the difference is between the various frameworks, to a point where the difference is obvious. That being said, the two frameworks can still be compared to each other to highlight the differences.
What is the Difference Between SAFe and Scrum at Scale?
Of the 10 or so distinct frameworks for scaling Agile, all are based on Scrum to some extent or another (including Scrum at Scale and SAFe), however only one framework is designed for, mature enough, and sufficiently documented for use at large enterprise level: The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). SAFe is by far the most popular of the available frameworks for scaling Scrum. It is also important to note that SAFe is also designed to accommodate DevOps and with the release of SAFe 4.0 a new 4th level adds even greater value for large enterprises that develop both software and hardware with embedded software development teams.
Scrum at Scale by Dr. Jeff Sutherland and Alex Brown is the newest of all the Scaling Agile frameworks, publicly introduced at Agile 2014 Event in Orlando. It is therefore relatively untested and undocumented when compared to SAFe, making it less suitable for large enterprise adoption, and yet Scrum at Scale is good for Agile!
Scrum at Scale: An Overview
Scrum at Scale is an extension of the core Scrum Framework. Anywhere Scrum is used, Scrum at Scale could be used for scaling Scrum; therefore, in theory, it is a great solution for organizations of all sizes. It uses a modular approach to scaling Scrum, the goals of which is to align the entire organization on a shared route forward through the use of the Meta Scrum. The core argument for a modular approach to Scaling Scrum is that no two implementations of Scrum are the same and therefore the requirements of the framework for scaling Scrum differ on a case-by-case basis. A modular approach enables developers to only adopt those modules that are needed. This simple idea potentially counters the continuing trend (and criticism) of hybridization of Scrum and Agile at Scale.
Simply put, when scaling Scrum in a modular framework, no hybridization is necessary.
As to whether Scrum at Scale can solve the associated problems of failed attempts of Scaling Scrum and Agile adoption (and resulting hybridization) has yet to be seen. Terminology such as Scrumbut, Wagile and Scrum Hybrid have lead to some developers declare that Agile is Dead due to its continued erosion of its core principles. Others have declared that DevOps is the replacement of Agile. Typically, those declaring such are marketers pushing new software products such as DevOps platforms to cut into the market share of the well established and refined solution provided by ALM Vendors such as ourselves and our very own codeBeamer ALM. Often such platforms are just rebranding failed platforms in a new way for marketing purposes.
Future of Scrum: Meeting the Requirements
Scrum at Scale has a bright future and here at Intland Software we will be supporting it, just as we support all other frameworks.
Since Agile Frameworks are now being integrated more widely within organizations, no longer just for software development, an increasingly common alternative approach to choosing which framework to use is to identify the ALM Software or other tool that best suits your needs and that can support all the available frameworks on your short list, but more importantly a tool that can manage your specific range of use cases.
It is important to note that software is increasing defining work place culture; this is particularly true in reference to collaboration software and project management platforms.