To succeed in the long term, focus on the middle term.
Portfolio SAFe aligns strategy with execution and organizes solution development around the flow of value through one or more value streams.
The portfolio configuration, which includes Essential SAFe is the smallest configuration that can be used to achieve Business Agility.
The Portfolio SAFe (Figure 1) configuration consists of the following:
- Three additional core competencies:
- The Lean Portfolio Management competency aligns strategy and execution by applying Lean and systems thinking approaches to strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and governance.
- The Continuous Learning Culture competency describes a set of values and practices that encourage individuals—and the enterprise as a whole—to continually increase knowledge, competence, performance, and innovation.
- The Organizational Agility competency describes how Lean-thinking people and Agile teams optimize their business processes, evolve strategy with clear and decisive new commitments, and quickly adapt the organization as needed to capitalize on new opportunities.
- The portfolio level roles, events, and artifacts
- The full spanning palette
- Each portfolio is connected to either an Enterprise and Government entity.
Figure 1. SAFe Portfolio
The Portfolio SAFe configuration aligns enterprise strategy to portfolio execution by organizing the Lean-Agile Enterprise around the flow of value through one or more value streams. Delivering the basic budgeting and necessary governance mechanisms, including Lean Budget Guardrails, it helps assures that the Value Streams and its trains are focused on building the right things with the appropriate level of investments to these solutions in order for the portfolio to meet its strategic objectives.
The remainder of this article describes the highlights, roles, events, and artifacts present in the portfolio level (Figure 2). These items are in addition to the ones described in Essential SAFe.
Portfolio Level Highlights
Highlights of the Portfolio level include:
- Value Streams – Every development value stream has to fund the people and resources necessary to build Solutions that deliver value to the business or customer. Each is a long-lived series of steps that provide a continuous flow of value.
- Lean Budgets – Lean budgeting allows fast and empowered decision-making, with appropriate financial control and accountability provided through Guardrails.
- Portfolio Kanban – The portfolio Kanban system makes the work visible and creates Work-in-Process (WIP) limits to help assure that demand is matched to the actual capacity of value streams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs).
- Portfolio Vision – The portfolio Vision is a description of the future state of a portfolio’s Value Streams and solutions and describes how they will cooperate to achieve the portfolio’s objectives and the broader aim of the Enterprise. The portfolio canvas provides critical inputs to the portfolio vision, Portfolio Backlog, and Lean Budgets.
The portfolio roles provide the highest level of accountability and governance, including the coordination of multiple value streams.
- Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) – This function represents the individuals with the highest level of decision-making and financial accountability for a SAFe portfolio. This group is responsible for three primary areas: strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance.
- Epic Owners – Take responsibility for coordinating portfolio Epics through the portfolio Kanban system.
- Enterprise Architect – Enterprise architects work across value streams and ARTs to help provide the strategic technical direction that can optimize portfolio outcomes. An Enterprise Architect often acts as an Epic Owner for enabler epics.
The following events support the alignment of strategy with execution:
- Portfolio Sync – The Portfolio Sync provides visibility into how well the portfolio is progressing toward meeting its strategic objectives. The sync may also include reviewing value stream and program execution and governance of other portfolio investments.
- Participatory Budgeting – This event enables LPM to collaborate with Business Owners and other relevant stakeholders to right-size the investments in value streams and helps manage the approval process of epics in the portfolio Kanban.
The following artifacts help describe the strategic intent of the portfolio solution set:
- Business Epics – Captures and reflect the new business capabilities that can only be provided through cooperation among value streams. Each Epic is supported by the Epic Hypothesis Statement, and Lean Business Case for those epics that make it to the analysis state.
- Enabler epics – Reflect the architectural, technology, and business process initiatives that are necessary to enable new Features and Capabilities.
- Strategic Themes – Provide specific, itemized business objectives that connect the portfolio to the evolving enterprise business strategy.
- Portfolio Backlog – Is the highest-level backlog in SAFe. It holds approved business and enabler epics that are required to create a portfolio solution set. This provides the competitive differentiation and/or operational efficiencies necessary to address the strategic themes and facilitate business success.
Learn More Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and Portfolio. Addison-Wesley, 2011.  Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder.
Last update: 24 September 2019