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Scrum or SAFe- What’s the Difference?

Updated: 5 days ago

“Be precise. A lack of precision is dangerous when the margin of error is small.”- Donald Rumsfeld

When it comes to agile we always try to be precise and start from the very basic which is a mindset change and culture. Because to be faster and achieve quality, we need to be sure that we are on the right track not mistaking any concept and using it wrongly. Because leading a wrong path will bring a mess in between the path where it will cause frustration, high cost, and waste of time which is not agile ever approves. In agile the most popular concepts and also the newest on-boarders are confused with Scrum and SAFe. Many consider Scrum and SAFe as one in every aspect as SAFe itself includes Scrum.

We can say that the main difference between Scrum and SAFe is about the way they handle the work where Scrum is used to organize small teams, and SAFe is used to organize the complete enterprise. SAFe contains many important aspects that are not covered out on by Scrum. Today let’s get clear with the concept and differences between Scrum and SAFe and get to know agile more for gaining more benefits from it.

Scrum - As taken from the Scrum Guild 2020

Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.

In a nutshell, Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where:

  1. A Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog.

  2. The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.

  3. The Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.

  4. Repeat

Scrum is simple. Try it as is and determine if its philosophy, theory, and structure help to achieve goals and create value. The Scrum framework is purposefully incomplete, only defining the parts required to implement Scrum theory. Scrum is built upon by the collective intelligence of the people using it. Rather than provide people with detailed instructions, the rules of Scrum guide their relationships and interactions.

Various processes, techniques and methods can be employed within the framework. Scrum wraps around existing practices or renders them unnecessary. Scrum makes visible the relative efficacy of current management, environment, and work techniques, so that improvements can be made.

Scrum Theory

Scrum is founded on empiricism and lean thinking. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is observed. Lean thinking reduces waste and focuses on the essentials.

Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and to control risk. Scrum engages groups of people who collectively have all the skills and expertise to do the work and share or acquire such skills as needed.

Scrum combines four formal events for inspection and adaptation within a containing event, the Sprint. These events work because they implement the empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation.


The emergent process and work must be visible to those performing the work as well as those receiving the work. With Scrum, important decisions are based on the perceived state of its three formal artifacts. Artifacts that have low transparency can lead to decisions that diminish value and increase risk.

Transparency enables inspection. Inspection without transparency is misleading and wasteful.


The Scrum artifacts and the progress toward agreed goals must be inspected frequently and diligently to detect potentially undesirable variances or problems. To help with inspection, Scrum provides cadence in the form of its five events.

Inspection enables adaptation. Inspection without adaptation is considered pointless. Scrum events are designed to provoke change.


If any aspects of a process deviate outside acceptable limits or if the resulting product is unacceptable, the process being applied or the materials being produced must be adjusted. The adjustment must be made as soon as possible to minimize further deviation.

Adaptation becomes more difficult when the people involved are not empowered or self-managing. A Scrum Team is expected to adapt the moment it learns anything new through inspection.

The entire Scrum Team is accountable for creating a valuable, useful Increment every Sprint. Scrum defines three specific accountability within the Scrum Team: the Developers, the Product Owner, and the Scrum Master.


Developers are the people in the Scrum Team that are committed to creating any aspect of a usable Increment each Sprint.

Product Owner

The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.

Scrum Master

The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.

The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices, within the Scrum framework.

Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization.

Scrum Events

The Sprint is a container for all other events. Each event in Scrum is a formal opportunity to inspect and adapt Scrum artifacts. These events are specifically designed to enable the transparency required. Failure to operate any events as prescribed results in lost opportunities to inspect and adapt. Events are used in Scrum to create regularity and to minimize the need for meetings not defined in Scrum.

Below are the five events in Scrum

  1. Sprint Planning

  2. Daily Scrum

  3. Sprint Review

  4. Sprint Retrospective

  5. Sprint - which is a container of all the above events

Basic Difference

Even if the organisations are following SAFe as their scaling framework, I have experienced that around 90% of the teams are following Scrum, with few differences in nomenclature, Like Sprint in Scrum are knows as Iterations in SAFe, Daily Scrum is said as Daily Stand-up, Scrum Team is Scrum is know as Agile Team in SAFe and Developer in Scrum are mentioned as Agile Team members in SAFe.


SAFe stands for Scaled Agile Framework. It is an approach where the framework organizes complete organization and not only small or large teams. It helps organizations in scaling agile from small-big and also implementing agile in larger organizations. The bigger and multiple teams that work on the same product SAFe is the key for management. SAFe while applying scrum at a bigger level includes three levels that are portfolio, program, and teams. SAFe also focuses on improvement by applying retrospectives and release plans. The important parts in the success of SAFe for scaling the scrum in an organization are lean product development, system thinking, and agile software development.

The particular points of SAFe that differentiate it from scrum are;

  • SAFe deals with multi-geographical and big teams and organizations

  • Extension of Scrum in SAFe is adopted by an enterprise as a whole and not just the team.

  • Program and portfolio management are the important stages of SAFe

  • The basic requirement construct is to build an Agile Release Train

  • SAFe all possible features and aspects of an organization are managed

  • SAFe needs more alignment and coordination across management and team level as being scaled the dependencies of work on each other is relatively more.

Understanding the difference between Scrum and SAFe clearly will surely help the organization leaders in making the right decision of where and when to use the required concept for the betterment of the organization.


From the above description, we can see that SAFe is more of a perfect solution for adopting agile at scaling enterprises. But when agile needs to be more focused on teams and smaller groups Scrum will help in completing the job perfectly. Leaders while selecting the Scrum and SAFe framework are advised to understand their needs and requirements first and then go with the framework that fits the best for them. Even though SAFe is being implemented in an organization understating and right implementation of Scrum is very important as SAFe team works in either Scrum or Kan-ban.

About Advance Agility

We, at Advance Agility, are the new-age Agile Coaching, Consulting and IT services company. We enable end-to-end Digital Transformation. Agile execution is integral to our being. We are doing SAFe implementation with small, medium and large organization across the globe. Our vision is to be the leading Agile execution player globally. To keep adding value at every process stage. We are on a mission to empower our clients, move from concept to cash in the shortest sustainable lead time by adopting human centric approach to business agility. Embracing the change is in our DNA. Things that keep us apart are Quicker and Seamless execution with End-to-end gamut of services. Our Global presence and Stellar Track Record give us an edge over our competitor.

Connect with us at to learn about SAFe and SAFe Implementation. We provide various SAFe certification courses along with DevOps, Scrum, Agile Coaching and more training. Write to us at for any agile training or consulting needs. We are always looking for competent agile trainers as well. So if you are a good trainer or want to become one, do get in touch with us to that we can learn, grow and achieve together.



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