Engaging the Business of the Business in SAFe

Advanced Topics News

Hello all,
In various forums, I’m occasionally asked, “how can we do SAFe effectively if we don’t have the right level of engagement from our Business Owners?” Of course, the answer is you can’t. While you can improve development performance and solutions to a point, if the business isn’t engaged in development in a manner unlike the past, we are unlikely to build the right solutions. We cannot achieve real Business Agility.

That’s why we invented the role of Business Owner in SAFe: to create a set of responsibilities to help us understand what the business and the customer needs, directly from those who actually have responsibility for business outcomes.

While ‘tech’ is part of the business, too, we are not generally responsible for cash flow, market share, finance, manufacturing, operations, and those elements of the business that the functional hierarchy executes. Engaging ‘ourselves” is not generally a problem. We are already engaged fully in solution development; we just have to figure out who needs to serve as Business Owners for the development side of the dual operating system.

But when it comes to the commercial activities—instantiated by the Operational Value Streams that deliver solutions to the customers—things get more complicated. Especially in the larger enterprise. We have to look more deeply into the business for this aspect to identify those whose help we need.

There, we will find some who will directly fit the Business Owner role as an integral part of the Agile Release Train. But some will more likely serve as executive sponsors, people with the funding and knowledge needed to help define the next generation of innovative solutions. Still others— business subject management experts—will know more about the business than we can ever learn. Some of these SMEs will take roles on the trains themselves; others will be brought in when and as needed to define features and acceptance criteria.

In this new advanced topic article, SAFe Fellow Charlene Cuenca describes her experiences in engaging a broad set of commercial stakeholders in solution development and helps set expectations for their responsibilities in SAFe as well as probable time commitments.

It’s a worthy addition to the SAFe body of knowledge. Thanks, Charlene.

Enjoy and stay SAFe!



Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

comment (2)

  1. Tom Ghoreyeb

    06 May 2021 - 12:10 pm

    Re: “Constant Sense of Danger” – that sounds like a horrible thing to have to go to work each day and face. I saw it explained as competitive danger and sense of urgency, but that is a psychologically damaging mindset to live at work. I wonder if there’s a way to describe it that may allude to competition in sports, or racing or something that imparts the same adrenal urgency, without the fear of losing ones job, death, or other fear inducing visualzations induced from the word danger.

    • Steve Mayner

      19 May 2021 - 12:47 pm

      Thanks for that perspective Tom. As you probably know that phrase has its origins in the original Lean body of knowledge dating back to the 1940’s. Neither Lean nor SAFe interpret that phrase through the lens of fear and damage you describe. That being said if the lens of competition and urgency is not stated clearly enough (that is the correct lens) we can certainly look at providing better clarification in future edits. Thanks for the input!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.