SAFe vs Spotify

safe vs spotify
safe vs spotify


What is the difference between SAFe framework and Spotify model? Let see why these are two rather different visions with these both concepts. I wanted to treat it in article because someone asked me: SAFe vs Spotify, who is the big winner?

Those who know me, will know that I will not give a winner but the good way to make your choice; the choice depends on the context in which you are. These are two interesting concepts that deserve to be known.

What is SAFe?

The SAFe framework 4.5 is a lean-agile framework for working several Scrum teams together within the same structure. It offers a complete set of tools that range from scrum teams to portfolio.

SAFe even offers a complete course for its implementation and certifications to create coaches of the framework. It’s incredibly complete even to the point of questioning the “agile” aspect for somebody.

Here is an article I made that gives a quick overview of this framework that you can consult.

Article: The SAFe framework in agile


Framework safe 4.5
Framework safe 4.5

What is the Spotify model?

Spotify had set up a large-scale agile model that became very famous called the Spotify model. It was Henrik Kniberg and Anders Ivarsson who communicated on it in 2012, recalling that this model had already evolved.

However, this model from 2012 has become a reference and many companies are inspired by it. It presents a lightweight framework and doesn’t determine how each squad team should work.


Article: Spotify model: Agile at scale

Guild Spotify
Spotify model

SAFe vs Spotify

Spotify is a lightweight frame

Unlike SAFe, the Spotify model doesn’t want to be a big toolbox. The Spotify model offers a relatively light framework that emphasizes the need to create many interactions to limit the silo side created by squads.

It will be essential to define how each team has to work in a general way or by leaving the autonomy to the teams at 100%. The Spotify model doesn’t detail anything at this level.

Moreover, the Spotify model doesn’t bring any solution to manage the Portfolio unlike SAFe. There are many ways to go, the company have to define everything.

We could almost compare the philosophy of the Spotify model to Scrum: they define a light framework in which the teams will have to bring the details.


SAFe is a heavy frame

SAFe offers a complete and detailed framework that reassures its interlocutors. But some experts see it as a framework much too detailed; they have a question: is it really agile?

He tells you how to work, how to coordinate, how to train, how to put it in place … Whether we like it or not, we must admit that it is incredibly complete. There is a small Lean side to want to define everything and optimize.

Unlike the Spotify model, everything is already defined and it will be complicated to have imagination to improve it.


Somebody mix SAFe and Spotify

Some companies also seem to want to mix the Spotify model and some SAFe tools. We can see very interesting outcome of these mixtures.

Which one to choose ?

The Spotify model offers interesting concepts that you can use. However, it will be essential to have agile coaches to help you set it up for:

  • help squads (teams) get organized
  • help set up a portfolio or program part
  • define the content of chapters and guilds
  • animate and define the organization of squads and tribes

If you are not afraid of adventure where you will have to work many unknowns, the Spotify model is an interesting start in your agility at scale. However, I advice you to be accompanied by senior agile coaches because it’s not so simple to implement.

For SAFe, everything is ready but it will ask you to follow the recommendations for its implementation. It is much more reassuring by its strict framework side.

However, I advice you to ask to the certified SPC4 or even RTE coaches to help set up SAFe. Even though SAFe defines a strict framework, be careful not to underestimate the difficulty in setting it up.


Conclusion SAFe vs Spotify

There are no losers or winners, the SAFe framework and the Spotify model both have advantages and disadvantages.

Depending on your context, you can choose:

  • to apply SAFe by the book
  • to implement the Spotify model by feeding it with practices
  • to mix SAFe and the Spotify model
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About Judicaël Paquet 368 Articles
Judicaël Paquet (agile coach and senior devops) My Engagements in France and Switzerland: - Crafting Agile Transformation Strategies - Tailored Agile Training Programs - Raising Awareness and Coaching for Managers - Assessing Agile Maturity and Situational Analysis - Agile Coaching for Teams, Organizations, Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and Agile Coaches Areas of Expertise: Scrum, Kanban, Management 3.0, Scalability, Lean Startup, Agile Methodology.

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