Enablers in agile – SAFe

enablers in agile - safe concept
enablers in agile - safe concept

Agile enablers are types of items that can help in creating a backlog. Some people hate them, some people adore them, let’s see together what they are.

SAFe is a really particular framework : some people love it, others hate it! And it’s the same with its practices even if sometimes, theses concepts can be really interesting.

Enablers in agile – SAFe

Enablers were popularized with the SAFe framework. However, this concept, sometimes bearing other names, is sometimes an answer for teams looking for solutions to make their “user-stories” independent.

They are Product Backlog Items (PBI) that support the activities needed to get architectures up and running to build future functionalities. These items can represent:

  • exploration
  • the evolution of infrastructure
  • compliance
  • the evolution of architectures

However, you mustn’t use these enablers to plan some months of user-stories. We use generally them to make the independent user-stories of the next sprint or the current sprint. If you put them to plan the next 6 or more sprints, you lose the notions of KISS (Keep it simple stupid) recommended in agility.


Types of Enablers

Exploration Enablers: These items allow research, prototyping, and even other activities necessary to better understand customer needs. It is also possible to do exploration of finding potential solutions or defining alternatives.

Architectural enablers: these items are created to build more suitable architecture in order to have smoother and faster developments.

Infrastructure Enablers: These items are used to create, enhance, and automate development, test, and deployment environments. They will lead teams to have environments that favor faster development, better quality tests and more optimal continuous delivery.

Compliance Enablers: These items facilitate the management of specific compliance activities including verification and validation, documentation and approvals, as well as regulatory submissions and approvals.

Beyond simple items

If in scrum teams, enablers are generally the simple items, in SAFe, they can be located at several levels. At item level, the SAFe suggests as a name: “enabler stories”.

But this scale agility framework offers two other levels within backlogs:

Enabler Epics: We use the “Epic Hypothesis Statement” format to write these epics, similar to business epics. Please note, in SAFe, Epics represent a grouping of stories which deviates from the original definition of epics.. This type of epics will cross value streams and program increments (PI). To facilitate their implementation, they must include a ‘Lean Business Case’ and are identified and monitored with the Kanban of the Portfolio. These epics can also be created at the Large Solution and Program layers of SAFe.

Enabler Capabilities and Features: These enablers apply at the Large Solution and Program layers of SAFe. Since they are one type of functionality or ability, they share the same attributes:

  • a sentence
  • an advantage hypothesis
  • acceptance criteria.

They must also be structured to be carried out within the same PI (program increment).

Conclusion enablers

Although SAFe can lead to the use of enablers for very advanced forecasting, I can only recommend that you use them for the short term.

However, for the classic scrum teams, I can only recommend that you use this concept only if it truly meets your needs. This concept although it is complete can lead to your scrum becoming more complex.


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About Judicaël Paquet 190 Articles
Judicaël Paquet (agile coach and senior devops) My activities in France and Switzerland: - agile transformation architect - customized agile training - sensitization and manager coaching - agile maturity audits and situations - agile coaching (teams, orga, product owner, scrum master, agile coach) Specialties: scrum, kanban, management 3.0, scalability, lean startup, agile method.

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