To succeed in the long term, focus on the middle term.
The SAFe Portfolio Level contains the guidance, practices and roles needed to initiate and govern a set of development value streams. It provides the strategy and investment funding for people and resources, Agile program guidance, and Lean governance.
The portfolio level aligns enterprise strategy to portfolio execution by organizing the Lean-Agile Enterprise around the flow of value via one or more development Value Streams and provides the basic budgeting and governance mechanisms necessary to assure that the investment provides the returns the enterprise requires to meet its strategic objectives. In the large Enterprise, there may be multiple SAFe portfolios.
The SAFe Portfolio Level (Figure 1) contains the people and processes necessary to build systems and solutions that the enterprise needs to meet its strategic objectives.
Each SAFe portfolio has a two-way connection to the enterprise. One direction establishes the strategic themes for the portfolio that guide the business to changing objectives. The other direction provides a constant flow of feedback from the portfolio to enterprise stakeholders. This includes the current state of the portfolio’s solutions, value stream key performance indicators (KPIs), as well as qualitative assessments of the current solution’s fitness for market purpose, along with any strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats that are present at the portfolio level.
Highlights of the Portfolio level include:
- Value streams, each of which provides funding for the people and resources necessary to build one or more Solutions that deliver the value. Each value stream is a long-lived series of system definition, development, and deployment steps used to build and deploy systems that provide a continuous flow of value to the business or customer.
- Lean Budgeting provides for fast and empowered decision-making, with appropriate financial control and accountability.
- The Portfolio Kanban system makes the work visible and provides work-in-process limits to help assure that demand is matched to the actual value stream capacities.
The Portfolio level roles provide the highest level of accountability and governance, including the coordination of multiple value streams:
- Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) – is a function that 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 program guidance, and Lean governance.
- Epic Owners– take the responsibility for coordinating portfolio epics through the Portfolio Kanban system.
- The Enterprise Architect – works across value streams and programs to help provide strategic technical direction that can optimize portfolio outcomes. The enterprise architect often may act as an epic owner for enabler epics.
The following Portfolio level artifacts help describe and manage the strategic intent of the portfolio solution set:
- Business Epics – capture and reflect the new business capabilities that can only be provided by cooperation among value streams.
- Enabler Epics – reflect the architectural and other technical 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 the approved Business and Enabler Epics required to create a portfolio solution set that provides the competitive differentiation and/or operational efficiencies necessary for business success.
Learn More Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Portfolio. Addison-Wesley, 2011.
Last update: 17 June, 2017