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How to choose and prepare for a SAFe® certification course

Editor’s Note:

Original blog was published in July 2018, which has been edited based on the updated information.

Are you exploring SAFe certification courses and wondering which one is right for you?

SAFe has quickly become one of the most current developments and delivery frameworks for scaling agile in organizations. From an individual standpoint, as well as a team member, investing your time and effort in becoming SAFe certified will pave the way for success.

But it can be confusing to choose a course that aligns perfectly with your role. Through this blog, I would like to answer a few of the questions that you may have - what is agility, where to start, which courses to choose, how to prepare for classes, are there any books or articles that you can read and how can you make the most of the training?

The blog is divided into 4 sections so that you can easily find answers to your questions.

  1. Which SAFe certification should I choose?
  2. How to prepare for a SAFe class?
  3. How to prepare for the certification exam?
  4. Your next step after getting certified

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Career graph of a certified Agilist

Which SAFe® certification is ideal for you?

Your first step is to understand what each of the courses offers so that you can make an informed choice. 

SAI offers 13 SAFe® certifications, which includes framework-based courses and Role-based courses:

Framework-based courses:

  • Leading SAFe® (SA)
  • Implementing SAFe® (SPC)

Role-based courses:

  • SAFe for Teams (SP)
  • SAFe® Scrum Master (SSM)
  • SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master (SASM)
  • SAFe® Release Train Engineer (RTE)
  • SAFe® Product Owner/Product Manager (POPM)
  • SAFe® DevOps (SDP)
  • SAFe® for Government (SGP)
  • SAFe® for Architects (ARCH)
  • SAFe® Agile Software Engineering (ASE)
  • Agile Product and Solution Management - (APSM)
  • Lean Portfolio Management (LPM)

Framework-based certifications:

Leading SAFe® (SA) Certification - This 2-day course is an excellent starting point if you are new to SAFe as it covers the principles and practices of the Scaled Agile Framework, what it means to lead a Lean-Agile transformation and how to adopt a Lean-Agile mindset. This certification is also ideal if you are CSM or Agile certified, a leader in the organization, or preparing to be a part of the transformation team.

Implementing SAFe® (SPC) Certification - Is a four-day course where you will learn to coach programs, launch Agile Release Trains, build a continuous delivery pipeline, adopt DevOps culture, and empower a Lean Portfolio. Leading SAFe makes up the first two days of the course which will provide you with the basis of SAFe to teach Leaders, and the final two days focus on how to implement SAFe in your enterprise successfully.

During this course, you will learn how to lead a digital transformation as a Lean-Agile leader at an enterprise level by leveraging the practices and principles of the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), as well as the five core competencies of the Lean Enterprise. Becoming a Certified SAFe® 4 Program Consultant (SPC), and becoming a change agent, will enable you to coach and guide the enterprise to succeed in a disruptive marketplace and empower you to implement a Lean-Agile SAFe transformation. 

Role-based certifications:

SAFe® Practitioner (SP) Certification - If you are a part of an ART in a SAFe enterprise, the SP certification will provide you with the skills to perform your role successfully. During this 2-day course, you will gain an in-depth understanding of ARTs, learn how to write user stories, and plan and execute iterations. 

SAFe® Scrum Master (SSM) - During this two-day certification course, you will understand what it means to be a Scrum Master in a SAFe environment. The course explores the role of a Scrum Master at an enterprise level and prepares you to plan and execute Program Increments (Releases). You will also learn to build high-performing Agile teams by becoming a Servant Leader and Coach. SAFe SSM certification is ideal for new and existing Scrum Masters who want to understand their role in a SAFe enterprise.

SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master (SASM) - Is an advanced certification that prepares existing Scrum Masters to take on a leadership role in an Agile team or enterprise in a SAFe environment. This two-day course introduces Scrum Masters to scalable engineering, DevOps practices and the application of Kanban to facilitate the flow of value.  

SAFe® Release Train Engineer (RTE) - By becoming a certified RTE, you will be able to guide, coordinate, organize, and align all the teams with an Agile Release Train, participate in pre and post-PI meetings and drawn up PI objectives. This 3-day course is ideal for new and existing Program Managers, Release Train Engineers, Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, PMOs, and SPCs. You will gain an understanding of the role and responsibilities of an RTE in the SAFe enterprise and explore the skills needed to facilitate and enable end-to-end value delivery through Agile Release Trains (ARTs)—and learn how to build a high-performing ART through servant leadership and coaching

SAFe® Product Owner/Product Manager (POPM) - Is a two-day certification for Product Managers, Business Owners, Product Owners, and Business Analysts where you will understand how to relate your role to a Lean-Agile mindset. By becoming a certified SAFe POPM, you will be able to launch ARTs, plan PIs, and deliver continuous value for your organization.

SAFe® DevOps (SDP) - This course will build an understanding of the full flow of value from Continuous Exploration to Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, and Release on Demand. You will explore SAFe’s CALMR (Culture, Automation, Lean, Measure, Recover) approach to DevOps, which helps create a culture of shared responsibility for the full spectrum of Solution delivery. This two-day course provides a comprehensive overview for understanding the DevOps competencies needed to accelerate time-to-market by improving the flow of value through the Continuous Delivery Pipeline.

SAFe® for Government (SGP) - During this two-day course, you will learn the principles and practices of the Scaled Agile Framework®, how to execute and release value through Agile Release Trains, and what it means to lead a Lean-Agile transformation of a program inside a government agency and will learn how specific leadership behaviors can drive successful organizational change, even in government. You’ll also get practical advice on building high performing, multi-vendor Agile teams and programs, managing technology investments in Lean flow, acquiring solutions with Agile contracting, launching the program, and planning and delivering value using SAFe.

SAFe® for Architects (ARCH) - This course is for senior technical contributors who need to understand the role of System, Solution, and Enterprise Architects in Lean-Agile enterprises. The direction is also appropriate for individuals desiring a more in-depth view into how architecture enables continuous value flow and how architects engage in and contribute to, a Lean-Agile enterprise. During this three-day course, you will explore the roles, responsibilities, and mindset of Agile Architects, and appreciate how to align architecture with business value and drive continuous flow to large systems-of-systems while supporting SAFe program execution.

SAFe® Agile Software Engineering (ASE) - During this three-day workshop, you will learn the principles and practices that make up the Agile Software Engineering discipline. You will learn proven methods to detail, model, design, implement, verify, and validate stories in a SAFe Continuous Delivery Pipeline. You will also know the practices that build quality into code (abstraction, encapsulation, intentional programming) and designs (SOLID, Design patterns). You will even understand how Software Engineering fits into the broader solution context and their role in collaborating on intentional architecture and DevOps.

Agile Product and Solution Management - Beta (APM) - This course will investigate the tools and activities to use continuous exploration, design, build, and manage your products throughout their product lifecycle. The Agile Product and Solution Management course is an interactive, three-day course that provides product managers with the product mindset, skills, and tools that they need to create successful products using agile techniques. 

Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) - In this course, you will be able to establish portfolio flow with the Portfolio Kanban and prioritize efforts for maximum economic benefit. The course also provides insights on how to build Value Stream Budgets and measure Lean portfolio performance. In this three-day course, one will gain the practical tools and techniques necessary to implement the Lean Portfolio Management functions of Strategy and Investment Funding, Agile Portfolio Operations, and Lean Governance.

For detailed information on each of the courses, you can visit the

Scaled Agile or Temenos+Agility SAFe® Training and Certifications page.

 

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Founding concepts of the Scaled Agile Framework

How to prepare for a SAFe certification class?

It is always a good idea to read about the course beforehand to familiarise yourself with common terminologies and gain an understanding of the Scaled Agile Framework.

I had compiled a list of articles that I found to be useful when I attended my first SAFe class.

Basics of SAFe

Basics of Agile

Basics of Scrum

Basics of Kanban

Basics of XP

Basics of Lean

Basic of DevOps

Basics of Lean Startup

Servant Leadership

Systems Thinking

How to prepare for the SAFe certification exam?

SAI places great importance on the ability of each student to fulfill their role in a SAFe environment successfully and has designed the certification exam accordingly. The exam will test you on your theoretical and practical knowledge, how well you understand the concepts during training and your experience. It is essential that you prepare for the SAFe certification exam rigorously and apply Lean-Agile principles to real-life scenarios to gain a deeper understanding.

Remember to refer to the big picture for all topics and study the Scaled Agile Framework in detail. You can visit the Scaled Agile website for more details about the exam.

After your training, you will have access to the SAFe community platform where you will find relevant study material, practice tests, and any other useful information that you might need to help clear the test. 

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Create growth opportunities for yourself and your enterprise

Your next step after getting certified

As a certified SAFe Agilist, you have embarked on a life-long journey of learning and adapting.  

The most crucial aspect of any certification is to implement the new knowledge in a way that it works for you. To help you understand the profound impact that the Scaled Agile Framework has on enterprises, and how organizations have adopted the Lean-Agile mindset, you can explore the following books.

  • User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development, Mike Cohn
  • Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland
  • The Lean Machine, Dantar Oosterwal
  • The Goal, Eliyahu Goldratt
  • Switch, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Coaching Agile Teams, Lyssa Adkins
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni
  • Meeting by Death, Patrick Lencioni
  • Agile Software Requirements, Dean Leffingwell
  • Agile Retrospectives, Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
  • Principles of Product Development Flow, Don Reinertsen
  • Lean Product and Process Development, Allen Ward and Durward Sobeck II
  • The Decision to Trust, Robert F Hurley

Additional books you can read

  • The Machine that Changed the World, Lean Thinking - James Womac
  • Toyota Kata - Mike Rother
  • The Phoenix Project, DevOps Handbook - Gene Kim
  • Lean Startup, The Startup Way - Eric Ries
  • Mind Open Wide and Where Good Ideas Come From - Steven Johnson
  • David Rock- Coaching With the Brain in Mind, Your Brain at Work, Quiet Leadership
  • Dave Gray -The Connected Company, Game Storming, Liminal thinking
  • Peter Senge - Fifth Sense
  • Frederic Laloux - Reinventing Organizations
  • Dave Logan - Tribal Leadership
  • Brian Robertson - Holacracy
  • Clayton Christensen- Innovator’s Dilemma
  • Geoffrey Moore - Crossing the Chasm
  • Jens Maier - Ambidextrous Organization
  • Jacob Morgan - Future of Work, Employee Experience Advantage
  • Carol Dweck – Mindset

Videos that are worth a watch

A significant point to remember while attending a SAFe certification course is that you need to actively participate during the training, ask questions, and apply the knowledge to your enterprise/role. This will ensure that you draw great value from the certification and excel in a SAFe environment.

Kindly visit Temenos+Agility Event page for details on upcoming SAFe courses near you. Temenos+Agility is a SPC Gold Partner of SAFe, offering SAFe certification courses across the globe.


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