In the time of rapid digitalization and demanding citizen expectations in an uncertain world, governments worldwide are testing agile methodologies to improve service delivery and drive efficiency. One agile methodology gaining attention is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), a comprehensive approach to scaling agile practices across large organizations.
SAFe, developed by Dean Leffingwell, provides a structured framework for implementing agile practices at an enterprise level.1 It builds up a structured set of roles, ceremonies, and attributes that enable alignment, coordination, collaboration, and continuous delivery. It helps organizations to scale agile principles and synchronize efforts across multiple entities and departments. SAFe for government is an adaptation of the SAFe framework specifically tailored to the needs and challenges of government organizations. This method provides a structured approach to implementing agile practices at scale, allowing government entities to effectively respond to uncertain citizen demands, improve their service delivery, and drive digital transformation across initiatives.
The GCC region has been at the forefront of digital transformation initiatives, with countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), and Qatar leading the charge due to high demand. The region's governments are recognizing the need to restructure and follow global trends in service delivery, promoting innovation, and responding rapidly to citizen demands with adoption of new delivery methodologies. SAFe for government provides a viable solution to address the upcoming challenges by enabling agile transformation at scale.
Several GCC governments have successfully implemented SAFe methodologies, integrating them into their governance execution and planning structures. For instance, the Dubai government adopted the methodology to enable collaboration and streamline the development and delivery of its e-Government services. Likewise, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology used SAFe to drive digital transformation across various government entities. The Abu Dhabi government has been actively looking for digital transformation initiatives for the adoption of SAFe for government, forming a key component of the emirate’s strategy. Along with leadership commitment, agile transformation roadmap, training, and capacity building, the government of Abu Dhabi has invested in programs to equip their employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to utilize SAFe. By aligning value streams across different government departments and entities, the UAE government can improve collaboration, prioritize work, and deliver value more efficiently. Ensuring effective governance, the UAE has established agile governance structures and performance measurement mechanisms. These frameworks provide feedback and transparency, track progress, and enable decision-making based on real-time data and metrics.
A host of benefits
Government structures often have complex organization like value streams that involve multiple stakeholders, departments, entities, and their projects. SAFe for government helps identify and align these value streams, allowing organizations to prioritize work, streamline processes, and ensure on-time delivery.
SAFe promotes cross-functional collaboration, breaking down silos and fostering a culture of teamwork. SAFe allows government organizations to leverage the benefits of agility across multiple initiatives and projects. It brings better resource allocation, prioritization, and alignment of organizational objectives. With the adoption of an iterative and incremental approach, government entities can receive immediate feedback to address citizen needs, and respond to changing requirements, and enhance the overall citizen experience. With focusing on continuous delivery, SAFe ensures faster deployment of solutions - faster “time-to-market”. This speed is crucial for governments within the GCC region to introduce new services and initiatives for uncertain demand. Government entities have unique compliance and governance requirements that need to be addressed during their portfolio execution. To help with these needs, SAFe for government provides guidelines and mechanisms to ensure compliance with regulatory frameworks, security protocols, and regional standards.
While SAFe offers multiple advantages, its implementation in the government sector presents numerous challenges that needs to be considered.
Agile methodologies often require a cultural shift, which usually bring resistance within classic government structures. Encouraging collaboration, transparency, and continuous improvement requires change management efforts and leadership support. Government employees need to be trained and upskilled to adopt the change and understand its added value to their daily work. Training programs, integration with existing processes and creating a learning culture will enable successful SAFe implementation. However, integrating SAFe with existing frameworks and ensuring compatibility will be a complex and time-consuming.
The following examples demonstrate how the UAE and Saudi governments leveraged SAFe to drive digital transformation initiatives. By adopting SAFe, government entities in the UAE were able to overcome challenges, streamline processes, and effectively respond to the evolving needs of their citizens, positioning themselves as leaders in digital government practices.
The Dubai Smart City initiative aimed to transform Dubai into a global smart city hub. To achieve this vision, the Dubai Government adopted SAFe to streamline its digital transformation efforts. SAFe facilitated collaboration and alignment among various government departments involved in the initiative. By implementing SAFe, the Dubai government successfully developed and deployed key projects, such as the Dubai Smart City platform, which integrates multiple services and enhances the city's overall efficiency and quality of life.
The Abu Dhabi government embarked on a digital transformation journey to improve service delivery and enhance citizen experiences.2 SAFe was adopted to align and coordinate the efforts of multiple government entities involved in the transformation initiative. By implementing SAFe, the Abu Dhabi government achieved better collaboration, improved efficiency, and accelerated project delivery. This led to the successful deployment of various digital services, such as online government transactions, e-learning platforms, and smart city solutions.
The UAE Ministry of Interior recognized the importance of digital transformation in ensuring effective and efficient security and law enforcement services.3 SAFe was implemented to enable the ministry to scale agile practices across its departments and projects. By adopting SAFe, the ministry improved coordination, enhanced communication, and accelerated the delivery of critical projects. This allowed them to enhance public safety and provide citizens with modernized and citizen-centric services.
Dubai Customs, responsible for regulating the flow of goods into and out of Dubai, embraced SAFe to enhance its operations and improve customs services.4 SAFe enabled Dubai Customs to align various departments, such as customs clearance, inspection, and customer support, to work collaboratively and deliver value more effectively. The implementation of SAFe facilitated faster customs clearance processes, reduced paperwork, and improved customer satisfaction.
SAFe implementation allowed the ministry to streamline digital transformation efforts across various government agencies.5 By adopting agile practices, they improved stakeholder engagement, accelerated project delivery, and enhanced citizen-centric services.
The future of SAFe for the region’s governments appears promising. Governments are exploring how it can support the adoption and streamlining of technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT), while ensuring efficient integration with existing government systems and processes. By using SAFe, the public sector can achieve better collaboration, agility at scale, customer-centricity, and faster time-to-market. While challenges exist, addressing cultural transformation, training needs, process integration, and compliance will pave the way for successful SAFe implementation.