With the recent emergence of remote SAFe training, the number of SAFe certification providers appears to have exploded. In many cities across the world you will find multiple Scaled Agile training classes being offered by different providers every week. The choice is simply overwhelming. With so many providers; how do you distinguish between them? Assuming it's not practical for everyone to attend SAFe training by Pretty Agile, I thought I would share some thoughts on factors to consider when choosing a SAFe agile training provider.
The first consideration is the company providing the training,
Scaled Agile Inc. the certifying body for the Scaled Agile Framework has a large partner network. While taking a SAFe certification class from Scaled Agile Partner is not a guarantee of quality, it is an indicator that the provider is committed enough that they are prepared to pay a fee to be part of the Scaled Agile Partner program. With the exception of the Gold SPCT partner level, the levels are indication of level of investment rather than level of expertise.
You can find a partner or check if a provider is a partner by going to: https://www.scaledagile.com/find-a-partner/ From the partner listing page you can find out a heap of information about the partner, including some data that may indicative of the partner's depth of experience . For illustrative purposes a screenshot of the Pretty Agile listing is provided below.
This is a partner that has a SAFe Practice Consultant Trainer (SPCT) on their team. According to Scaled Agile Inc. the SPCT certification is the most advanced certification you can achieve with SAFe. Partners with SPCTs will have the Scaled Agile Partner Gold SPCT badge. While this is not a guarantee of quality it can be an indicator. If the instructor is an SPCT they should have a reasonable depth of experience with SAFe.
“As is the case with any certification, you should carefully evaluate SAFe instructors and consultants, and make sure that they have demonstrated experience that is relevant to the role you are asking them to take on. Do not rely on certifications alone as a measure of the skills of a consultant or prospective employee. A notable exception to this is the SAFe Practice Consultant Trainer (SPCT) certification, which does require demonstrated experience with agile, software development or product management, training and consulting. If you’re hiring someone who has [an] SPCT certification, you can be confident that they do have experience in these areas, as well as experience with SAFe implementation at multiple organizations. However, SPCTs are in short supply. As of February 2020, there are fewer than 100 people worldwide holding this certification.”- Gartner, “A Technical Professional’s Guide to Successful Adoption of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe),” Kevin Matheny, Bill Holz, 13 April 2020
Of course, even if the partner has an SPCT this is not a guarantee that the SPCT is mentoring the SAFe instructors employed by that partner. Eg. A large partner with a single SPCT based in Europe, is probably not an indicator of the quality of the partner's teams in other geographies like Australia, as the time overlap is not friendly.
The Scaled Agile Partner program was initiated in 2013. The Scaled Agile partner finder provides the partner commencement date for all partners except those who have joined recently. For the more recent partners the "Partners since" field is not displayed. It seems reasonable to assume the longer the partner has been a partner the more experienced they are with SAFe.
Another data point the Scaled Agile Partner finder provides is the number of people who have attended SAFe training delivered by the partner. While there are close to 400 partners in the network, only about 20 have delivered over 4,00 classes. You can further contextualise this data by looking at the size of the organisation as theses counts likely include the providers own staff.
You might think that the cheapest price is the best price but remember you get what you pay for! Scaled Agile Inc. provides pricing guidance for all SAFe certification classes. For the most part providers tend to follow this guidance for the 3 and 4-day classes but less so on the more popular 2-day classes.
If someone is offering the same SAFe certification class at a significant discount you might want to consider what is driving this. Questions to consider:
Scaled Agile Inc. requires two trainers for remote delivery of Implementing SAFe and Leading SAFe. From my understanding the rationale for this is twofold: (1) class feedback indicated that classes with two trainers are higher quality and (2) classes that include the PI Planning simulation benefit from a second trainer. While the Scaled Agile policy applies to only two specific remote SAFe classes, our experience indicates that any class delivered by two instructors is a better quality class. It is also worth noting that the SAFe Scrum Master and SAFe for Government courses also include the PI Planning simulation.
Guaranteed to run SAFe training is an interesting phenomenon that emerged when the Scaled Agile training market started flooding a few years back. My best guess is that many providers were cancelling classes, resulting in some providers starting to use “guaranteed to run” as a marketing strategy. Here is the thing with a “guaranteed to run” class, the class may well run, but be prepared to be the only student!
While this might seem like a win, it is not. All certified Scaled Agile training classes included numerous group exercises, so the quality of the learning experience in a very small class is likely to be suboptimal. Scaled Agile recommends a minimum of 12 participants for all classes. This guidance is based on in person training. Given our experience with remote SAFe training over the past 5 months, slightly smaller classes are workable for online SAFe classes. So when choosing a provider you might like to ask about average class sizes.
On the other hand, if you are worried about the provider you choose cancelling, do some research. How many classes does the provider have on offer in the region? Anecdotally we hear that the partners that are listing the most classes (what we call calendar flooding) are cancelling 9 out of 10 classes. There are plenty of solid providers in the market who very rarely cancel classes, however they probably list each type once a month or once a quarter depending on popularity.
The provider isn’t the only factor you should consider. You should also give serious consideration to the specific individual instructor(s) that will be delivering the class.
Personally, I think it is a red flag if the training provider has not listed the specific instructor(s) for each class on their website. Without this information you have no way to gauge the instructors experience. This could also be an indication the provider does even have an instructor for the class! For example, from time to time we get calls from providers asking us if we have instructors available for a class they have sold and don't actually have qualified instructors to deliver.
It is important to understand that not all instructors are equal. The qualifications required to teach any SAFe class (except Implementing SAFe and SAFe Release Train Engineer) is as follows:
So, in case it is not clear - no practical experience with SAFe is required to teach any SAFe class (except Implementing SAFe and SAFe Release Train Engineer).
So do some research! Check our the bios of the instructors. You should be able to find these on the Scaled Agile website, the providers website or you can even check out LinkedIn.
SPCs that qualified prior to 2020 will have an SPC4 badge and should have completed their upgrade to receive their SPC5 badge if they are teaching a 5.0 class. There is no digital badge for SAFe 3.0 but you can always check out their LinkedIn profile and see when they got their SPC.
In our new “working from home” world, providers are starting to offer classes in new geographies. At the same time, the opportunity to attend a remote SAFe training class from a provider in another geography has become an option for the first time. This may open up opportunities for you. We certainly have had a handful of folks from the US, Canada and even Europe who are happy to work some odd hours to attend one our classes (even though they are delivered on Australian time). But I’m not sure I would be so interested in taking a class being delivered by someone who is working from midnight to 8am in the UK to deliver a class in Australia! I also think in these uncertain economic times I would factor in how I can support the providers I respect in my local economy.
Another consideration, if you are looking to start to implementing SAFe after attending a class, is that ability of the partner to support you in the geographical regions your organisation operates in.
Perhaps the most reliable way to choose an instructor is to ask your friends and colleagues about their experiences. They will be able to talk to the quality of the training set up and the instructors.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. At a minimum all SAFe agile training providers should be able to answer questions about tools and timing for the class you are interested in.
Whoever you choose to use for your next SAFe class, I hope you have a truly awesome learning experience. ‘Till next time, #StaySAFe.