Professionals collaborate around a screen; one types, another holds blueprints, and a third presents a light bulb idea. Background features gears and a clock.

Exploring the Power of Enablers in the Scaled Agile Framework

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) has gained tremendous popularity in recent years as organisations look for ways to scale Agile practices and deliver value at an enterprise level. SAFe provides a structured approach that aligns teams, helps manage dependencies, and integrates work across multiple Agile Release Trains (ARTs). In order to successfully implement SAFe, various enablers are required to support and accelerate the adoption of the framework.

Enablers are essential elements that help organisations achieve their desired outcomes by providing the necessary tools, processes, and resources. These enablers could be technology, infrastructure, architecture, or even caertain skills and expertise. They play a critical role in bridging the gap between strategy and execution, enabling organisations to effectively implement Agile principles and practices at scale.

This article will explore the different types of enablers in the Scaled Agile Framework and how they contribute to the success of organisations adopting SAFe. We will discuss their importance in supporting key areas such as portfolio management, value stream identification, and technical solution delivery. By understanding and harnessing the power of enablers, organisations can unlock the full potential of SAFe and navigate the complexities of scaling Agile in the enterprise.

What are Enablers in SAFe?

Enablers, within the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), are crucial catalysts that facilitate a seamless agile journey, ensuring a conducive environment for value delivery. They come in four distinct types: Infrastructure Enablers, Compliance Enablers, Architectural Enablers, and Exploration Enablers, each serving a unique purpose. Infrastructure Enablers lay a robust foundation for Agile teams, Compliance Enablers ensure adherence to regulatory requisites, Architectural Enablers fortify the agile architecture for scalability, and Exploration Enablers ignite the spirit of innovation. Together, they transcend beyond mere backlog items, embodying the essence of agility and fostering a landscape where Agile practices scale efficiently, driving continuous improvement and innovation. As we delve deeper into SAFe, embracing enablers becomes a necessity, setting a solid groundwork for our agile endeavours.


Enablers as product backlog items

In our journey towards scaled Agile excellence, understanding enablers as product backlog items is essential. When we transition into an Agile framework, our focus sharpens on value delivery, and this is where enablers come into play. They are not merely tasks or checkboxes, but powerful tools in our backlog, propelling us towards streamlined operations and continuous improvement.

In a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), enablers are segregated into four types, each holding its own significance. But what binds them together is their representation as product backlog items, ensuring we have a clear roadmap for each step of our Agile adventure. This makes the incorporation of enablers in our product backlog an Agile imperative. When we define an enabler, its role extends beyond a backlog item—it sets a clear path for functionality, compliance, and infrastructure improvements.

Just like any story in the Agile narrative, enablers are articulated with a definition of done, acceptance criteria, and a clear hypothesis that needs validation. This methodical approach ensures we're not veering off course, and our Agile release train stays on the right track. They are interwoven into our product owner's strategy, ensuring that the backlog isn’t merely a list, but a well-structured plan harnessing the potential of enablers to the fullest.

An enabler epic, for instance, is a prime example of how enablers as backlog items are at the heart of Agile development. It acts as a precursor to future business requirements, making sure we are well-equipped and ready to tackle upcoming challenges.

Now, let’s look at the practicality of enablers. They ensure our architectural runway is extended, ready to support upcoming features and capabilities. This isn’t just theory but the core of applying Agile principles effectively. The practicality of enablers in the product backlog mirrors our commitment to an organised, value-driven approach.

In addition, enablers facilitate a robust compliance framework. Being compliant isn't a checkbox but a journey, and enablers as product backlog items are crucial companions in this journey, making sure we adhere to the necessary regulations while advancing towards our goals.

As a firm rooted deeply in Agile practices, we extend our expertise in not only implementing Agile but ensuring that every aspect of SAFe is comprehended and utilised efficiently. Through a thorough understanding and effective management of enablers as product backlog items, we ensure your transition into the Agile world is smooth, well-structured, and above all, value-driven.

Types of Scaled Agile Framework Enablers

As we move through the Agile seas of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), enablers become our guiding stars. They're not just buzzwords; they're important parts of our Agile gear. The SAFe divides drivers into four different categories: Exploration, Architecture, Infrastructure, and Compliance. Let's delve into each one and explain what it means.

  • Exploration

Exploration enablers fuel our innovation engine. They're the seeds from which groundbreaking ideas sprout. Through exploration enablers, we traverse the unknown, testing hypotheses, and validating assumptions. It's the playground where our Agile teams can think outside the box, come up with ingenious solutions, and iterate towards perfection.

  • Architecture

When it comes to laying down a strong foundation for our projects, architectural enablers take centre stage. They assist in extending the architectural runway, ensuring that our systems are robust, scalable, and ready to accommodate future features and capabilities. We focus on building a resilient architecture that stands the test of time and aligns seamlessly with our business epics and portfolio vision.

Two individuals interact with a large gear with a checkmark in a green setting, using a telescope and pencil, symbolizing process feedback.

  • Infrastructure

As the backbone of our Agile endeavours, infrastructure enablers ensure our technical landscape is not just functional but primed for Agile release trains. They support the development, deployment, and smooth operation of our solutions, creating a conducive environment for our Agile teams to thrive and deliver value incessantly.

  • Compliance

In the world of SAFe, compliance isn’t a mere tick on the checklist; it’s a journey of adherence to standards, regulations, and best practices. Compliance enablers help us navigate through this journey seamlessly, ensuring we’re always on the right side of laws and regulations. They embed compliance within our Agile lifecycle, making it an integral part of our delivery pipeline rather than an afterthought.

When these tools are revealed, it's like opening doors to a world full of options. As we learn more about each type, we find ways to improve our Agile practices and ensure that the principles of our scaled Agile framework don't just work in theory, but also in the real world. By recognising and using these enablers wisely within our SAFe framework, we're not only following Agile principles, but we're also raising our game to a level where Agile change is no longer just a dream.

Create and Manage Enablers

Using the scaled Agile framework is like setting sail in a vast ocean of possibilities, where enablers act as the compass and lead us to a world of organised chaos and constant improvement. These things, whether they take the form of stories, epics, or features, are the key to turning vague ideas into real answers. They are the quiet but powerful gears in the SAFe machine that power our journey through the rough but exciting seas of Agile transformation. In this part, we'll talk about the art and science of creating and managing enablers. Enablers are the unsung heroes that help us navigate the waters of compliance, build the roadmap, and explore uncharted territory, all while ensuring our organisation stays on track towards its North Star.

Enabler Epics

When we strive to excel in Agile, we encounter the term "enabler epic." Enabler epics are a key part of the scaled Agile structure. They help us explore broader technical questions and lay the groundwork for future business features. They are like the seeds that are planted today for a thriving building runway that will let us walk with confidence into the future.

When we delve into enabler epics, we're essentially nurturing the pre-conditions for success in our Agile journey. They guide the Agile release train (ART) seamlessly over the compliance tracks, ensuring that we are not derailed by unforeseen technical debt or architectural inadequacies as we steam ahead towards our objectives.

We, in our Agile endeavour, rely on enabler epics to unlock the door to exploration enablers, heralding the initiation of deeper dives into the realms of feasibility and architectural alignment. They stand as the guardians at the gates of our backlog, ensuring that what enters aligns with the long-term vision, extending the architectural runway, and ensuring a smooth flight towards achieving our portfolio's overarching goals.

The beauty of enabler epics lies in their ability to be tracked as enabler stories within the programme increment (PI), thus, facilitating the continuous validation and adaptation essential in our Agile voyage. They pave the path for Agile teams to integrate their work frequently, fostering a culture of continuous reflection, integration, and improvement.

An infographic image of increment As we define, build, and traverse through the enabler epics, each step is a stride towards reinforcing our Agile architecture, refining our value streams, and elucidating the acceptance criteria for our future endeavours. It's not just about meeting the business requirements of today, but foreseeing and preparing for the requirements of tomorrow.

Enabler epics are more than just a concept; they are a practice, a culture, and a commitment to foresight, continuous improvement, and the relentless pursuit of a streamlined, responsive, and resilient Agile framework. Through the lens of enabler epics, we see not just the challenges of today, but the possibilities of tomorrow.

Enabler Stories

Enabler Stories are essential threads in the fabric of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), shaping the prelude to functionality narratives within Agile teams. Here's how they orchestrate a harmonised approach to Agile projects:

Scope Definition:

Enabler stories set the scene, guiding through the maze of requirements to structure epic narratives effectively.

Infrastructure Blueprint:

Acting as infrastructure enablers, they sketch the architectural runway's framework, preparing us for future business functionalities.

Compliance Integration:

They untangle compliance complexities, ensuring smooth passage through regulatory requirements without stifling innovation.

Backlog Management:

Seated in the backlog, enabler stories balance between functional and non-functional requirements, ready to tackle functionality needs.

Guiding Agile Release Train (ART):

They lay the tracks for the Agile Release Train, ensuring a seamless journey towards each Programme Increment.

Exploration Facilitation:

Exploration enablers within enabler stories foster a culture of validation and learning, driven by curiosity.

Feedback and Validation:

They instil a feedback-centric culture, aligning steps with Agile rhythms and client expectations.

Training and Transformation:

Enabler stories craft real-world scenarios for Agile training, nurturing an environment ripe for Agile maturity.

Enabler stories, in essence, are the choreographers in the Agile narrative, meticulously orchestrating the rhythm of functionality and infrastructure to the Agile beat. Through their lens, navigating the Agile waters becomes not just achievable, but a voyage towards continuous success.


In the fast-changing business world, following the principles of the scaled Agile framework isn't just about managing projects well; it's also about building a culture of collaboration, continuous improvement, and quick response to changes in the market. The detailed look at enablers like design, infrastructure, and compliance has shown the way to building both skilled teams and leaders with a clear vision. These parts make up a strong organisational system that can keep going even when things don't go as planned.

We, at inPositiv, stand as active participants in this Agile narrative, extending beyond basic service offerings to act as catalysts on your Agile transformation journey. Transitioning to an Agile framework with the right guidance, training, and tools isn’t a daunting task, but a voyage of continuous learning and enhancement. The move towards Agile corporate leadership is an exhilarating venture, filled with opportunities to innovate, adapt, and excel, unlocking the boundless potential inherent within your organisation in this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world.

Contact Us