The greater the potential for reward in the value portfolio, the less risk there is.

—Warren Buffet

Portfolio SAFe

Portfolio SAFe provides strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance for one or more value streams.

Portfolio SAFe (Figure 1) helps establish strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance for the value streams that constitute a portfolio. It describes the roles, events, and artifacts to help those accountable for the overall business outcomes and the challenge of defining, communicating, and aligning strategy with execution. It includes the following constructs:

Figure 1. Portfolio SAFe Configuration
Figure 1. Portfolio SAFe Configuration


A SAFe portfolio aligns strategy to execution via a collection of Development Value Streams. Each develops one or more Solutions the portfolio needs to accomplish its business mission and vision, operating under a shared governance model.

The portfolio is a collection of related development value streams that organize Agile Teams and Agile Release Trains around the solutions needed for a particular business area. It provides essential funding and minimum governance, including Lean Budget Guardrails that facilitate decentralized decision-making. The portfolio helps ensure value streams focus on building the right things with the appropriate level of investment in solutions to meet the portfolio’s strategic objectives.

The remainder of this article describes the highlights, roles, events, and artifacts present at the portfolio level (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Portfolio level elements
Figure 2. Portfolio level elements

Portfolio Level Highlights

Highlights of the Portfolio level include:

  • Portfolio Flow – Describes how Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) provides a continuous flow of Epics to achieve the portfolio’s vision and enterprise business objectives.
  • Strategic Themes are portfolio-level business objectives that provide competitive differentiation and strategic advantage.
  • Portfolio Vision – The portfolio vision represents the future desired state of a portfolio’s Value Streams and solutions. It describes how they will cooperate to achieve their objectives and the broader aim of the Enterprise.
  • Portfolio Backlog – The Portfolio backlog contains business and enabler Epics needed to create and evolve the portfolio’s products, services, and systems that typically cross multiple value streams and PIs. These epics are visualized and managed through the Portfolio Kanban, where they proceed through various process states.
  • Big Data – SAFe addresses’ big data’ concerns at the portfolio level as it requires vision, investment, some degree of centralization, and governance within and across the value streams within the portfolio.
  • Lean Budgets – Lean budgeting allows fast and empowered decision-making, with appropriate financial control and accountability through Guardrails.
  • Participatory Budgeting – A collaborative process for allocating the portfolio budget to its value streams.
  • Value Stream Management – Value Stream Management (VSM) is a leadership and technical discipline that enables the maximum flow of business value through the end-to-end solution delivery life cycle.
  • Coordination – Value Stream Coordination defines how to manage dependencies and exploit the opportunities that exist in the interconnections between value streams.
  • Development Value Streams – Every development value stream funds the people and resources needed to build Solutions that deliver value to an internal or external customer.
  • Solutions – The portfolio’s products, systems, or services that the development value streams build and maintain for their related Operational Value Streams.
  • KPIs – Value Stream Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the quantifiable measures used to evaluate how a value stream performs against its business objectives.


The following roles provide the highest level of accountability and governance within a portfolio, including coordinating multiple value streams.

  • Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) is a function fulfilled by individuals with decision-making and financial accountability for a SAFe portfolio.
  • Epic Owners collaboratively define the epic, including a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Lean business case, and facilitate its implementation when approved.
  • Enterprise Architects provide the strategic technical direction and roadmap, enabling a portfolio to support the current and future business capabilities.


The following events support the alignment of strategy with execution:

  • Portfolio Sync provides visibility into how well the portfolio is progressing toward meeting its strategic objectives. It typically includes reviewing the value stream and ART execution and governance of other portfolio investments.
  • Participatory Budgeting enables LPM to collaborate with Business Owners and other relevant stakeholders to right-size the investments in value streams. It helps manage the approval process of epics in the portfolio Kanban.
  • Strategic Portfolio Review enables LPM to create alignment and investment guidance to inform rapid, high-quality, decentralized decisions, adapt to meet changing needs, and provide governance to respond effectively to new and changing opportunities.


The following artifacts help describe the strategic intent of the portfolio solution set:

  • Strategic Themes are portfolio-level business objectives that provide competitive differentiation and strategic advantage.
  • Portfolio Canvas defines the portfolio’s value propositions, key resources and activities, cost structure, and revenue streams.
  • Guardrails describe the portfolio’s policies and practices for budgeting, spending, and governance.
  • Portfolio Epics – represent the more substantial investments within a portfolio. These large initiatives typically cross multiple value streams and PIs. There are two types of portfolio epics: Business Epics and Enabler Epics.
  • Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) – define system attributes such as security, reliability, performance, maintainability, scalability, and usability and serve as constraints or restrictions on the system’s design
  • Portfolio Backlog contains the business and enabler epics needed to create and evolve the portfolio’s products, services, and systems. The Portfolio Kanban system manages the portfolio backlog.


Learn More

[1] Knaster, Richard, and Dean Leffingwell. SAFe 5.0 Distilled: Achieving Business Agility with the Scaled Agile Framework. Addison-Wesley, 2020.


Last update: 13 March 2023