New Case Study: UK National Health Service safeguards national blood supply with SAFe

New Case Study: UK National Health Service safeguards national blood supply with SAFe

Case Studies SAFe Updates

Adopting SAFe has set in motion the skill development and mindset for successful organizational change even as we scale to new programs, Release Trains, and people.
—Gary Dawson, Assistant Director, Solutions Delivery


case-study-box-nhsFor organizations operating in highly regulated industries, the transition from Waterfall to Agile adds an additional layer of risk to what is already a daunting undertaking. Rapid and vast change, if not done properly and with cross-organizational collaboration, has the potential to be disruptive and actually hinder advancement.

We know that SAFe is emerging as a solution in regulated industries, so we’re always glad when we get a chance to peek inside one of these transformations. The folks from the United Kingdom’s NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) have shared their SAFe story, and there’s much to learn from what appears to be an exemplary model for how to make the move from Waterfall to Agile in a phased approach without tipping over the boat.

NHSBT supplies safe blood to hospitals in England, and tissues and solid organs to hospitals across the United Kingdom. When the organization set out to revolutionize the way it interacts with blood donors, it needed to adopt a new technical platform and architecture. Yet it was clear its previous waterfall approach wouldn’t support the change. IT leaders also worried that change could impact the core business and the working relationships of employees.

With the help of Scaled Agile Partner, Ivar Jacobson (IJI), NHSBT chose SAFe to help support the governance and manage both the organizational and technical changes. They committed to a coaching and training plan—including a strategic Program Increment (PI) cycle—that ensured SAFe was adopted by employees with secure checkpoints and feedback along the way.

From the first PI onward, they noticed a difference in team effectiveness. In that first PI, they were able to deliver a committed, finite number of product features, as well as prioritize IT operations alongside the business part of the organization. Having delivered the first MVP in one of its programs, it’s now clear that the introduction and embedding of SAFe within NHSBT has provided significant, early business benefits.


We would never have had that level of interaction in a waterfall delivery. To achieve the levels of understanding of both the technology and deliverables—along with all the inter-dependencies— would have taken months of calls, meetings, and discussions. We planned the next three months in just two days and now we retain that level of engagement on a daily basis.”

—Gary Dawson, Assistant Director, Solutions Delivery


Today, SAFe is part of everyday procedures at NHSBT, and it is poised to reach even more programs and people. Already, they have held two SAFe planning events for a potentially much larger program to replace its core blood offering system.

Make sure to check out the full case study for insights and inspiration; there’s a good amount of substance there that would be useful to any organization considering a move to SAFe, especially for those working in regulated industries.

Many thanks to Gary Dawson, Assistant Director, Solutions Delivery, NHSBT; and Brian Tucker, Principal Consultant and SPCT, IJI.

Stay SAFe!
—Dean

Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

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