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The 21st century executive

The SAF Framework for Startups: How to make the best decisions

saf framework

Growing startups are faced with a number of strategic decisions to make on a daily basis, yet very few actually follow any set of guidelines for making such decisions. In this article you will discover what is the SAF framework and how to make the best decisions when the stakes are high.

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As startups are innovative by nature, their decisions are often concerned with the selection of new products, new features, new customer segments, and new business models. Compared with traditional businesses that can follow industry norms, startups have fewer precedents on which to base their decisions.

This short introduction to the SAF framework provides a simple method for assessing decisions and alternatives in order to make better decisions regularly.

What is the SAF framework?

The SAF framework is a way to give visibility to your decision-making process, and compare options using set criteria. SAF analysis uses three assessments for making good decisions: Suitability, Acceptability, and Feasibility (SAF).

  1. Suitability

Does this option do what the company wants it to do?

  • What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  • Does it use the company’s strengths?
  • How would we define success?
  1. Acceptability

Does this option provide an acceptable return?

Returns don’t necessarily have to be financial; however, it is important to find metrics for the results you’re trying to achieve. This step should also take into account the risks associated with the option you’re considering as they will have a strong bearing on how you calculate the return.

  1. Feasibility

How well can we execute this option?

An assessment of the company’s ability to make a successful outcome:.

  • Do we have the resources to do this successfully?
  • Is this part of our skillset?
  • Do we have the right people?

Practical use: the SAF framework .vs. the SAF matrix

The SAF matrix is a scoring system used to compare strategic options by evaluating them against the SAF criteria.

When considering a number of different strategic options, the idea is to give each strategy a score for suitability, acceptability, and feasibility, then add up the scores to give a total for each.

The matrix requires that you choose the criteria for each score, and these criteria will be unique to each company and each decision. 

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What other frameworks are helpful?

There are a number of frameworks that can be used to help you better understand your company, market, and situation, and these can be useful for devising the criteria for the SAF matrix.

SWOT: A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis.

PESTLE: A framework for assessing the external factors that could impact the business. The components are political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental.

Five Forces: A framework to assess the forces that shape your marketplace. The five forces are buyer power, supplier power, threat of substitution, threat of new entry, and competitive rivalry.

SOAR:  Strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results. A method for assessing the different aspects of potential options and aligning goals with them.

Completing one or more studies using these frameworks can be useful preparation for the SAF analysis, which is usually the last step of the decision-making process. 


Understanding your own decisions

A successful startup is the result of a combination of hundreds of well-made decisions. Innovative companies in their early years often have few guidelines, yet founders must find ways to make decisions, resolve arguments, and get buy-ins from other stakeholders like investors and board members. 

The SAF framework is certainly a way to formalize the use of common sense in making strategic decisions, but the biggest benefit may be that the SAF matrix gives startup founders and executives a more intuitive radar for spotting unsound or risky decisions within the company.

Extra help with strategic software decisions

When making strategic decisions regarding your company's software, you must have a clear view of your software development operations.

The Foreworth platform can help! It helps you make informed software development decisions by giving you the opportunity to see an instant snapshot of any software and allows you to compare it with historical data on that same software. Moreover, with Foreworth, you’re given a set of key, actionable insights to make the most informed strategic decisions possible. Book a demo today to learn more.

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About the author
Elena Leralta

Working as Foreworth’s Chief Financial Officer, Elena possesses a wealth of knowledge on business management and finance owing to her over 20 years of experience working in the financial sector.

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