SAFe 4.5 places much more emphasis on describing good practices for a delivery pipeline that provides a solid foundation for a reliable, effective, and continuous value stream. In some implementations, an underestimation of these underlying imperatives has led to mixed success at best.
What is new is the explicit description of the iterative and experimental nature of the product development process at a high level. On the one hand, this is reflected in the description of epics as hypotheses. On the other hand, this is the basis for an explicit incorporation of the Lean Startup strategy and the consideration of customer value with the Lean-UX (User Experience) principles.
The Continuous Delivery Pipeline of an Agile Release Train represents the workflows, activities, and automations required for continuous value creation and delivery to the end user.
In SAFe, this pipeline consists of four elements:
- Continuous Exploration, where it is ensured that new market and customer requirements are regularly considered and that new epics or features are found in cooperation with customers and other stakeholders.
- Continuous Deployment, the infrastructure that ensures that new features can be delivered reliably, in high quality, and in small increments to a staging environment.
- Continuous Delivery describes what it takes to deliver features to the staging and production environments so you can deliver anytime. This is now more clearly separated than before from release cycles, which can be influenced by external market requirements, strategic decisions, compliance approvals, and much more.
- Develop in sync, deliver on demand. Separating the development cycle from continuous delivery remains a mantra in SAFe and is emphasized even more in version 4.5 than before. This ensures that the system is ready for delivery at any time and that the development progress is in a defined state. Apparently, however, this has not been done successfully in every implementation to date, so a lot of care now goes into detailing what a successful pipeline needs to look like.
Together, these four elements provide the foundation for an integrated Lean and Agile strategy for faster release of value to the customer and avoid reversion to a linear process.