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 high-level description of the iterative and experimental nature of the product development process. First, this is reflected in the description of epics as hypotheses. Second, this is the basis for explicitly incorporating the Lean Startup strategy and looking at customer value with 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 the aim is to ensure that new market and customer requirements are regularly considered and that new epic or features are found in cooperation with customers and other stakeholders
- Continuous Deployment, the infrastructure that ensures that new features can also be delivered reliably, in high quality, and in small increments up 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 so far, so a lot of care now goes into describing in detail what a successful pipeline must 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.