ArticleFebruary 11, 2021 · 4 min read time
It’s been a little over a year since SAFe 5.0 was released and it continues to integrate learning from practices proven in organizations across the globe, all the way until today. Now the latest update (5.1) has been released. Let’s look at the highlights!
The changes introduced in this release are obviously much smaller than when 5.0 was released (more about SAFe 5.0 here) but still there are a number of interesting updates:
1. Updated Team organization guidance, based on the book “Team topologies” by Manuel Pais and Matthew Skelton
In the past SAFe has stated that most development organizations consist of a combination of Feature and Component teams, with emphasis on the former. As we now learned more about team types, SAFe is replacing Feature/Component teams with a more elaborate model suggested in the book. It defines four types of teams:
Stream-aligned - instead of Feature or Component teams the Team Topologies book adopts the term “Stream-aligned team”, which emphasises the flow. This type of team is able to deliver end to end as much as possible – or work together with other teams to enable flow. In SAFe, a number of Stream-aligned teams can work in the same Value Stream or Agile Release Train towards common goals.
Complicated subsystem - teams that work within a specific area where the knowledge domain of that area is characterized by the need of very deep expertise. For example, these could be teams that are developing a camera sensor subsystem or video streaming codec. In SAFe, complicated subsystem teams typically provide their work to be integrated with any number of outcomes created by Stream-Aligned teams.
Platform teams provide a platform enabling stream-aligned teams to focus on delivering features, without having to understand and develop the underlying services often common to many other teams. In SAFe, platform teams could work as part of an agile release train offering platform services to other agile release trains.
Enabling teams are composed of specialists in a specific domain, such as security or cloud services. They focus on working with other teams and spreading their knowledge to them, seeing themselves as servants of the other teams.
The main principle for organizing teams should still be to enable flow. Most teams should be stream-aligned.
There is also new guidance introduced on how to split a large Value Stream, inspired by the ideas presented in “Team Topologies”.
This guidance helps organizations to define Agile Release Trains with a healthy mix of aforementioned team types. It aims to create an end-state vision for how the competences in teams and Agile Release Train best support fast quality releases, based on what spearhead organizations around the world have learned.
2. Business & Technology Teams
The team guidance for Business-oriented teams (that work in Operational Value Streams) and Technology-oriented teams (that work in Development Value Streams) is now more clearly separated.
We expect to see more guidance on how Business Teams benefit from Agile way of working within Operational Value Streams in the future!
3. Portfolio level, more emphasis on Solutions
Traditionally, a portfolio has been a collection of projects, and within SAFe it has been stated as a collection of (Development) Value Streams. Now SAFe 5.1 takes a significant leap in re-defining what is a portfolio: it defines Portfolio as a set of Solutions developed and maintained by Agile Release Trains. So your company’s portfolio consists of the set of digital solutions that you use internally or provide to your customers.
Hopefully this change helps organizations to finally remove the use of projects within their portfolio, and move to continuous flow in all areas!
4. Value stream guidance
In the past SAFe has made a, sometimes implicit, distinction between two different types of Value Streams: Operational Value Streams and Development Value Streams. Now when there is more experience from different companies on both of these Value Stream types, SAFe 5.1 presents more concrete examples from typical industries.
Four different Operational Value stream types are presented. Most organizations should recognize among them the type of operational value stream they have. Likewise SAFe 5.1 also introduces patterns on how different Development Value Streams can be formed, also inspired by the “Team topologies” book.
Forming Agile Release Trains has been a challenging task in the past; the new guidance makes forming and reforming Agile Release Trains and Solution Trains easier!
5. SAFe Big Picture graphics improvements
There is a challenge in how to make the graphics of the Big Picture reflect the ever ongoing adaptive learning cycles in the organization. For this reason the graphics of the Big Picture have been enhanced, leading to:
Triple infinity loop Continuous Delivery Pipeline, CDP (DevSecOps is an infinitely ongoing process)
Release on demand emphasized also in the big picture
Solution icon replaced with Design thinking product icon (the Solution is a product of Design thinking)
Behind each of these (seemingly small) changes is an important conceptual change: modeling and understanding the development organizations in new ways that make application and use of SAFe easier than before!
Starting from February 10th, 2021 all our upcoming - both public and private - classes will be organized based on the improved version 5.1.
If you want to learn more about SAFe, check our upcoming training or contact us for further discussion!