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What’s new in SAFe 6.0 – Business Agility Value Stream

SAFe has existed for a decade and every 2 years or so we get to see a new version of SAFe, which is, in my view, incredible. This is one of the reasons SAFe, as a framework, was very successful in large enterprise transformation.

One of the new elements added to SAFe 6.0 is Business Agility Value Stream.

Strengthen the foundation with Business Agility (BAVS)

Every enterprise struggle to achieve business agility, due to the following reasons.

  1. Enterprise starts as a network organization, and later moves as a hierarchical organization:

Every enterprise starts as a fast, adaptive startup company, which is focused on customer centricity. Since it is small, everyone understands the customer in depth. The culture of the enterprise revolves around customer centricity.

Picture1

However, over a period, it grows as a large enterprise and the result of the large enterprise is inheriting a “Hierarchical organization” culture, where the structure is given high importance. Due to this, customer centricity goes away and the focus is more on sustainability. Customer Centricity and Innovation go away.

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SAFe has already brought the 2nd operating system called the “network operating system” without disturbing the hierarchy. Network operating system brings structure like Development Value Stream, Agile Release Train, etc. This has fixed the problem of hierarchical organization to a large extent and given exponential business results to the enterprise.

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  • Value Stream thinking missing in Business Agility

In spite of the results achieved, there is still a challenge, because large enterprises still don’t know how to release value to customers from inception in the shortest time.

The world is changing so fast that the needs of a user/customer are discovered, and it becomes critical to fulfilling the needs in a short time. This is a typical challenge that enterprises face today. It is proven that any business opportunity takes 18-24 months to realize and deliver to customers.

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To solve this organizational challenge, SAFe brought a concept called “Business Agility Value Stream”.

Business Agility Value Stream

It is a value stream that enables business agility in the shortest time. It is designed to foster rapid learning and enable more favorable business outcomes. Though SAFe is based on Lean, Agile, DevOps, and Systems Thinking, what is missing is the flow of value from “market sensing” to “delivering value” to customers.

It is the formal way of establishing the flow from concept to cash in business agility. Look at the below picture. It clearly depicts the flow of value for any new business opportunity.

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It has got 8 steps from sensing the opportunity to learning and adapting based on customer feedback. Let’s go over each step quickly.

Step 1: Sense the Opportunity

sense opportunity

This step enables activities like market research, analysis based on quantitative and qualitative data, getting frequent feedback from customers on the new opportunity, observation of customers through Gemba, etc.

Lean-thinking leaders do a lot of observation with customers at their workplace to find challenges and identify opportunities that need innovative solutions.

This step requires Organizational Agility Core competency of 7 SAFe competencies.

Step 2: Fund Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

fund MVP

Once the business opportunity is identified through Step 1, it is critical that identify the MVP of the business opportunity to build, NOT building the entire business opportunity.
This is because the opportunity that was sensed has to be quickly validated in the market and for that, it is key to build an MVP and go to market.
“Lean Portfolio Management (LPM)” core competency is required to support the “Fund MVP” step.

Step 3: Organize Around Value

Organize Around Value

Now it’s time to build the MVP.
It can either be built with an existing ART / Development Value Stream OR in some extreme cases it would require building a new ART / Development Value Stream.
This step requires 2 core competencies – Team and Technical Agility and Organizational Agility

Step 4: Connect to the Customer

Connect to customer

Customer Centricity is all about creating positive experiences for the customer through the customer’s journey.
Once the MVP is built, take it to the customer and validate if it serves the purpose.
Before delivering to a customer, it is key to connect with the customer first with empathy. Customer Centricity tools like Design Thinking can help empathize with the users.
Agile Product Delivery” is the key competency to enable this step.

Step 5: Deliver MVP

Deliver MVP

There is a proverb “Proof of the pudding is in the eating”. This step is to deliver the MVP that is built for customers for faster feedback.
There is definitely a big difference between getting feedback on
a.Feature of a matured solution versus
b.MVP that is built the first time.
MVP needs faster feedback and multiple times in a short time to make sure we are in the right direction.
In the beginning, Agile Product Delivery competency is key to enable this step, however in the longer run, Enterprise Solution Delivery competency would be required.

Step 6: Pivot or Persevere

Pivot or Persevere

The feedback from customers will validate the hypothesis. The outcome of the hypothesis validation can be
1. Persevere: The MVP is serving customer needs and hence needs to build the whole product
2. Pivot 1: The idea that was built as MVP is good, however, it needs to be pivoted to a new segment like – customer, geography, persona, etc. This would need a redesign of the MVP for a new segment.
3. Pivot 2: The idea is not good, and needs to be killed immediately without any additional effort.
This decision point is a crucial milestone in LPM competency.

Step 7: Deliver Value Continuously

Deliver Value Continuously

The moment MVP (hypothesis) is validated, start delivering value continuously. To deliver continuously, focus on enabling DevOps and optimize Continuous Delivery Pipeline.
Productivity is not the utilization of people but enabling a steady flow of value to customers. It is the ability to release based on customer demand and not based on internal ability.
Hence, enable CD pipeline capability to make sure the value is delivered to customers based on customer demand.
The CD is part of the Agile Product Delivery competency…

Step 8: Learn and Adapt

Learn and Adapt

Learning through the right measurements is key to continuous improvement.
Measure from 3 different aspects
1. Competency
2. Flow
3. Outcomes
All three will provide a holistic view of the transformation. Continuous Learning Culture is the key competency to be looked to continuously measure, learn, and adapt.

Core Competency required to enable Business Agility Value Stream

While going through this article, it looks probably simple to enable and follow each step of this value stream, however, it is very hard. To achieve this, we need a strong “Lean-Agile Leadership” competency in the organization. Without this competency, it would be impossible to achieve these steps.

How do you measure Business Agility Value Stream?

Step 8 mentioned above is applicable even for the Business Agility value stream. Let’s define measurements based on

  1. Flow–Flow metrics like load, distribution, velocity, time, and efficiency should be measured for BAVS flow.
  2. Outcomes – Define outcomes-based measurements like Value Stream KPIs to define the outcomes of the BAVS – for ex., the number of market sensing ideas validated in a time period, the average time to decide on MVP, referrals from customers due to speed at which we deliver, etc. These measurements are quantifiable and objective. Trending data on these KPIs will allow you to predict better than a single information point. Define 4-7 KPIs measures, not more than that.
  3. Competency – Define and measure the competency at 2 levels
    1. Business Agility Assessment – overall assessment to measure all 7 competencies
    1. Individual competency assessment – for each SAFe core competency to understand the maturity of the competency

Images source: Scaled Agile, Inc. (https://www.scaledagile.com)

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