Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) became a popular choice for organizations looking to scale Agile because leaders wanted to replicate the success of teams piloting Agile and extend it to cover their entire Software value stream. But implementing SAFe is understandably challenging as it requires tens and sometimes hundreds of employees to be on the same page and internalize the new way of working. Organizations still struggle with getting the best of both worlds; agility and predictability, which SAFe intends to help with. SAFe offers its own CD pipeline and provides guidance on how to get to a one-click deployment capability. This article will introduce you to the SAFe continuous delivery pipeline and the best practices for developing a CI/CD pipeline for a Scalable Agile Framework.
Implementation of SAFe is not a one-time activity; rather, it is a continuous effort that takes time to find the right balance and optimize the organization’s structure.
How does a SAFe Continuous Delivery Pipeline work?
Continuous delivery is an approach to releasing software that treats releases such as new features or bug fixes as routine and predictable action items. Being a key enabler to DevOps mindset, it aims to eliminate barriers between development and operations, enabling teams to quickly build, test, and deploy new code with no downtime. Teams use proven tools, automation technologies, and workflows to design their continuous delivery pipeline from inception to production roll-out. A well-executed continuous delivery pipeline enables teams to develop applications more frequently.
One of the key aspects of Agile Product Delivery is a well-functioning pipeline. In the SAFe world, all the assets and technologies required to deliver the solution’s value can be built and maintained individually by each Agile Release Train (ART). New functionality is deployed in small batches to meet market demand using the pipeline’s first three components (Continuous Exploration, Continuous Integration, and Continuous Deployment).
With the help of a Continuous Delivery Pipeline, an Agile Release Train (ART) can release new features to customers much more frequently than they could before. The term “continuous” might signify different things for different individuals. Continuous may show weekly or monthly releases, depending on the needs of the market and the objectives of the company.
Components of a SAFe Continuous Delivery Pipeline
The essential components of the SAFe continuous delivery pipeline (CDP) include Continuous Exploration, Integration, Deployment, and Release on Demand. Use the CDP to restructure your pipeline and then iterate to provide more value to your customers. Improved performance is driven by feedback loops that connect internal and external moving parts. Internal feedback loops improve processes, whereas external feedback improves solutions. By fostering collaboration, it enables the organization to “create the right thing, the right way.”
Continuous Exploration (CE) is a method for reaching consensus on what must be built. CE utilizes design thinking to ensure the business understands the market challenge or customer demand, as well as the needed solution. In response to consumer feedback or market research, an idea or hypothesis is developed. Ideas are researched and studied to develop a Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF) or Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Existing designs and solutions are used to study how they can be improved. The ultimate step toward convergence is determining which capabilities and features best meet customer and market needs. The Program Backlog defines and prioritizes them.
SAFe describes four main CE activities:
- Hypothesize describes how to generate ideas and measure their effectiveness with customers.
- Collaboration and Research define how to communicate with clients and stakeholders in order to discover potential requirements.
- Architect describe the practices required to envision a technical approach that allows for rapid implementation, delivery, and ongoing operations support.
- Synthesize explains how to organize ideas for PI (Program Increment) planning into a holistic approach, a roadmap, and a prioritized program backlog.
Continuous Integration (CI) is concerned with the implementation of the Program Backlog and validating them in staging environment before they are ready for deployment. Agile Teams act on well-thought-out ideas; Developers commit code and like to receive immediate feedback on whether their code changes are performing as expected – Continuously integrating the code changes to ensure the system is functioning as expected. A system or solution is tested end-to-end before being deployed to a staging environment for further testing.
SAFe defines four CI activities:
- Develop explains how to implement stories and commit code to your version control.
- Build discusses deploying binaries and merging development branches.
- Test describes how to validate a solution.
- Staging denotes hosting and testing the system in a pre-production environment.
Continuous Deployment (CD); Changes made in staging are automatically deployed to production. They are now being tested and monitored for feedback. Businesses can decide when to go live with the new features to their customers and can respond, rollback, or fix forward as necessary.
SAFe’s CD comprises four key activities:
- Deploy to production describes how to deploy a solution to an operational environment
- Verify represents the practices that are necessary to make sure it is working in production before making them available to customers.
- Monitor describes the procedures used to keep track of and respond to any production-related problems.
- Respond and recover describes actions taken to quickly resolve issues encountered during deployment.
Release on Demand (RoD): It is the ability to deliver value to clients quickly or gradually, depending on the market and business needs. This allows the company to release at the right time for the market while carefully managing risk. Release on Demand operations like maintenance and enhancements are critical to keeping a solution stable and valuable.
SAFe defines four RoD practices:
- Release describes how to deliver the solution to users all at once or in a phased roll-out manner.
- Stabilize and operate describes the process of ensuring whether the system is meeting functional and non-functional point of view.
- Measure used to assess whether newly released features deliver the intended value.
- Learn describes how to decide what to do with the data and prepare for the next CDP loop.
Tips to build a sustainable SAFe Continuous Delivery Pipeline
All Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Release Trains include continuous delivery pipelines to automate the build and deployment of releases. Manually building and deploying releases was tedious and error-prone, but modern automation techniques make it consistent, fast, and reliable. Here are some ideas to help you establish a continuous delivery pipeline.
1. Analyze your current workflow
A continuous delivery pipeline is more effective when it’s based on your team’s current workflow. Your starting point determines how software changes will move through your existing process and what challenges you face in each step. Start by mapping it out to get an idea of what steps are involved and which jobs may need to be automated or eliminated. This will help you identify opportunities for improvement.
2. Integrate the Continuous Delivery Pipeline with the existing workflow
Once the current flow has been identified and understood, it is easier to integrate the SAFe Continuous Delivery Pipeline into the existing workflow. Mapping helps in creating a unified vision for the business and provides a means to effectively communicate improvements and changes. Ensure that the process is transparent to your team so that they don’t feel pressured or lost. Continue using existing tools and processes, or, if needed, switch to new ones. Keep changes minimal until they are proven. In order to ensure a smooth deployment process, it is important to conduct automated tests. It doesn’t matter how well-designed your deployment process is if it deploys buggy software.
3. Establishing a cross-functional team
Creating a change coalition is important to any transition. Consider what makes a quality scrum team when assembling a transformation team to lead change. A cross-functional team is a group of people who have all the skills to come up with, build, test, and deliver a whole piece of work without having to delegate it to someone else. Self-organization allows them to find the most effective way of doing specific tasks.
When teams are organized cross-functionally, conflicting priorities can be resolved by ensuring that all members of the team are working towards the same goal, improving the customer experience. Organizing teams cross-functionally can improve iteration speed, resource efficiency, and accelerate innovation.
4. Workflow Automation
A key component of continuous delivery is automation. A robust and automated workflow will allow you to be nimbler as your product evolves. You can deploy quickly and often, both on-premises and in-production environments. Automation also makes it easier to monitor progress—if you can see what’s being done, when it’s being done, by whom, and where problems are occurring, then you can identify pain points more quickly and address them faster.
5. Adopt Automation mindset
It’s no secret that manual deployments are error-prone and tedious. Therefore, we embrace automation as part of our deployment process. To set yourself up for success with automated deployments, you need to adopt an automation mindset from day one. The goal should be to build software and systems in such a way that they can be easily deployed without worry.
6. Monitoring Continuous Delivery
Monitoring is one of the most important aspects of deploying software. Monitoring will help you understand how fast you can release new versions of your software, which builds are included in each release, and how quickly code changes propagate to production. You would want to know when and why failures happen so you can quickly diagnose and fix problems, as well as measure progress towards goals.
Defining your own SAFe Agile Framework Continuous Delivery Pipeline
To achieve continuous delivery and business value, you must build your infrastructure and applications to manage rapid changes without affecting users. To save development time and keep your users satisfied, you’ll need to build SAFe continuous delivery pipeline.
Qentelli’s Scaled Agile Framework solutions make it easier for our clients to apply Agile concepts to their most complex, large-enterprise software efforts. With the SAFe continuous delivery pipeline, management issues can be addressed effectively. Streamlining all phases of software development and maintenance, from ideation to implementation and ongoing support, gives 360 ° insight into the entire software value stream. Our Scaled Agile Framework solution combines strategy and execution to accelerate innovation, maintain your agile portfolio, and optimize work for teams so that they can provide faster products and services to their customers. To learn more about Qentelli SAFe Continuous Delivery approach, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org