One of the great parts of the SAFe framework is the emphasis on usage of industry standard practices like Scrum and XP (Continuous Integration, Pair Programming, Test-Driven Development, and Acceptance Test Driven Development) at this level. Scrum provides the light framework for teams to deliver “done” software at a regular cadence and XP provides many of the disciplined technical practices that make it possible for teams to be hyper-productive.
So, even though the number of teams in a SVS is small (1 – 4 teams), to be truly agile, the practices within each team still require frameworks like Scrum and practices like XP.
Regarding SAFe’s Potentially Shippable Increment (PSI) cadence and synchronization, these elements do impact teams but still fit very well in the SVS pattern. All of the SAFe concepts around Lean Product Development Flow still apply to the SVS pattern. These organizations benefit from a common cadence across SVS’s for aligning program intent delivery or synchronization of commonly used technology stacks. Therefore, PSI’s are still very useful in an SVS pattern organization. Because it is more the exception for needing coordination of business intent across SVS’s, each SVS can generally develop useful, marketable intent in shorter timeframes. Therefore, the PSI for an SVS organization might not need a full suggested 8-12 weeks (i.e., 3 – 5 two-week development sprints plus the Hardening-Innovation-Planning (HIP) sprint). In my experience at SVS organizations, there is often the ability to align to shorter PSI’s (4 – 5 weeks). Especially if the SVS organization invests properly in continuous integration, the overhead for releasing to production can be small enough (<= 1 week HIP sprints) to favor the value of releases getting out the door at a higher frequency. SAFe does provide for the release cadence being faster than the PSI cadence. However, I have found that the value of a HIP sprint, and in particular the Hardening intent of the HIP sprint, synchronized across the many SVS’ is often necessary to get to a viable production release.
In summary, the Team level of SAFe works pretty much as-is for organizations with the SVS pattern. Some of the SAFe Program Level elements do have impacts on operation of the Team Level. These team-impacting elements include Release Planning and Inspect & Adapt Workshops. These will be covered in the next article on the Program Level.