Organizational Agility

The Organizational Agility (OA) competency describes how Lean-thinking people and Agile teams across the enterprise optimize their business processes, evolve strategy with clear and decisive new commitments, and quickly adapt the organization as needed to capitalize on new opportunities.

Organizational Agility is one of the seven core competencies of Business Agility, each of which is essential to achieving Business Agility. Each core competency is supported by a specific assessment, which enables the enterprise to assess its proficiency. The Measure and Grow article presents these core competency assessments and recommended improvement opportunities.

Why Organizational Agility?

In today’s digital economy, the only truly sustainable competitive advantage is the speed at which an organization can sense and respond to the needs of its customers. Its strength is its ability to deliver value in the shortest sustainable lead time, to evolve and implement new strategies quickly, and to reorganize to address emerging opportunities better.

Organizational agility is critical to respond sufficiently to challenges. Unfortunately, most businesses’ organizational structures, processes, and cultures were developed more than a century ago. They were built for control and stability, not innovation, speed, and agility. Small incremental changes to how businesses manage, strategize, and execute are insufficient to remain competitive. This requires a leaner and more Agile approach which, in turn, requires sweeping changes that have a positive, long-lasting impact on the entire enterprise.

The SAFe approach to addressing the challenge of digital transformation is the ‘dual operating system’ (see Business Agility). This approach leverages the stability and resources of the existing organizational hierarchy while implementing a value stream network that leverages the entrepreneurial drive still present in every organization. By organizing and reorganizing the enterprise around the flow of value instead of the traditional organizational silos, SAFe restores the second (network) operating system. It allows organizations to focus on the innovation and growth of new ideas and the execution, delivery, operation, and support of existing solutions.

The organizational agility competency is instrumental in bringing the power of the second operating system to support the opportunities and threats of the digital age. This competency is expressed in three dimensions (Figure 1):

Figure 1. Three dimensions of organizational agility

Lean-Thinking People and Agile Teams

Everyone involved in solution delivery is trained in Lean and Agile methods and embraces their values, principles, and practices.

Lean Business Operations

Teams apply Lean principles to understand, map, and continuously improve the processes that deliver and support business solutions.

Strategy Agility

The enterprise is Agile enough to sense the market and quickly change strategy when necessary.

Each of these dimensions is described in the sections that follow.

Lean-Thinking People and Agile Teams

Lean-thinking people and Agile teams is the first dimension of organizational agility. This dimension is critical to delivering business solutions—not just the software applications and digital systems, but all supporting activities (privacy, security, support, availability) necessary to continually address the business problem. Even though the solution is not stand-alone, it lives in the larger context of its environment—including other hardware, software, network systems, and more.

Everyone involved in delivering business solutions—operations, legal, marketing, people operations, finance, development, and others—can apply effective Lean and Agile methods and embrace the mindset, values, principles, and practices.


Extending the Mindset, Values, and Principles to the Enterprise

Extending the Lean-Agile mindset to the entire enterprise forms the cornerstone of a new management approach and results in an enhanced company culture that enables business agility. It provides leaders and practitioners throughout the enterprise with the thinking tools and behaviors needed to drive a successful SAFe transformation, helping individuals and the entire enterprise achieve their goals.

The Lean-Agile mindset establishes correct thinking, but it’s the ten underlying SAFe principles that guide effective roles, practices, and behaviors. These principles are fundamental to organizational agility and the Lean-thinking people and Agile teams who enable it. Everyone in the enterprise can apply these principles to their daily work and become part of the leaner and more Agile operating system.

As Agile Teams begin to form, we’ve often observed a ‘three-step maturity cycle’ which illustrates how they develop and mature the practices that are particular to their domain. (Figure 2):

Figure 2. The Agile team maturity cycle
Step 1: Be Agile

First, the teams adopt and master the Lean-Agile mindset and practices. This creates a universal value system and a shared understanding of Agile. SAFe’s Lean-Agile principles and Lean-Agile Mindset guide the right thinking and behaviors for teams and their leaders. They provide a ‘North Star’ that points the way to being Agile, even when specific Agile guidance does not exist for that domain.

Step 2: Know your Value Stream

Next, teams must know how they participate in the organization’s flow of value within the operational and development value streams. Taking a system’s view of the value delivery process allows teams to understand where and with who most of their interactions occur. Value Stream Mapping helps understand the steps in value delivery and the boundaries of the value stream. Based on this knowledge, teams organize to increase productivity and deliver business value.

Step 3: Specialize the Principles and Practices

As teams and individuals mature, they must evolve their practices to define what Agile and built-in quality mean in their context. In this way, they make it their own. While driven by the same set of principles, the practices, and the methods in which they are applied, differ. Organizing around value, facilitating flow, planning, synchronizing, reviewing results, building quality, and delivering value depend on a set of unique parameters within which each team operates. Teams pick a simple starting point and continually adjust their way of working based on their individual experience with a set of practices. As already discussed here, many business and technology domains have already begun this journey.

Applying SAFe to Business and Technology Teams

As described in the Team and Technical Agility competency article, the emergence of Agile software development is fairly advanced and well understood. With the advent of the DevSecOps movement, IT operations and security are also rapidly adopting Agile. Agile is also making its way to other technical domains, such as networking, operations (see DevOps), hardware (see Applying SAFe to Hardware Development), electronics, and more. After all, Agile technical teams typically achieve a degree of unprecedented performance and personal satisfaction with their work. Who doesn’t want to be on a high-performing Agile team?

In addition, once the business understands this new way of working, it begins recognizing that the same benefits apply and typically starts creating cross-functional Agile business teams. These teams may be involved in any of the functions necessary to support developing and delivering business solutions, including the following:

Additionally, Built-in Quality practices in SAFe apply to Agile Business Teams, helping them improve the value of deliverables and achieve faster flow. No matter your business function, the steps to achieve quality with Agility include the following:

Patterns for Agile Business and Technology

While Agile Teams are essential to a SAFe enterprise, they are not enough. Enabling Organizational Agility requires higher-level constructs that facilitate responsiveness and speed enterprise operations. In addition to the foundational SAFe concepts such as ART, Solution Train, and Portfolio, the following organizational patterns have proven effective in extending agility throughout the enterprise:
PatternKey characteristicImportance to Organizational Agility
Business-Enabled ARTIncludes the business people needed to deliver a full business solutionIntegrates the business knowledge required to make effective solutions
Agile Business TrainBuilds and operates a full business solutionEmpowers employees and teams to define, build, test, deploy, support, and commercialize innovative business solutions with the shortest possible lead times
Agile Executive TeamExemplar, cross-functional Agile team with Team Coach and POSpeaks with one voice, fosters a more productive decision-making process, and instills a Lean-Agile Mindset by leading by example
Agile Business FunctionApplies Lean-Agile practices to streamline business operationsImproves speed and quality of the business function, improves interactions with organizational value streams, and provides transparency of workflow
Combined PortfolioIncludes operational and development value streamsEnhances strategy and governance with a holistic view of operations and development of solutions within a Portfolio
Additional guidance on these important structures appears in the Business and Technology article.

Agile Working Environments

To fully benefit from the Agile operating model, organizations design work environments that support collaboration, transparency, and the ability to focus on a task at hand. This is especially important in today’s highly distributed organizations. The Agile Workspaces article provides in-depth guidance on how to organize the high-performing Agile environment effectively.

Lean Business Operations

Lean business operations is the second dimension of organizational agility. Organizational agility requires enterprises to understand both the Operational Value Streams (OVS) that deliver business solutions to their customers and the Development Value Streams (DVS, which are the primary focus of SAFe) that develop those solutions.

Figure 3 illustrates the relationship between operational and development value streams.

Figure 3. Operational and development value streams
For many developers, the people who run the operational value streams are the customers of the development value streams. They directly use, operate, and support the solutions that support the flow of value to the end user. This requires that developers:
These responsibilities help assure that the business solutions developed provide a ‘whole-product solution’ to satisfy the needs of both internal and external customers.

Mapping Value Streams

Identifying operational and development value streams is critical for every Lean enterprise. Once identified, value stream mapping is used to analyze and improve business operations [2]. Figure 4 illustrates a simplified example of value stream mapping, which, in this case, shows a few of the steps in a marketing program launch.

Figure 4. Value stream mapping showing the total lead time, total processing time, and time efficiency

Teams look for the opportunity to improve the efficiency of each step, consequently reducing the total lead time. This includes reducing process time and improving the quality of each step measured by the percentage complete and accurate. (The percent complete and accurate represents the percentage of work that the next step can process without it needing to go back for rework.)

As is the case in the figure above, the delay time (the waiting time between steps) is often the most significant source of waste. If the team above wanted to deliver a marketing campaign faster, they would need to reduce the delay times, as the processing steps are only a small part of the total lead time. Reducing delays is typically the fastest and easiest way to shorten the total lead time and improve time to market.

Implementing Flow

SAFe Principle #6, Make Value Flow Without Interruptions, provides good guidance for establishing fast flow through the system. It includes accelerators that can use to improve flow in every organizational environment. For example, every flow system has a bottleneck constraining its throughput (Figure 5). Addressing the current bottleneck is one of the flow accelerators. Applying it elevates flow performance to a new level and reveals new bottlenecks that need to be addressed.

Figure 5. Bottlenecks reduce the flow of value through the value stream

Implementing flow is a comprehensive task that involves this and other accelerators that span from workers and their work environment to process steps and work items that pass through them.

Strategy Agility

Strategy agility is the third dimension of organizational agility. Strategy agility is the ability to sense changes in market conditions and implement new strategies quickly and decisively when necessary. It also includes the good sense to persevere on the things that are working—or will work—if given sufficient time and focus. Figure 6 illustrates how the strategy must respond to market dynamics to successfully realize the enterprise’s mission.

Figure 6. Strategy responds to market dynamics

Enterprises that have mastered strategy agility typically exhibit several capabilities, including those described in the following sections.

Market Sensing

Market sensing represents the culture and practice of understanding changing market dynamics based on the following:

Savvy, Lean-thinking leaders ‘go see’ and spend significant time in the place where the customer’s work is actually performed. They return with current, relevant, and specific information about the realities of their products and services instead of opinions filtered through other perspectives.

Innovating Like a Lean Startup

After sensing opportunities, the Lean enterprise visualizes and manages the flow of new initiatives and investments by adopting a ‘build-measure-learn’ Lean startup cycle [3]. These initiatives are often new business solutions but may also be new business processes and capabilities that use existing solutions. Testing the outcome hypothesis via a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) before committing to a more significant investment reduces risk while generating helpful feedback.

Implementing Changes in Strategy

Identifying and defining a new strategy is only the first step. Once determined, the strategy must be communicated to all stakeholders in a new vision and roadmap and then, of course, be implemented. After all, significant strategy changes often affect multiple portfolio solutions and require coordination and alignment. Consequently, most large strategy changes require new epics to implement the change across value streams.

Figure 7 illustrates how new epics go through the various Kanban systems and backlogs that manage the flow of work. During the ordinary course of work, all backlogs are continuously reprioritized. Kanban systems help changes in strategy move quickly across value streams to the teams who do the implementation. This way, execution is aligned—and constantly realigned—to the evolving business strategy.

Figure 7. Strategy change makes its way quickly through the network of dynamic backlogs

However, other smaller, local changes may require only new stories or features and will go directly into the team or ART backlogs.

Innovation Accounting

Evaluating the benefits of a change in strategy can take a long time. Traditional financial and accounting metrics, Profit and Loss (P&L) and Return On Investment (ROI), are lagging economic indicators that occur too late in the life cycle to inform the evolving strategy. In their place, Innovation Accounting applies leading indicators—actionable metrics focused on measuring specific early outcomes using objective data. They are an essential part of the economic framework that drives business agility.

Ignoring Sunk Costs

A key factor in strategy agility is ignoring sunk costs, the expenses that have already occurred during solution development. Sunk costs cannot be recovered or changed and are independent of any future costs a company may incur [4]. Because strategic decision-making affects only the future course of business, sunk costs are absolutely irrelevant when evaluating a change in strategy. Instead, decision-makers should base all strategy decisions solely on the future costs of the initiatives necessary to achieve the change. When stakeholders do not have to waste energy to defend past spending, the organization can pivot more quickly to a new strategy.

Organizing and Reorganizing Around Value

Finally, SAFe Principle #10 – Organize around value guides enterprises to align their development efforts around the full, end-to-end flow of value. This principle highlights the ‘dual operating system,’ one that leverages the benefits of the existing hierarchy but also creates a value stream network (Figure 8 below). This network assembles the people who need to work together, aligns them to the needs of the business and customer, minimizes delays and handoffs, and increases quality.

Figure 8. The network operating system can quickly reorganize around changing strategy

But as strategy moves, future value moves with it; new people and resources must be applied. In other words, some degree of reorganization is required. Indeed, in some cases, this will require entirely new value streams to be formed to develop and maintain new solutions. Other value streams may need to be adjusted, and some will be eliminated as solutions are decommissioned. Fortunately, the people and teams of an increasingly Agile enterprise see those changes coming through the portfolio. They can then use their new knowledge and skills to reorganize Agile teams and ARTs around value whenever it makes sense.

Agile Contracts

No portfolio is an island. Instead, each typically depends on other portfolios, suppliers, partners, and operational support, all of which require implicit or explicit contracts to deliver the value. Traditionally, these contracts are based on the assumption that requirements, deliverables, and service levels are known upfront and will remain stable. We know from experience that it is just not true. As strategy changes, these traditional contracts can become enormous impediments that lock the business into assumptions of a former strategy. Although the business would like to change strategy, it is blocked by existing contracts.

Achieving business agility requires a more flexible approach to all types of contracts. How this is achieved depends on the nature of the contract, but each must be considered in terms of the adaptability required. ConNo portfolio is an island. Instead, each typically depends on other portfolios, suppliers, partners, and operational support, all of which require implicit or explicit contracts to deliver the value. Traditionally, these contracts are based on the assumption that requirements, deliverables, and service levels are known upfront and will remain stable. We know from experience that it is just not true. As strategy changes, these traditional contracts can become enormous impediments that lock the business into assumptions of a former strategy. Although the business would like to change strategy, it is blocked by existing contracts. Achieving business agility requires a more flexible approach to all types of contracts. How this is achieved depends on the nature of the contract, but each must be considered in terms of the adaptability required. Contracts for suppliers that provide components, subsystems, or services for enterprise solutions are particularly critical as they may tend to lock solution elements into requirements that were fixed long before. The Agile Contracts advanced topic article provides guidance on contracting strategies that can provide the needed flexibility,


Without organizational agility, enterprises can’t react fast when things happen. To be fully responsive to threats and opportunities requires Lean and Agile ways of working to spread throughout the entire organization. This change demands a workforce trained in Lean-Agile practices and understands and embodies the culture, values, and principles.

Lean business operations recognize that delighting customers goes further than purely solution development. The entire customer journey, which includes delivering, operating, and supporting business solutions, must be continually optimized to reduce time to market and increase customer satisfaction. Strategy agility provides the ability to sense and respond to market changes, evolve and implement new strategies quickly, and reorganize when necessary to address emerging opportunities. As a result, ‘change becomes an opportunity, not a threat.’

Agility is principally about mindset, not practices.

― Jim Highsmith, Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products

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Agile Product Delivery

Specifically, you can take the time to develop and bring to the table an outside-in, market-centric perspective that is so compelling and so well informed that it can counterbalance the inside-out company-centric orientation of last year’s operating plan.

—Geoffrey Moore, Escape Velocity

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Agile Product Delivery

Agile Product Delivery is one of the seven core competencies of SAFe, which is essential to achieving Business Agility. The Measure and Grow article provides a self-assessment for each competency, including APD, to evaluate a team’s proficiency and identify improvement opportunities.

Why Agile Product Delivery?

Achieving business agility requires Agile Teams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs) to increase their ability to deliver innovative products and services rapidly. This capability requires balancing the focus on execution and customers, ensuring the creation of the right solutions, for the right customers, at the right time.

Figure 1 illustrates the three dimensions of APD:

  1. Customer Centricity and Design Thinking
  2. Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand
  3. DevOps and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline

The mutually supportive capabilities of the APD competency create opportunities for sustained market and service leadership.

Figure 1. Three Dimensions of APD
The following sections describe each dimension of APD.

Customer Centricity and Design Thinking

Customer centricity and design thinking comprise the first dimension of APD. This mindset and way of doing business put the customer first, at the enterprise’s core, to provide positive customer experiences and build long-term relationships.

Customer Centricity

Customer Centricity is a mindset and way of doing business that focuses on creating positive user experiences and customer engagement with the organization’s products and services. It puts the customer at the center of every decision, deeply considering the effect on its end users [1]. This mindset motivates long-term customer relationships, enabling more customer value, often in unexpected ways [2]. This dimension of APD encourages Agile Teams to:

  • Focus on the customer – Employ user and market research, including developing personas, to align and focus the organization on specific, targeted user segments.
  • Understand the customer’s needs – Invest time in identifying and building solutions that address these needs.
  • Think and feel like the customer – Apply empathy and strive to see the world from their customers’ point of view.
  • Build whole product solutions – Design whole product solutions for the user’s needs, ensuring that the initial and long-term user experiences are optimal and evolve as needed.
  • Create customer lifetime value – Move beyond a transactional mentality and focus on the overall customer relationship over the solution’s life. [2].

Customer-centric businesses create greater profits, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction. Customer-centric governments and nonprofits create resilience, sustainability, and the alignment needed to fulfill their mission.

Product Management is responsible for coordinating and bringing new solutions to market while ensuring the ongoing success of existing products.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is integral to customer centricity. It’s an iterative development process that ensures solutions are desired by customers and users while also ensuring the solution is feasible, economically viable, and sustainable throughout its lifecycle.

It has two main activities that result in a sustainable solution:

  • Understanding the problem – The problem space is where designers explore the problem, including its complex nature, and get a clear definition of the problem, gaining insight into the requirements and benefits of a desirable solution
  • Designing the right solution – The solution space is where ideas are generated, visualized, and prototypes are developed and tested.

Figure 2 shows the core processes of design thinking, illustrated as a double diamond. This process focuses on thoroughly exploring the problem space before creating solutions.

Applying design thinking during development ensures the solution is desirable, viable, and feasible. At the same time, understanding and managing solution economics results in a sustainable product or service.

Figure 2. Design thinking process and activities

Understanding the problem typically includes the following two activities:

  • Discover – Seeks to understand the problem by engaging with users and market research to identify unmet needs.
  • Define – Analyzes the discover phase data using convergent techniques to generate insights into the specific problems and unmet needs.

After exploration, the organization has the inputs to begin designing a solution, which often involves the following activities:

  • Develop – Applies customer journey maps and story mapping to quickly design potential, cost-effective solutions.
  • Deliver – Produces various artifacts that are suitable for creating the solution. These solutions often start as prototypes with continuous delivery from the ARTs.

Figure 2 also illustrates how divergent and convergent thinking are applied to exploring ideas, working towards goals, and addressing challenges. Both are necessary, and together they lead to unique solutions for challenges that require exploration and creativity.

Lean UX

In SAFe, Lean UX extends the traditional user experience design process beyond merely executing design elements and anticipating how users might interact with a system. Instead, it encourages a far more comprehensive view of why a Feature exists, the functionality required to implement it, and a hypothesis for its intended benefits. Leading indicators and getting immediate feedback from customers and end-users help determine if the system meets customer needs and business objectives. Lean UX provides a closed-loop method for defining, hypothesizing, building, measuring value, and learning.

In Lean UX, the designer’s role evolves more toward design facilitation— and taking on a new set of responsibilities. Besides Lean Startup, Lean UX has two other foundations: Design thinking and Agile development. Design thinking helps widen the scope of user experience work beyond mere interfaces and artifacts. It looks at the whole system and applies design tools to broader customer problems, relying heavily on collaboration, iterative approaches, and empathy as its core to problem-solving. [3]

Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand

Figure 3 illustrates the concept of developing on cadence and releasing on demand. It separates the concerns of developing solutions and releasing value, ensuring customers can get what they need when desired, which improves business agility.

Figure 3. Developing on cadence enables value to be released on demand

Why Develop on Cadence?

In a flow-based system, establishing routine development activities on a fast, synchronized PI cadence—a regular predictive rhythm of team and ART events—is a proven strategy to manage the inherent variability in product development. The following activities support this cadence:

  • ART events – The ART has several important cadence-based events: PI Planning, System Demos, and Inspect and Adapt. The PO and Coach Sync events are held throughout the PI to help eliminate impediments, remove bottlenecks, and communicate adjustments needed by the teams.
  • Agile Team events – PIs are divided into iterations, which help align Agile Teams and enable faster response to change. Team cadence-based events further support teams: Iteration Planning, Team Syncs (usually held daily), Iteration Review, and Iteration Retrospective.

Simply put, teams use a process optimized for highly variable knowledge work, providing a reliable series of events and activities on a regular, predictable schedule.

Why Release on Demand?

Releasing on demand provides a significant strategic advantage by making value available when customers, the market, and the business need it. In collaboration with stakeholders, Product Management determines when a release should happen, what elements should be released, and who should receive it.

Some products serve market segments that offer new functionality as soon as it’s available. While others may have distinct market rhythms that govern optimal release windows, as described in the Roadmap article.

Figure 4 illustrates the RoD processes by which new functionality is deployed into production and released incrementally or immediately to customers based on user or market demand.

Figure 4. The four activities of Release on Demand
  • Release describes the practices necessary to deliver the solution to end users, all at once or incrementally
  • Stabilize and Operate describes the practices needed to make sure the solution is working well from a functional and non-functional perspective
  • Measure describes the practices to quantify if the newly-released functionality provides the intended value
  • Learn describes the practices needed to decide what should be done with the information gathered and prepare for the next learning loop through the CDP

Building and maintaining a Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP) allows each ART to define, build, validate, and release new functionality to meet their PI objectives.

DevOps and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline

DevOps and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline lay the foundation that enables releasing value, in whole or part, at any time to meet demand.

While releasing on demand is a goal of the CDP, gaining the competency to reliably and skillfully release value whenever desired is hard work. It involves embracing the DevOps mindset and culture and creating an increasingly automated pipeline.

Each ART builds and maintains (or shares) a CDP with the assets and technologies needed to deliver solutions as independently as possible. The first three aspects of the pipeline, Continuous Exploration, Continuous Integration, and Continuous Deployment, support the delivery of new functionality, as illustrated in Figure 5.

Figure 5. The Continuous Delivery Pipeline
  • Continuous Exploration promotes innovation and aligns with what should be built. Design Thinking continually explores customer and market needs, defining a Vision and Roadmap.
  • Continuous Integration builds quality into the development process by continuously integrating many Agile Teams’ work.
  • Continuous Deployment represents the processes associated with migrating solutions from staging to production.

As noted earlier, Release on Demand (Figure 4) is the ability to make value available to customers all at once or in an ad hoc fashion based on market and business needs.

Embracing DevOps Mindset, Culture, and Practices

High-performing organizations use DevOps to dramatically outperform competitors by delivering and supporting their products and services to respond to customer demands faster.

Figure 6 illustrates that Dev is frequently in a fast-forward mode, trying to keep pace with the constant demand for changes and innovation. At the same time, Ops often presses pause on changes because they are accountable for production stability and resiliency.

DevOps aligns efforts across development, operations, and other business functions to achieve an optimal balance of speed and stability.

Figure 6. DevOps fosters collaboration across all functions

Ultimately, DevOps is a mindset, a culture, and a set of technical practices that provides solution elements to the customer without handoffs or too much external production and operations support. As illustrated in Figure 7, SAFe’s approach to DevOps is grounded in five concepts: Culture, Automation, Lean Flow, Measurement, and Recovery (CALMR), briefly described below.

Figure 7. SAFe’s CALMR approach to DevOps
  • Culture – A culture of shared responsibility is needed for fast value delivery across the entire Value Stream. All relevant departments help create value, including development, testing, security, compliance, operations, architecture, and more.
  • Automation – Automation is used to reduce or eliminate human intervention from the CDP to decrease errors and reduce the overall cycle time of the release process.
  • Lean flow – Fosters limiting work in process (WIP), smaller batches, and reducing queue lengths. In other words, they Make Value Flow without Interruptions (Principle #6) and enable faster customer feedback.
  • Measurement – Supports learning and continuous improvement by understanding and measuring the flow of value through the pipeline.
  • Recovery – Builds systems that allow fast fixes of production issues such as automatic rollback and ‘fix forward’ capabilities, immutable infrastructure, and more.

Cloud Computing is a Key Enabler of DevOps

The ever-expanding universe of cloud capabilities has fundamentally changed how digitally enabled solutions are built, deployed, and maintained. Cloud computing has been one of the most disruptive drivers for changing the delivery model for enterprise IT since its inception [1]. Not surprisingly, the primary reason to move to the cloud is to increase product development speed and agility [2].

The cloud is everywhere, and it fuels digital business and enables DevOps and a more efficient CDP. SAFe enterprises can harness the power and ubiquity of the cloud to increase agility in all areas of the organization.

Team and ART Flow

Since SAFe is a flow-based system, any interruptions to flow must be resolved quickly to enable continuous value delivery. SAFe provides six articles to help fix impediments to flow: Principle #6 – Make value flow without interruptions, Value Stream Management, Team Flow, ART Flow, Solution Train Flow, and Portfolio Flow. Each article defines a set of ‘eight flow accelerators’ that help identify, fix, optimize, and debug issues to achieve a continuous value flow.

The ART and Team flow guidance apply directly to the APD competency:

  • ART Flow – This represents a state where an ART delivers a continuous flow of value to the customer. It describes how teams-of-agile teams (ARTs) work with their stakeholders to get closer to customers and build CDPs. The CDP accelerates the delivery of products and services.
  • Team Flow – This represents the state in which Agile Teams deliver a continuous flow of customer value. The SAFe Team and Technical Agility (TTA) competency offers practices for creating effective cross-functional Agile Teams and ARTs. It fosters applying built-in quality practices and collaborating with extended stakeholders to deliver solutions faster.


Businesses need to balance their execution focus with a customer focus to help ensure that they are creating the right solutions, for the right customers, at the right time. APD is grounded in customer-centricity, design thinking, and Lean UX putting the customer at the center of every decision. It applies design thinking to ensure the solution is desirable, feasible, viable, and sustainable.

Developing on cadence helps manage the variability inherent in product development. Release on demand separates the release and development cadences to ensure customers can get what they need when needed. DevOps and the CDP create the foundation that enables releasing value, in whole or part, at any time to meet customer and market demand. APD enhances business agility, offering superior outcomes for the enterprise and its customers.

Agility is principally about mindset, not practices.

― Jim Highsmith, Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products

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