New updates to Solution and Solution Context

Relentless improvement is a critical tenet of Lean, Agile, and a SAFe Core Value, and we strive to embody those values in the Framework. With this in mind, we are excited to announce updates to the Solution and Solution Context articles.

In SAFe, Solutions deliver the Portfolio’s value. Therefore, understanding solutions and their properties is critical to accelerating value delivery. It’s the central thing that delivers value, and most of our work revolves around it. Figure 1 below shows how the solution’s vision, backlog, and roadmap guide teams to define, build, validate, and release valuable solutions to customers.

Figure 1 – Building solutions in SAFe

Solutions are now described by their four fundamental properties:

  1. Desirable – Do customers and users want the solution?
  2. Feasible – Can we deliver the right solution through a combination of build, buy, partner, or acquire endeavors?
  3. Viable – Is how we build and offer the solution creating more value than cost?
  4. Sustainable – Are we proactively managing our solution for its expected product-market lifecycle?

The new guidance for these properties also includes design thinking, building modular solutions that accelerate value delivery, and whole-product thinking to ensure positive experiences throughout the customer’s journey.

The Solution Context article identifies the critical aspects of the environment in which a solution operates. Understanding the context is crucial for every solution builder and often requires the same degree of discipline as building the solution. Teams often focus more on developing the solution than understanding where and how it will be operated. This leads to design assumptions that may only be tested once the solution is released. And that’s too late to respond to the new learnings without delay or rework.

Instead, Agile teams and ARTs must recognize the critical aspects of the solution context, expose the solution to its environment early and often, and continually address the evolving solution context. The new Solution Context article now organizes the guidance around seven vital aspects, as illustrated in Figure 2:

Figure 1. Key aspects of the solution context
Figure 2. Key elements of the solution context
  1. Customer Usage – How a solution is used is often better observed than elicited
  2. Physical Environment – The physical conditions of the environment influence design.
  3. Standards and Regulations –  Teams must ensure compliance with external standards.
  4. Maintenance and Operational Support – Consider the practicality and feasibility of maintenance and operational support of the solution context.
  5. Supporting Infrastructure – The solution’s current infrastructure needs, future flexibility, scalability, and resiliency must also be considered.
  6. Interoperability with Other Solutions – Connected solutions impose requirements upon other solutions while also adhering to requirements from those solutions.
  7. System-of-Systems – When a solution is part of a larger system-of-systems, the solution context informs the subsystems’ context.

Our goal in updating these two articles is to help Agile teams and trains continuously deliver solutions that provide the maximum possible value to the customer and the enterprise.

We hope you enjoy these updates to the Solution and Solution Context articles. And in the spirit of relentless improvement, more updates to other articles will be coming soon.

— Harry Koehnemann, Alex Yakyma, Richard Knaster, and the Framework Team