Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.
Large Solution Level
The Large Solution Level contains the roles, artifacts, and processes needed to build large and complex solutions.
This level includes a stronger focus on capturing requirements in Solution Intent, the coordination of multiple Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Suppliers, and the need to ensure compliance with regulations and standards.
Einstein’s quote reminds us that we should strive to make things as simple as possible, but not simpler than what is needed. Similarly, when building large and complex systems, theoretically, the simplest thing that could possibly work would be a single team. But we know that even teams with more than 11 people are usually problematic and a single ‘team’ of hundreds, or even thousands, of people, just isn’t feasible. Instead, we need teams-of-teams (ARTs) and teams-of-teams-of-teams (Solution Train). Coordinating these activities requires additional roles, events, and artifacts, which is the purpose of the large solution level.
The large solution level (Figure 1) is meant for enterprises that face the biggest challenges—building large-scale solutions that are beyond the scope of a single ART to develop. Building these solutions requires additional roles, artifacts, events, and coordination.
Below are the highlights of the large solution level:
- Solution – Each Value Stream produces one or more solutions, which are products, services, or systems delivered to the Customer, whether internal or external to the enterprise.
- Solution Train – Is the key organizational element of the large solution level and aligns the people and the work around a common solution vision, mission, and backlog.
- Economic Framework – Provides financial boundaries for the Solution Train’s decision-making.
- Solution Intent – Is a repository for current and future solution behaviors, which can be used to support verification, validation, and Compliance. Solution intent is also used to extend Built-In Quality practices with systems engineering disciplines, including Set-Based Design, Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE), Compliance, and Agile Architecture.
- Solution Context – Describes how the system will interface and be packaged and deployed in its operating environment.
- Solution Kanban – Manages the flow of Capabilities and enablers for the solution.
The large solution level roles provide governance, help coordinate multiple ARTs and suppliers, and provide the necessary governance:
- Customer – Is the ultimate buyer of every solution. An integral part of the Lean-Agile development process and value stream, they have specific responsibilities in SAFe.
- Solution Architect/Engineering – Represents an individual or small team that defines a common technical and architectural vision for the solution under development.
- Solution Management – Has the content authority for the large solution level. They work with customers to understand their needs, create the solution vision and roadmap, define requirements (capabilities and enablers), and guide work through the solution Kanban.
- Solution Train Engineer (STE) – Is a servant leader and coach who facilitates and guides the work of all ARTs and suppliers.
- Supplier – Is an internal or external organization that develops and delivers components, subsystems, or services, which help Solution Trains deliver solutions to customers.
The large solution level uses three major activities to help coordinate multiple ARTs and suppliers:
- Pre- and Post-PI Planning – Are used to prepare for, and follow up after, Program Increment (PI) Planning for ARTs and suppliers in a Solution Train.
- Solution Demo – Is where the results of all the development efforts from multiple ARTs—along with the contributions from suppliers—are integrated, evaluated, and made visible to customers and other stakeholders.
- Inspect & Adapt (I&A) – Is a significant event where the current state of the solution is demonstrated and evaluated. Teams then reflect and identify improvement backlog items via a structured problem-solving workshop.
The following large solution level artifacts help coordinate multiple ARTs and suppliers:
- Capabilities – Is a higher-level solution behavior that typically spans multiple ARTs. They are sized and split into multiple features so that they can be implemented in a single PI.
- Solution Epics – These epics are specifically for one Solution Train.
- Nonfunctional Requirements (NFRs) – Define system attributes such as security, reliability, performance, maintainability, scalability, and usability. These are incorporated in solution intent.
- Solution Backlog – Is the holding area for upcoming capabilities and enablers, each of which can span multiple ARTs and are intended to advance the solution and build its architectural runway.
- Solution Kanban – Is a method used to visualize and manage the flow of business and enabler capabilities from ideation to analysis, implementation, and release.
Solution Trains Deliver Value
The Solution Train is the organizational vehicle that is used to coordinate the efforts of multiple ARTs and suppliers to deliver the world’s largest and most complex systems. They align and coordinate ARTs and suppliers to collaborate like a single team, but have all the advantages inherent in organizing using small teams and ARTs in order to scale.
The value delivered by Solution Trains can range from core banking applications in global financial institutions to jet fighters and satellite systems. Lean Enterprises that build these systems-of-systems require abilities, principles, and practices beyond those followed by a single ART. For further discussion and a set of best practices for building large solutions read the Business Solutions and Lean Systems Engineering competency article.
Apply Large Solution Elements to Other SAFe Configurations
As we have described, there are a number of unique elements that are pictured at the large solution level. However, any individual element of this level may be applied to other SAFe configurations. For example, solution intent and compliance might be used by a single ART building a medical device of modest scale. As illustrated in Figure 2, this is part of SAFe’s scalability and versatility.
Last update: 9 October 2018