What is the Purpose of a System Demo in SAFe?
The main purpose of the System Demo in SAFe is to:
- Provide a train-level, objective view of the progress of work during a Program Increment by showcasing real, working systems (this supports SAFe principle “Base milestones on objective valuation of working systems”)
- Generate fast feedback for the work so we can ensure we are building the right solution (heading in the right direction), or adjust course if necessary
As such it is a significant event in SAFe. The System Demo literally functions as the heartbeat for the delivery of value to the business. In addition, it is a key mechanism to reduce the risk associated with our plan. Features demonstrated in the System Demo no longer have risk associated with them; we know that they are delivered and there is no question about the functionality.
There is a secondary reason to do a System Demo and that is to provide the opportunity to stakeholders to understand that the technical team is being a responsible steward of resources, that they are focused on the of delivery of business value, and that they really want to understand the needs of the customer. Traditionally the business asks, and the technical team provides. The problem is that this is not always a clear cut discussion, with the result that trust is eroded between the business and technical groups as a result of commitments not met or poorly delivered as a result of misunderstanding. The System Demo is an opportunity to understand what is possible, and course correct if required.
The System Demo is also one of those events where there is a lot of confusion how it works, who is involved, and how it fits in with other SAFe events. The following sections will clarify some of these ideas.