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What is an Agile Release Train (ART) & Its Principals

17th May, 2024
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    What is an Agile Release Train (ART) & Its Principals

    The Agile Release Train is essential to implement the SAFe (scaled agile framework) constructs. There are varied tasks getting accomplished under the SAFe methodology, for which various teams work together. So, what is an Agile Release Train? It is a set of teams that work together to achieve the same goal. They work together on their individual tasks simultaneously or as a sprint setup, one after the other. This principle keeps the teams focused, and the project stays on track. It helps keep the team perfectly aligned with the final goal. Moreover, everyone working on the project gets a clear idea of his role, and they can plan and execute their strategies inside their own horizons accordingly. In this article, we will discuss what an Agile Release Train is, its fundamental principles, and its advantages in detail.

    Within the Agile universe, there are many terms and methodologies to explore and one of them is the Agile Release Train. When it comes to the purpose of the ART, you may want to know whether it is a way to promote teamwork and make them work for the common release calendar? Or a method to bring together multiple teams for for a sprint timeline? Or a way to deliver value and set the features to be implemented? Is there one major role like the RTE agile that has to do all the work? We will try to answer all these questions in this blog.

    Definition of Agile Release Train (ART)

    Definition of Agile Release Train (ART)

    Let us start with understading What is Agile Release Train. An Agile Release Train is a team of Agile teams that works on a long-term plan that is devised to self-organise agile teams along with the plans that are committed to and worked upon together.  

    The SAFe® Agile Release Train organizes all the value streams and executes them. They work collaboratively with the customer to incorporate maximum value in the solutions they build. They work towards a common goal and make sure everything is achieved in the given timeline. They have:

    • Common vision
    • Program backlog
    • Roadmap

    An ART can have 50-125 members in total who would work with the same vision and program. Now we would talk about the PI and how it is related to the ART. PI is also known as the program increments. The timebox is developed with the help of the PIs. It uses cadence, and:

    • Facilitates Planning
    • Limits the WIP
    • Aggregates the Value
    • Assures Retrospectives  

    The delivery of the work is given by the PI. Each of the trains has a special task that continuously defines, builds, and tests the capabilities. It is done for not one but all the iterations. It is all handled by the release train engineer.

    Key Principles of ART

    • Now that we know what the main role of the agile release train is:
    • They provide the alignment in the team
    • They help to manage all the risks even after the product deliveries.  
    • They provide program-level cadence and synchronisation.  

    All the principles are based on these considerations along with the agreement and adoption of the rules and regulations that are commonly followed throughout. Now, these common operation principles are validated by all the teams and have to follow the same guidelines given to all. These rules are agreed upon by all the team members and shared with the agile train release. All this is done in the 2-day planning of the PI. Let us explore the ART Principles:

    1. The Schedule is Fixed

    The ART is punctual and runs on a dependable schedule. If a feature misses the release schedule it is a part of, it can be incorporated in the next schedule.

    2. A New System Increment every Two Weeks

    All ARTs deliver a new system increment every two weeks. These increments are evaluated through the System Demo.  

    3. Synchronization is Applied

    Teams on the Agile Release Train work in synchronised schedules that could last from 8 to 12 weeks and often have a common start and end date.  

    4. The Train has a Known Velocity

    This simply means that it is easy to estimate the number of features that can be delivered in a single PI.  

    5. Agile Teams

    The Agile teams are aligned in principle, with the Agile manifesto, and use several built-in quality practices such as Kanban, Scrum, XP etc.

    6. Dedicated People

    Irrespective of their individual roles and responsibilities, the people on the ART are dedicated to the train.  

    7. Face-to-Face PI Planning

    PI planning events are typically regular, in-person meetings for the Agile Release Train

    8. Innovation & Planning (I&P)

    The end of most Program Increments is followed by IP iterations to facilitate an estimating guard band, and have dedicated time for planning, innovation, and more.

    9. Inspect & Adapt (I&A)

    Along with IP iterations, an Inspect & Adapt event also takes place at the end of a PI. Solutions are inspected and evaluated, and any improvements required are planned for through problem-solving workshops.  

    10. Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand

    This principle ensures that while research and development may have variable schedules, the release of a solution adheres to a schedule.

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    Structure of an Agile Release Train (ART)

    The Agile Release Train is made up of several Agile teams that perform a multitude of tasks from designing, testing, building solutions to deploying, releasing, and operating them. These teams follow several different Agile methodologies as per their preferences. These can be Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP) and more. Each Agile team includes two specific roles – Scrum Master and Product Owner.

    By default, Agile Release Trains are cross functional in nature, and organized around developmental value streams. To ensure that the flow of value is not hampered, the following SAFe® guidelines on the composition of teams come into practice:  

    Cadence and Synchronization

    If you are wondering who is a Release Train Engineer - they are the servant leader. The servant-leader would operate as the chief scrum master. They are different from the normal scrum masters but are over the hold of the scrums. You know how the scrum masters would control and guide one team at a time, the RTE or the release train engineer would handle all the teams. 

    The scrum masters would get together with the release train engineer to go through the performances and other tasks. They have to handle all the teamwork and also look for their deliveries. No matter what they should know how to manage risks, provide solutions, give guidance, mentor, and lead the ART as the servant leader.  

    They have to also plan the PI planning. They have to ensure all the tasks are met and delivered in a timely restricted frame within the agile train release. Stakeholders would know all about the PI planning, iterations, and system demo dates along with the help of RTE or the release train engineer. After you get the certification in the same, many wonder about the Release Train Engineer salaries. Undoubtedly, it will give a boost to your career and make your salaries good.  

    After the RTE, there comes product management. They have to see what gets built- they do and carry the tasks with the help of a roadmap, vision, and new features. All the program backlog is taken into account by the product management. They have to work with the product owners and customers- their needs, and communication and validate solutions accordingly.  

    There are architects and engineers in the system who are mainly a team and can also be an individual. They have to see the architecture of the system. Later comes the business owners. Whatever the team outcome is, how it is performing and what all is needed is poked by the business owners.

    As the name suggests they own the business! They are the key stakeholders and have the outcome responsibility of the release train. Later we have the customers for whom we are doing all the tasks and need to compile things and products.  

    System teams have to be handled too inside the Agile train release. What are these system teams? Whatever is on making, getting developed along with the various defined roles and features along with in the test environment- is all system teams. It gets built slowly and steadily.  

    We also have shared services. Those are defined as specialists and include staff like data security, information architects, and database administrators (DBAs). Although they do not work for a specific task in the ART but are very important. Without them, the work cannot get carried forward.  

    There are a lot of complications related to ART. People need to work in accordance with the same and make sure all the tasks are carried out in a safe and efficient way. Everyone has different responsibilities and they should make sure to comply accordingly.

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    How is an agile release train different from an agile team?

    Agile Release Train is the set up in which the teams adapt themselves to deliver value to the customer. On the other hand, an agile team is a group of people working on a dedicated aspect of a project. Some of the differences between the two are:

    ParametersAgile Release TrainAgile Team
    InclusionsART is a combination of multiple teams with varied roles and responsibilities collaborating to meet the same goalAn agile team is a group of experts from the same domain, fulfilling their own roles & responsibilities in the project.
    Work ScopeAgile release train defines the incremental time and the targets or PI the teams must deliver.Agile teams are the actual people working behind the model who ensure that the targets get met.
    BackgroundsThe members within an agile release train can come from varied backgrounds and have experience in different industries.The agile team has members from the same background, as they have the same goal to achieve as a team.
    LocationThe agile release team can have teams located at different places and remotely linked to deliver the targets.The agile teams are co-located and work dedicatedly on the same thing without any distractions.

    What are the advantages of running an ART team? 

    Agile release trains are beneficial in product planning and visualization, and that is obvious now! However, there are multiple other advantages that an organization can experience by running an ART team.  

    Team motivation

    The agile release train has fixed sprints, and everyone working on the project should mandatorily deliver their work at the end of it. It keeps the teams genuinely pumped up and motivated to stay focused and offer valuable outcomes. 

    Overall Transparency

    Every team collaborating on the project gets to know about the work delivered by the others. So, rest assured that you will get transparency through this feature, and there will be no blame game of any kind. 

    Delivering Value

    Fixed schedules and consistent improvements help deliver value to the projects. Moreover, there are release train engineers to oversee everything and not let any compromised increment pass through. 

    Regular planning Interval 

    With the agile release train feature, increments are frequent. The ARTs usually follow a biweekly routine for increments, which is more than any other model. 

    Efficient User Stories 

    There are professionals in the ARTs who work dedicatedly on writing user stories. They do this so efficiently that you wouldn’t have to face issues like miscommunicated requirements.  

    So, you can enjoy these advantages provided your ART teams are efficient and under the guidance of experienced professionals. These advantages force the organizations to follow the ART methodology for their projects and hire Agile experts. You can join the knowledgeHut Release Train Engineer training course to learn the skill and grab all these opportunities to build a fruitful professional career. 


    Delivering value to the customer is inevitable in any project. With the help of a strategic approach, things get smooth, and the end user is always satisfied. Agile release train is one such feature that makes project deliveries convenient and promises value to the customers. Everything happens in a planned and sequential manner under the ARTs. The teams have individual responsibilities to fulfil, yet they collaborate to amalgamate and ensure timely and expected deliveries. Every organization relies on this feature for successful project deliveries. It clearly signifies that they all require experts who understand ARTs and can help with their implementation. So, if you are planning a career in it, the future looks promising. Increase your worth by taking the Agile Management training, and you have excellent opportunities to explore.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What Is an Agile Release Train (ART)?

    The Agile Release Train (ART) is a long-lived Agile team that incrementally develops, delivers, and, when relevant, operates one or more solutions in a value stream in collaboration with other stakeholders. An Agile Release Train (ART) is a group of Agile teams that are working together to achieve a common goal. ARTs play a critical role in delivering value at the enterprise level. They consist of all teams (expertise) required to implement, test, and deploy software and other deliverables.

    2What are the characteristics of RTE Agile teams?

    The Release Train Engineer (RTE) is a servant leader and instructor for the Agile Release Train (ART). The RTE's primary responsibilities are to facilitate ART activities and procedures and to assist teams in producing value. They are in charge of ensuring that the agile release train (the team of agile teams) works effectively together and adheres to SAFe processes.

    3What three actions are needed to launch an Agile Release Train?

    Inspect, adapt, and test are the three critical Program events that keep the Agile Release Train (ART) on schedule. This event follows every PI planning event. System demonstration (a new system increment) is also the part of the PI Planning.

    4How frequently should Agile Release Trains release?

    The ART must ensure that a consistent value delivery approach is maintained and adhered to through frequent, periodic planning and release. Every 10 weeks, a system demo should take place.

    5What is the purpose of an Agile Release Train?

    The Agile Release Train encompasses all of the people (expertise) required to implement, test, deploy, and release software, hardware, firmware, and other products. Each ART is a virtual organization that plans, commits, develops, and deploys work collaboratively. It is typically constituted of 50-125 people.

    6Which role serves as the servant leader for the Agile Release Train?

    The Release Train Engineer (RTE) serves as the Agile Release Train's servant leader and coach (ART). The primary responsibilities of the RTE are to facilitate ART activities and procedures and to assist teams in providing value.

    7What is the difference between deploy and release in SAFe?

    The acts that make a software system available for usage are referred to as software deployment. Following the completion of the development phase, the release activity is carried out. It encompasses all processes required to prepare a system for assembly and transfer to the customer site.

    8What comes first, deployment or release?

    A release follows a deployment and involves all of the actions required to transition some or all of the production traffic to the new version. All of the risks and issues that could arise - downtime, lost money, irate managers and customers - are associated with the release rather than the deployment to production.


    Lindy Quick

    Blog Author

    Lindy Quick, SPCT, is a dynamic Transformation Architect and Senior Business Agility Consultant with a proven track record of success in driving agile transformations. With expertise in multiple agile frameworks, including SAFe, Scrum, and Kanban, Lindy has led impactful transformations across diverse industries such as manufacturing, defense, insurance/financial, and federal government. Lindy's exceptional communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills have earned her a reputation as a trusted advisor. Currently associated with KnowledgeHut and upGrad, Lindy fosters Lean-Agile principles and mindset through coaching, training, and successful execution of transformations. With a passion for effective value delivery, Lindy is a sought-after expert in the field.

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