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

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Last updated on
24th May, 2022
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16th May, 2022
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What is an Agile Release Train (ART) & Its Principals

The success of a modern enterprise depends on a mix of factors and not profitability alone. One of the biggest reasons businesses adopt Agile frameworks is to foster a strong culture of collaboration, communication, and accountability within the organization, while taking an iterative approach to developing, delivering, and deploying. As the hype around Agile and Scaled Agile grows, a lot of professionals come across new terms from the Agile universe that they may not have come across before. One of such terms is the Agile Release Train. In this blog, we will learn more about what is an Agile Release Train (ART) and what are the principles of the Agile Release Train.

The Agile Release Train is a super-group of multiple Agile teams, operating within the Scaled Agile Framework. To leverage the power of the ART, one needs to be thorough with the SAFe® framework implementation in their organisation. The agile trains cannot function without SAFe®.  If you’re interested in mastering Scaled Agile management for your business, you can opt to train for an Agile Management Certification course online.  

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.

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.

Conclusion

Agile Release Train is very complicated and consists of comprehensive teamwork and ethical guidance. It has to be followed with the help of SAFe. You may wonder who has the major role inside the ART, but everyone plays their part. If someone backs out, it can fail. It is important to note ART is an art of teamwork and great communication. Work along with the team ethics and build a professional environment rather than just fulfilling the role. We hope you got the gist of ART and its principles! Get KnowledgeHut RTE training now.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

1. What 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.

2. What 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.

3. What 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.

4. How 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.

5. What 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.

6. Which 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.

7. What 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.

8. What 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.

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Mounika Narang

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Mounika Narang is a project manager having a specialisation in IT project management and Instructional Design. She has an experience of 10 years 
working with Fortune 500 companies to solve their most important development challenges. She lives in Bangalore with her family.