“If everyone is moving forward, then success takes care of itself”- Henry Ford
In the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFE), the Agile Release Train (ART) is designed to deliver solutions by working around a Value Stream with the collaboration of multiple Agile Teams and stakeholders. While remaining steadfast to a united vision, these teams define, develop, test and deploy to provide a continuous flow of value, incrementally.
Forming the Agile Release Train
Proactive leaders with a Lean-Agile Mindset are at the heart of constructing the Agile Release Train. These leaders need to be focused on the vision and they need to align and organize all the individuals to that vision. These leaders need to encourage adapting to change, motivate teams and know the business benefits.
How PI Planning Brings Together the Release Train?
Program Increment (PI) planning session is where the agile teams interact with each other in order to collectively plan the objectives that have to be achieved in an iteration. The PI planning is done with cadence and synchronization that sets a routine for the teams to work at and to collaborate the teams work with each other. The Release Train Engineer, who operates as the Chief Scrum Master, leads the session. The result of PI Planning is the formation of the Agile Release Train with goals that have to be achieved within the time set.
Program level orbits around the Agile Release Train to give continuous delivery of solution to the customer. The development teams and stakeholders plan, commit, execute, inspect and adapt in the Agile Release Train to deliver a full or part of the solution incrementally.
Participants and Roles of the Agile Release Train
An agile team consists of 5-9 members whereas an Agile Release Train can have 50-125 members with 5-12 teams. This creates a cross-functional, self-managing and self-organizing team that gets work done quickly and effectively.
Each Agile Release Train has:
- Business Analysts
- System Engineers
- Hardware and Software Developers
- Testers of Quality
Agile team has the following roles
- Scrum Master arranges team meetings, maintains team focus and instills Agile Behavior
- Product Owner owns the team backlog who prioritizes the work that has to be done and collaborates with Product Management
- Development Team consisting of three to nine individuals who develop the solution
Similarly, there are roles in the Agile Release Train as described below:
- Release Train Engineer organizes and arranges the PI Planning session
- Product Management owns the Program Backlog. Works with the product owners to decide the scope by deciding what features are of utmost priority and quality of the solution
- System Architect and UX designers define the Architecture Runway
- Business Owner is the key stakeholder
- System Teams help with infrastructure, assist with integration, performs Agile Release Train Level Testing and evaluates Non-functional requirements
- Release Management has the authority and the knowledge to approve releases of the solution. It ensures that the vision is understood if everyone in the Agile Release Train understands the Strategic Themes and if the releases are made on the date set.
- Customer work with the Solution and Product Management to provide feedback.
Characteristics of an Agile Release Train
Each Agile Release Train is timeboxed to the time set in the PI Planning which ranges from 8-12 weeks. Value is delivered after every two weeks. The agile teams in the Release train know their speed and the velocity with which they work. The teams are synchronized with each other in a way that they have a common start and end iteration date. The scope is variable as the teams do decentralized planning.
The Agile teams follow the Agile Manifesto, principles of SAFe, Scrum, Kanban and XP. These teams are geared towards focus of delivery and consistent value.
There is an Innovation and Planning session in every Agile Release Train that provides estimating and dedicating time for PI Planning, innovation, infrastructure. At the end of every program increment, there is an Inspect and adapt session where the outcome produced by the Agile Release Train is assessed, ways to improve are seen and to learn from mistakes.
When the size of the solution is large, multiple Agile Release Trains need to be collaborated. The collection of multiple Agile Release Trains constitutes the Solution Train. This is done on the Value Stream Level which is an optional level in SAFe.
Agile Release Train usually delivers the solution close to the end of the program increment. A part or the entire solution can be released at any time as it is independent of the cadence. The solution of the Agile Release Train consists of the following:
“You don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note”- Doug Floyd
The Agile Release Train is crucial for delivering solutions in SAFe. Everyone from the development level to the key business stakeholders are in collaboration with each other. This promotes trust and transparency in the teams and the work that is done. Regular feedback from customers allows the agile teams to adapt to changing requirements. Their agile teams are self-managing which enhances quicker decision making.
The Agile Release Train helps in aligning and unifying the teams to accomplishing all the business objectives and creating an integrated system. Emphasis is laid on creating solutions with the highest level of quality which satisfies customer requirements. In fact, the core values of SAFe are instilled in the roots of the entire operation of the Agile Release Train.
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