9 May, 2024

What is an Agile Release Train? (ART)

In this video, I answer the question, what is an Agile Release Train (ART) in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)?

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Agile Release Train

Agile Release Train and the Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe

An Agile Release Train is a part of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). I’ve done a video that summarizes that framework:

The Basics of an Agile Release Train

It is a long-term, dedicated cross-functional team of multiple agile teams. Typically there will be between 50 and 150 people who work toward a common goal. They draw from a shared product backlog and follow a single roadmap.

ARTs are organized around the organization’s Development Value Streams. Their job is to realize the promise of that value by building and delivering solutions that benefit users and customers.

They work on a fixed schedule to deliver incremental releases of value, with a fixed cadence – usually of two weeks. This means that the rest of the organization can plan around the known release train schedule.

Agile Release Train Cadence

The ART delivers a continuous flow of value.

Agile Release Train - Single Iteration

And it follows a cadence of five iterations (sometimes more or fewer) to form a Program Increment (PI). This is similar to a product increment in Scrum.

Agile Release Train - 5 Iterations

Driving the Agile Release Train

An Agile Release Train Engineer (Agile RTE) is responsible for ensuring that ARTs work together and follow SAFe processes. In this way, they act rather like a Scrum Master, for the Release Train. They are supported by systems architects for technical leadership and product managers for product guidance.

The RTE and their team will organize the ART around the delivery of value – a value stream. Large value streams may need multiple release trains to deliver the full end-product.

Business Owners are key stakeholders for the RTE and the ART team. They have the ultimate responsibility for the business outcomes and meeting the needs of the customer.

The ART Team

The ART team works on different parts of the same product and manages cross-team dependencies. It needs to be:

  • Stable
    With the skills and expertise to deliver the specific solutions in the product set
  • Autonomous
    Able to work independently
  • Collaborative
    Both within and across teams 

Often, the teams embrace other agile frameworks, such as Scrum or Kanban approaches.

Summary of Agile Release Train

Agile Release Trains are a way to achieve effective cross-functional collaboration in delivering substantial products. They keep projects tightly aligned to a business goal.

However, there is a significant overhead of processes, roles, and planning. This requires training, setup, and a top-down approach that makes them best suited for large technology projects in sizeable and mature organizations. Scaled Agile Framework and Agile Release Trains are not well-suited to small organizations or entrepreneurial start-up initiatives.

Carefully curated video recommendations for you:

What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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