Agile Release Train (ART)

What is Agile Release Train?

The Agile Release Train (ART) is the primary value delivery construct in SAFe®.

The Agile Release Train is a long lived, self-organizing team of Agile Teams, a virtual organization (5 to 12 teams) that plans, commits, and executes together.

  • Typically consist of 50-125 people (Basically, is there 1 ART per Program).
  • ARTs are organized around the enterprise’s significant Value Streams and live solely to realize the promise of that value by building solutions that deliver benefit to the end user.
  • ART is basically a team of Teams responsible for the regular release of Features and business benefits.
  • Teams of an ART are bound by a common Vision, Program Backlog, and a Roadmap.
  • Provides alignment and helps manage risk by providing program level cadence and synchronization.
  • The Release Train Engineer (RTE) is a servant leader and operates as a full-time ‘Chief Scrum Master’ of the ART.
  • Teams in ART will agree and adopt the set of common operating principles.

ART Roles

Operating Agile Release Trains, requires active facilitation and familiarity with Agile. The following roles help to ensure the successful execution of the ART.

Key Roles:
  • Product Manager.Prioritizes features. Ensures they are well described and understood.
  • Release Train Engineer.Responsible for ensuring the teams within the agile release train work well together. Ensures the teams follow the processes.
  • System Architect.Responsible for designing and sharing the architectural vision across the agile release train. Also, ensures the work fit for purpose delivery.
Additional Roles:
  • Business Owner.Key stakeholder who are ultimately responsible for the business outcome.
  • System Team typically assist in building and maintaining development, continuous integration, and test environments.
  • Shared Services are the SME’s or specialists who cannot devote themselves full-time to a single train.
  • Customer are the ultimate buyers of the solution.

ART Events

  • PI Planning : The stakeholders of ART gets together to agree objectives for team and PI. Also forecasts which iteration the priority features on the program backlog will be completed. As part of this, dependencies and risks between teams are identified and planned-in.
  • Scrum of Scrums: This event is to connect with multiple teams in ART,  who need to work together to deliver complex solutions.
  • PO Sync : In this events where the product manager, product owner and other selected stakeholders discuss progress, priorities and scope adjustment.In smaller ARTs, the SoS and PO Sync can be combined into a meeting with all of the attendees, called an ART Sync.
  • System Demo: End of every iteration in the PI, the completed work from all of the teams is integrated into a staging environment and is demonstrated to business owners and other stakeholders.
  • Next PI Planning preparation: The preparation of next PI should be continuous process. The key focus areas will be 1) Management alignment and readiness for planning 2) Readiness of backlog and content 3) Logistic readiness for the event.
  • Inspect & Adapt: This workshop event held end of each Program Increment (PI), where the current state of the Solution is demonstrated and evaluated by the train. Teams then reflect and identify improvement backlog items via a structured, problem-solving workshop.The I&A workshop consists of three parts: PI System Demo, Quantitative measurement, Retrospective and problem-solving workshop.

ARTs operate on a set of common principles

These are key guiding principles for all the teams tobe followed in ART

  • The schedule is fixed: ART’s plan and deliver work on a fixed schedule, which is determined by the program increment (PI) cadence. Program increments are typically 8-12 weeks in length. If a feature is not planned into the current PI, it is not started until the next one begins.
  • A new program increment every 2 weeks: Similar to how Scrum and some Agile teams operate in sprints, ARTs operate in two-week cycles, called system increments.
  • Team synchronization: All teams within ARTs are synchronized to the same PI length and operate on the same schedule (with common start / end dates and durations).
  • Train at known speed: Each train can well estimate how much work (new functionalities) can be delivered in a single PI.
  • Agile teams: Agile teams are critical to ART’s, they embrace the Agile Manifesto, SAFe fundamental values & principles and apply Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban and other quality best practices.
  • Dedicated people: To maintain the stability and sustainability of the Release Train, most people included in the ART are dedicated to it full-time.
  • IP planning face to face: The Agile Release Train schedules its work during planning events called PI planning periodically. This planning brings together all ART members to encourage maximum face-to-face communication ( use Video conferencing tools for  have face-to-face conversations with remote team’s)
  • Innovation and planning (IP): At the end of every Program Increment, Agile Release Trains hold an Innovation and Planning Iteration, or IP. These sessions provide a buffer between PIs as well as dedicated time for PI planning, innovation, continued education, and infrastructure work.
  • Inspect and adapt (I&A): End of each Program Increment is an Inspect and Adapt (I&A) workshop. During the I&A, the current state of the solution is demonstrated and evaluated. Teams and management use this time to identify improvement backlog items in a structured, problem-solving workshop.
  • Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand: Agile Release Trains apply cadence and timing to help to manage the inherent variability in research and development. However, the release is generally decoupled from the cadence of development. ARTs may publish a solution or elements of a solution at any time, subject to governance and publication criteria.

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