What is the Agile Release Train?
Have you heard about SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)? Agile Release Train is part of it. We can define the Agile Release Train as a team of multiple agile teams. It usually includes a group of stakeholders too. These Agile Release Trains (ART for short) are designed to align with the value streams of an organization. Generally, an ART can have anywhere from 5 to 12 teams, and these can have up to 120+ persons.
How can it help businesses?
The main role of an Agile Release Train for companies is to encourage collaboration and help teams better connect. If teams are working on the same product, the ART approach can help them understand dependencies and assess the current progress. Moreover, the Agile Release Trains are offering a blueprint of success, thus focusing on momentum and motivation.
Additionally, an Agile Release Train has a multitude of principles to focus on. Usually, it involves a comprehensive timebox, bi-weekly work increments, fixed schedules, a known velocity, and dedicated teams that have experience working together. It also involves planning and innovation, as well as inspecting and adapting appropriately.
Tips for successful Agile Release Train
- To start a proper Agile Release Train, you should focus on the training process. That means understanding the role of every team, assigning tasks correctly and making sure it’s all implemented, and adjusted appropriately for the best results.
- It is also important to identify the value streams. This allows you to divide and conquer between all the Agile teams. What this does is it helps you pick the right team specialized on every job. In the end, it will give you the utmost success.
- Prepare the program increment backlog and then start the PI process. Then you must repeat the same process over and over. Agile Release Train is like traditional Scrum, where teams need to build, release, revise and learn, then you continue doing the same over and over.
Most often made mistakes
As you establish Agile Release Trains, you also want to prevent any possible mistakes that can arise. A very common mistake is to have teams blocked on external resources instead of doing more relevant work. You can also end up with release and development concerns intertwined too.
Other things like focusing on the wrong set of features and mis-using resources can be just as problematic and challenging. Then there are other things like focusing on bureaucracy rather than the development process that can become quite the issue.
We asked Birte Laursen, Release Train Engineer (RTE), SCRUM master at Seges Innovations, what she thought was the biggest mistake that companies make, and this is what she said:
“It is too common for companies to start creating too many meaningless roles, when scaling up. The roles should be specific, and their responsibilities clearly outlined. You must remember that people involved in the ART are there to support the developers.”
What is PI planning?
PI Planning is a 2-day workshop (or longer) that focused on planning and forecasting achievements for up to 12 weeks in advance. It’s called the Program Increment or “PI” in short. PI Planning is important because it allows every team to create a plan for their own work, while discussing and collaborating with the other teams. This is also where they get to solve any dependencies. Another important aspect of PI Planning is that it helps establish PI objectives which the ART members commit to delivering until the end of the program.
“It is hard to have PI planning days if the teams are working on different products. You must work hard to create a retrospective that would fit them all. What I would suggest is to perhaps split the teams in multiple trains instead. Just to make sure that everyone is heard and that the managers can follow up on everyone.” Birte advised in our last conversation.
When she leads PI planning days, there are short presentations of every team where they say 3 challenges that they are facing, 3 success and overall status update, and if they have any inputs. It is important to listen to the teams, she adds, listen before leading them. A big part of the day is also just being all together and connecting across the teams.
The Agile Release Train methodology is very helpful since it helps the entire team to focus on creating a better product. An Agile Release Train is always focused on value and making sure that the right ideas and results are brought to life properly. Plus, the ART system encourages teamwork, which can speed up the process, while also bringing new features and having a better implementation. In the end, with the help of an Agile Release Train, your business gets to work faster, more efficiently, and results more impressive! Go read more about it! There’s so much more to know on this approach!