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What Is an Agile Release Train (ART)?

An Agile release train (ART) is a team of several Agile teams working towards a common goal. ARTs are crucial to delivering value at the enterprise level. They include all teams (expertise) needed to implement, test, and release software and other deliverables

Agile release train engineers (Agile RTE) are responsible for ensuring that Agile release trains work well together and follow SAFe processes to complete large development programs. RTE Agile teams must have long-term experience working as a self-organizing unit that plans, executes, and deploys work together.

Characteristics of RTE Agile teams

ART in SAFe Agile fosters collaboration, connecting teams working on different parts of the same product and providing a clear view of progress and cross-team dependencies. SAFe Agile release trains provide a blueprint for replicating success over time, fostering motivation and momentum. RTE Agile teams are:

  • Stable: Having skills and expertise focused on delivering specific solutions and delivering results
  • Autonomous: Working independently to deliver business value and product improvements
  • Collaborative: Delivering a product or service through cross-team collaboration

Principles of Agile release trains

ART in SAFe Agile requires product owners, product managers, Scrum masters, system architects, and Agile release train engineers to connect business strategy to team-level delivery and ensure what is developed directly impacts the bottom-line. Agile release trains operate on the following principles outlined by the Scaled Agile framework.

  • Fixed schedules: Agile release trains deliver work on a fixed schedule, determined by the Program Increment (PI) cadence
  • Biweekly system increments: Agile release trains deliver a new system increment every two weeks
  • Fixed PI timebox: All teams on a release train are synchronized to the same PI duration
  • Known velocity: Agile release trains estimate how much work can be delivered in a PI and plan team workloads using historical data
  • Agile teams: Agile teams embrace the Agile Manifesto and apply Agile techniques like Scrum and Kanban when working
  • Dedicated people: RTE Agile teams maintain stability with full-time dedicated teams with experience working together
  • PI planning: Agile release trains coordinate PI in recurring face-to-face or remote planning workshops
  • Innovation and Planning (IP): At the end of each PI, SAFe Agile release trains hold IP sessions, a dedicated time for PI planning, change management, and infrastructure maintenance
  • Inspect and Adapt (I&A): Agile release train solutions are demonstrated, reviewed, and evaluated during an I&A event
  • Develop on Cadence, Release on Demand: RTE Agile teams decouple releasing from development to mitigate the inherent variability in building and developing new things