Agile Release Train

agile release train
agile release train

Do you want to increase your knowledges about SAFe framework? Do you want to understand what an Agile Release Train (ART) is? Then this article is for you.

Agile Release Train definition

First, the Agile Release Train (ART) is the creation of a large team that will work together on a value chain (to simplify a program); it is itself made up of several agile teams (scrum), stakeholders and cross-functional profiles essential to this value chain.

Agile Release Train
Agile Release Train

This Agile release train (ART) will bring between 50 and 125 people to work together regularly (but not constantly). This will align all of its members around a common business context and a common technological mission.

Thus, the aim of Agile release train (ART) will be to deliver maximum value together for end users.

Multi-skills to deliver an increment

The Agile Release Train must contain all the skills necessary to produce the product:

  • software
  • hardware
  • firmware
  • design
  • test
  • continuous deployment
Agile Release Train
Agile Release Train (picture from scale agile framework) – Agile release train

Key principles of the Agile Release Train

Here are the key principles which the authors of the SAFe framework cite to define ART:

The schedule is fixed

The train leaves the station according to a known and reliable timetable, determined by the cadence of the program increment (PI) chosen. So, if a function misses a scheduled departure and is not planned in the current PI, it will take the next train.

A new program increment every 2 weeks

Each train delivers a new program increment every two weeks. The demo of the program as a whole provides a mechanism for evaluating the work done, which is an integrated increment for all teams.

Team synchronization

All the train teams are synchronized over the same PI duration (generally 8 to 12 weeks) and have common iterations defined by a start date and a duration.

Train at known speed

Each train can well estimate the quantity of works (new functionalities) that the teams can deliver in a PI.

Agile teams

Agile teams adopt the “Agile Manifesto” and the SAFe fundamental values and principles. So, they apply Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban and other quality best practices.

Dedicated people

Most of the people that the Agile Release Train needs, are dedicated full time to the train, regardless of their functional hierarchical structure.

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.

Innovation and planning (IP)

IP iterations occur at the end of each PI and dedicate time to PI planning, innovation, continuing education, and infrastructure work.

Inspect and adapt (I&A)

An I&A event takes place at the end of each PI. The teams demonstrate and evaluate the current state. Then, the teams and management identify the items in the improvement backlog via 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.

Agile Release Train: key roles

In ART, there will be key roles to help this organization to function well. These are :

  • RTE (Release Train Engineer)
  • Product Management
  • Architects and systems engineers
  • Business Owners
  • Clients

The purpose of your Agile release train

In order to have a real identity and a real raison d’etre, each ART must be defined using the Canvas proposed by the authors of SAFe which you can see below:

Agile Release Train - canvas
Agile Release Train – canvas

By filling out this canvas, the complex organization of this large team will be clearer for the entire organization.

The cadence of your ART

Your Agile Release Train as I said above, purpose a cadence which is quite complex at first but which allows to synchronize the work of all of its members.

Thus, wanting to be agile, it will work in the form of complex iterations; besides the diagram below describes the cadence of this ART:


Cadence de l'Agile Release Train
Cadence of ART – Agile release train

As explained in the key principles of Agile release train (ART), the iterations of each team (usually 2 weeks) will be the same duration and will be synchronized. This will allow to have a program increment every 4 classic iterations.

Conclusion Agile Release Train

More complex in the pictures than in reality, ART (Agile release train)  allows all the essential people to work on the same value chain (or program to simplify).

While some will find it somewhat rigid and say it’s “no agile”, others will see that like a real working solution. However, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the comments to offer the readers your feedback or your opinion on this concept which is quite simply a pillar of the SAFe framework.

Useful link: Le site officiel de SAFe



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About Judicaël Paquet 190 Articles
Judicaël Paquet (agile coach and senior devops) My activities in France and Switzerland: - agile transformation architect - customized agile training - sensitization and manager coaching - agile maturity audits and situations - agile coaching (teams, orga, product owner, scrum master, agile coach) Specialties: scrum, kanban, management 3.0, scalability, lean startup, agile method.

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