What is an Agile Release Train?

In the Scaled Agile Framework®, SAFe®, an agile release train (ART) is a team of agile teams, plus an associated group of stakeholders, who regularly and frequently deliver valuable functionality into a system.

Agile release trains are aligned to an organisation’s value streams. They have between 5 and 12 agile teams, and include 50 and 125 individuals. They should include all of the necessary skills and experience required to deliver the features into the system.

Work for the ART is co-ordinated in a two-day planning workshop called ‘PI Planning’, which forecasts what can be achieved in the next 8-12 weeks, called the programme increment or ‘PI’. At this event, the teams plan their own work and also collaborate with other teams to uncover and then resolve cross-team dependencies. One of the key outputs from the PI Planning event is a set of PI objectives. These objectives are what the members of the agile release train are committing to deliver before the end of the programme increment.

Agile release trains are not simply project or programme teams, created to deliver a specific set of functionality and then disbanded when it is delivered. They are a stable team of teams that pick up new projects or initiatives as and when they have capacity to deliver the work.

An agile release train looks to deliver valuable work at the end of each iteration (or ‘sprint’). The teams within one ART must integrate their work together each and every iteration so that a demo of the integrated system can be provided to stakeholders.

The key coordination roles for an agile release train are product manager, system architect, release train engineer and business owner.

  • Product Manager – responsible for prioritising features and ensuring they are well described and understood
  • Release Train Engineer – responsible for ensuring the teams within the agile release train work well together and follow the processes
  • Business Owner – key stakeholders who are ultimately responsible for the business outcome
  • System Architect – responsible for designing and sharing the architectural vision across the agile release train, which means the work delivered will be fit for purpose.

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