What is an RTE in SAFe?

The Release Train Engineer (RTE) is a role in the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe). They are responsible for ensuring that the agile release train (the team of agile teams) work well together and follow the SAFe processes.

An RTE is a servant leader and coach for an agile release train (ART), just as a scrum master is a servant leader for an agile team. They know how lean and agile practices can work at scale.

What is an RTE is SAFe?

Facilitation

The release train engineer is the facilitator of the programme level SAFe events:

  • PI Planning – A meeting for agile teams to plan out collectively the next 8-12 weeks
  • System demos – After every iteration, teams showcase the ART’s integrated work
  • ART Sync – A regular meeting with the product manager, products owners and scrum masters in the agile release train
  • Scrum of scrums and PO Sync – For a large agile release train, instead of having a regular ART Sync, the RTE would facilitate frequent ‘scrum of scrums’ events with all of the scrum masters, and may also facilitate PO Sync events with the product manager and the product owners
  • Inspect and adapt workshop – A demonstration of the entire PI, followed by a problem-solving workshop to identify process improvements for the next PI

Day to day responsibilities

An agile release train must have an RTE, who is likely to be full‑time in the role. When not facilitating the programme level events, their day-to-day responsibilities include:

  • Coach the lean-agile mindset and practices to members of the agile release train, including scrum masters, agile team members and business owners
  • Optimise the flow of work through the agile release train
  • Capture programme flow metrics, and other useful metrics, to support relentless improvement
  • Help the product manager prepare for PI Planning and ensure the vision, roadmap and programme backlogs are ready
  • Help teams with feature estimation and the aggregation of estimates for larger pieces of work such as capabilities and epics
  • Help manage risks, dependencies and resolve impediments
  • Support the creation, and relentless improvement, of a continuous delivery pipeline by promoting DevOps practices within the organisation

When the ART is part of a solution train

Where a solution requires multiple agile release trains to work together as a solution train, the responsibilities of the RTE include:

  • Collaborate with the solution train engineer and other RTEs in the same solution train
  • Attend solution train events such as Pre- and Post-PI Planning meetings

What an RTE does not do

Here are some activities that the RTE should avoid doing

  • Prioritise work – the ART’s product manager prioritises the features, each product owner prioritises the stories for their team(s)
  • Assign tasks – each agile team self‑organises to decide which tasks from the iteration backlog to work on each day
  • Control team processes – the RTE must enforce the essential elements of SAFe but beyond that, they look to maximise decentralised decision making and support agile teams in the evolution of their processes

In summary

The release train engineer is there to support the agile teams in their understanding of SAFe and lean-agile practices, in their programme execution, and by facilitating programme level events.

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