What exactly is an Agile Release Train? We have over 20 years’ experience in project management and we’ve used Agile in both large and small projects. In this time, we’ve gained extensive experience in Agile project management. In this post, we’ll share some of our knowledge and shed some light on what ARTs are and how they work.

At this time you know that Agile teams are the basic construct of the Agile method of project management. They assign these smaller teams to a project, and the teams are responsible for the successful execution of the project. But what happens when you have to scale Agile principles to the enterprise level? That’s where Agile Release Trains or ARTs can be helpful.

What Is an Agile Release Train (ART)?

Typically, Agile projects start out small, but soon the need arises for long standing, cross-functional teams that can deliver value in a value stream. An Agile Release Train is a team comprising various Agile teams that deliver value that scales at an enterprise level. Each ART is a virtual organization that works together to design, develop, and deploy products.

Key Principles of ART

ART’s operate on a set of common principles. These are:

  • The schedule is fixed. ARTs deliver work on a fixed schedule based on the Program Increment. These increments usually span a period of 8 to 12 weeks. If a particular feature is not planned into the Program Increment, it only starts at the next increment. 
  • New system increments every two weeks. Agile Release Trains work in two-week cycles called system increments. These are similar to Scrum sprints. 
  • Synchronization is applied. All ARTs are synchronized and operate in the same program increment and operate on the same schedule. 
  • The train has a known velocity. Using historical data, ARTs can plan and know exactly how much work can be done in a specific program increment. 
  • Agile teams. Agile teams that embrace the Agile Manifesto and apply Agile methods to their work are a critical component of ARTs. They are cross-functional, stable and autonomous. 
  • Dedicated people. All people in the ART are dedicated to it full time. 
  • Face-to-face PI planning. All planning in the ART is done with face-to-face program planning increment events. 
  • Innovation and planning Iteration. At the end of each program increment, ARTs hold an innovation and planning iteration. These sessions provide a buffer between program increments and dedicated time for program increment planning, innovation, and infrastructure work. 
  • Inspect and Adapt. An inspect and adapt event follows every program increment. At these events, the current state of the solution is shown and tested. These events are helpful in identifying backlog items in a structured way.
  • Develop on cadence, release on demand. To minimize variability inherent in building new things, ARTs develop products in fixed cadences. In contrast, to deliver products as quickly as possible, the release schedule is decoupled from the development cadence and they can release features at any time.

When organized into Agile Release Trains, Agile teams can realize their full potential and deliver high value to their value streams consistently.

If you need more information about Agile Release Trains or how to implement them, contact us. We can advise the best way to implement ARTs in your organizations.

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