SAFe Release Train Engineer : Responsibilities and Skills

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by StarAgile

March 18, 2021
Category SAFe


Release Train Engineer

Release train engineer (RTE) as the name indicates is the owner of the Agile Release Train (ART). There are several responsibilities held by this person. Even though ART is designed in such a way that it is self-managing and organizing still there is a need for someone to act as a servant leader. This means a coach is required to scale lean-agile practices in the right way to make use of the best opportunities and handle the challenges to the benefit of the lease. 

Ok, so far we started our discussion to throw some light on the release train engineer and we will continue further to deep dive to know what is his role, what he should not do, and how to effectively manage the ART. 

By the way, did I mention what is ART? Agile release trains are always referred to as ART in the SAFe world. If this interests you then you must register for a SAFe agilist certification to become a professional SAFe RTE

SAFe Release Train Engineer

You can refer to the below image for an ART and you can create one like to input text in the sections given to planning for an effective release with your ART team. 

release train engineer

Let us begin with the basics of what is SAFe RTE? A professional who is a coach and a servant leader who delivers the value in one program or value stream in a lean agile environment. He facilitates the ART events to process and assists the team to deliver value. 

SAFe agile training further elaborates on how an RTE escalates barriers and manages risk to make sure that value delivery is achieved. This training will enable RTE to configure SAFe aligning with the business needs by standardizing the practices and document the same for future references. 

A brief intro to an ART 

Since an RTE deals primarily with ART you must have a fair understanding of ART before we explain the responsibilities of this person. 

ART consists of groups of teams that are organized by themselves and collaboratively work to deliver the product. There will be a minimum of 5 teams and can go up to 15+ teams with 6 to 10 people working in each team. 

Therefore, the role of an RTE is to work towards providing all that is required by the ART team members. This person is one step above the scrum master. In some organizations, RTE and scrum master are the same while others will call this person a super scrum master. 

Primary responsibilities of a release train engineer

1. First RTE will understand the requirement of ART and ensures to provide all support required. They are the guide to direct the train to move in the right path from the beginning till the delivery. 

2. The RTE starts with managing and optimizing the value flow through the agile release train by making use of different tools including Kanbans etc. 

3. They establish the annual calendar to communicate for every iteration and program increment. 

4. Then begins with the program increment planning driving the vision, roadmap, and backlog synthesis. This is achieved through post planning and pre-planning the program increment events. 

5. Followed by planning release train engineer will facilitate the planning event 

6. Part of facilitation will summarize the objectives and publishing them for transparency and visibility to all across the team.

7. Then starts tracking the feature and capability execution 

8. During every stage, the ART sync is carried out 

9. This servant leader also manages risk, escalates barriers, and helps in making an economic decision to roll up to epics. 

10. Assist in driving the lean UX and facilitates system and solution demos. 

In summary, the RTE will understand the requirement, plan PI, prepare the team with an agile mindset, escalates impediments, acts as a great communicator. Apart from the general aspects the SAFe RTE also focus on reviewing the code and insist on test-first development to deliver a better product every time Therefore, they focus on the value stream management to have a clear idea about the value of each part of the development process that contributes to the outcome. 

The SAFe agilist training will cover all the above topics in detail with practical sessions and make you a professional release train engineer. It also helps you understand why an RTE reports to the PMO or the development organization despite the SAFe methodology not prescribing any reporting structure. 

Must to have skills of an effective release train engineer

SAFe framework – The very first qualifying skill to become an RTE is to have a firm grasp of the SAFe framework. Because this very basic will drive them to provide the right coaching to deliver the right value.

Agile budget – Next comes budgeting as it is different in agile projects and much more in a scaled agile framework. Only having a clear idea about this budgeting they can work with the team managing the project-based funding. 

Agile metrics – Yes metrics understanding, tracking, interpreting, and correcting them is another key skill to become a release train engineer. 

Let me explain this with an example – If quality is the result-focused upon then the metric used must be defected data and support call volume which will help reduce the defect counts and support call volume. Therefore an RTE should know how to handle the agile metrics for a successful outcome. 

For more examples and exercises you can take part in a leading SAFE certification course and get benefitted as a great servant leader. 

How to start and travel as a release train engineer

Skills and experience alone do not qualify for a SAFE release train engineer but training is a must to acquire knowledge about all the agile techniques and constructs. However, remember to choose the StarAgile SAFe Agilist Certification to become the coach, mentor, and servant leader to grow as a successful RTE. There is no specific accreditation body for RTE and hence you must choose the right place for gaining knowledge.