In November, the third edition of the RTE Summit will take place, an event that provides SAFe Release Train Engineers the opportunity to access the latest trends and insights in their profession and to exchange knowledge with peers.
Agile working is booming across multiple industries, giving organisations of all shapes and sizes a new way to innovate their services, ramp up their operations and improve the effectiveness of team practices. The method has emerged out of a growing dissatisfaction with the slow approaches previously utilised within IT, but has now branched out to businesses lines, including project management, HR, finance and R&D. Since the establishment of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, numerous Agile approaches have since been created, in particular off late, with the deluge demonstrating a growing demand for such methods.
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
One of the most used Agile methodologies is that of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), an approach that focuses on the delivery of change in the shortest sustainable lead time, while maintaining quality. The framework prescribes dozens of roles that combine to drive relentless improvement, including the Release Train Engineer (RTE), who serves as a leader and coach for the Agile Release Train (ART). Main responsibilities of the Release Train Engineer are to facilitate the ART events and processes, lead calendars for Iterations and Program Increments (PIs), encourage collaboration between teams, improve the flow of value through value streams using the Continuous Delivery Pipeline and DevOps, and assist the teams in delivering value.
RTEs, also known as ‘Super Scrum Masters’, communicate with stakeholders, escalate impediments and help manage risk. They further help configure SAFe to the organisation’s needs, standardising and documenting practices. Many RTEs also participate in Lean-Agile transformation, coaching leaders, teams, and Scrum Masters in the new processes and mindsets.
Although the SAFe methodology doesn’t prescribe a reporting structure, the RTE typically reports to the development organisation or an Agile Program Management Office (PMO), which, in SAFe’s methodology, is considered a part of Lean portfolio management.
Release Train Engineers
Over the past few years, Release Train Engineers have seen their standing rise, meanwhile becoming a formal/full time role within organisations that have adopted agile working. Main reason behind this is the development the role has made in the SAFe methodology released by Scaled Agile, the US-based thinker and guardian of the way of working. In the first edition of SAFE (SAFe 1.0), the RTE was pictured outside the release train, a feat which also was the case for SAFe 2.1 and SAFE2.5. When Scaled Agile launched the largely expanded SAFe 3.0, the RTE for the first time was included in the supporting group for release trains.
Now, in the most recent edition, SAFE4.5, the Release Train Engineer is according to pundits where it should be: at the helm of the Agile Release Train governance. RETs are positioned at the top of the ART coordination team, working closely together with Product managers and System Architects/Engineers.
RTE Summit 3.0
According to Eelco Rustenburg, a SAFE expert at Gladwell Academy and Agile Master en SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT), there is across the board a high demand for RTEs, while at the supply side, the amount of experts in the field is limited. For this group of experts, Gladwell Academy and BlinkLane Consulting, both Netherlands-based consultancies, are teaming up to host the ‘RTE Summit 3.0’. “As there typically are few RTEs in an organisation, there are ample opportunities to network or learn from colleagues. In addition, the job is highly demanding, leaving little room available for sparring with peers outside their own organsiation. By bringing together RTEs to a focused, dedicated event, we aim at helping them stay up to date and advance their knowledge in an effective manner.”
The event, which takes place on November 13 in the Johan Cruijff ArenA (the home base of Dutch football club Ajax), will provide visiting RTEs with a variety of keynotes (including one by SAFe founder Dean Leffingwell), presentations, cases and interactive workshops. Four best practices of ART cases – Airbus, ASML, Wolters Kluwer, PostNL – will be shared in-depth, while the workshops will focus on topics such as conflict resolution, organising PIPEs and what type of leadership best fits servant leaders such as RTEs. Several slots have been reserved for trends & development, such as Agile Portfolio management, as well as for networking and co-creation.
More information on the RTE Summit 3.0 can be found on the website of the event.