In the simplest terms, a Release Train Engineer is the Agile equivalent of a project manager. But there are differences. The concept of a Release Train means that several features and project objectives are expected to be completed and delivered at the same time. Like railway cars linked together, they are all expected to arrive at the station together. The challenge becomes one of coordination and dependencies when multiple SCRUM teams are actively working on different features. The Release Train Engineer keeps the project moving and makes sure all the teams are making progress toward the collective goals. She does this by following the SAFe Agile Methodology, coaching her SCRUM Masters on Agile Best Practices, and checking in regularly with the Product Managers to confirm priorities and any scope changes.
The Practical Results Release Train Engineer
Program Increment Planning (PI Planning)
Align all your teams around common goals and high-value deliverables. Get everyone in the same room, either physically or virtually, and share what you are working on and what you plan to do in the next 10 weeks. Discuss dependencies, roadblocks, priorities, and actually draw a line from each body of work directly to the company goal it relates to. Plan efficiently and transparently so there are no surprises at delivery time.
Agile Release Train Synchronization
Keeping everyone on track and managing dependencies so that everyone arrives at the same destination on time. Lots of things can change once you set your teams loose to execute their program plans. Regularly checking in with your Product Managers, Product Owners, and SCRUM Masters — and having them check in with each other — cuts down on time spent waiting for someone “to get back to you” and keeps everyone informed about progress.
Engaging Product Managers and Product Owners
Traditional People Managers and Project Managers will have to adjust to new Agile Roles. They can do it, but they need support and coaching. Like an actor taking on a role in a play, time must be spent getting to know the character, learn his mannerisms, discover her motivation. Micromanagers, Hands-on Managers, Hands-off managers, Project Managers…will have to think through how they want to execute this Role and assess what talents they already possess that can contribute to becoming a high-performer.