When to Use the Agile Release Train

[Editor’s note: This post about using the Agile Release Train is the third is a series of posts by Mike Adler chronicling the Constant Contact engineering organization’s journey of transitioning to the SAFe Framework.]

As an organization that develops world-class SaaS software, we want to leverage the benefits of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery processes.  We have been adopting Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to help organize the work across our 15 agile teams.  The SAFe framework calls for using the Agile Release Train (ART) to help align multiple teams and external groups around particular milestones.

For Constant Contact, we discovered that much of our work could be done with lighter process.  We want to continuously deliver improvements and new functionality to our customers.  Some (more than half) of the work that we do doesn’t have customer facing dependencies or externally facing coordination needs.  We want to deliver high quality software as efficiently as possible.  To do so, we came up with some guidelines to help us know when we should use the Release Train coordination process.

We decided to look at each of our Epics and make decisions about using ART based on the size and scope of the Epic, using these ART guidelines:

  • Do the features in this Epic require a change in marketing materials?
  • Does this Epic include features being delivered by more than 3 teams?
  • Does this Epic include a mobile application update?
  • Does this Epic introduce functionality that requires changing our sales process?

If any of the above are true, we use the ART process to help organize and coordinate between all of our teams.  The ART process structure brings in our partners across the business to coordinate all of our release activities.  When none of the above are true, we have found that we can run with a lighter process, coordinating with our support organization and deliver more efficiently and in smaller chunks.

How do you decide how much process to use when running Agile in a larger organization?  Leave a comment below.

We are continuing to rollout SAFe, so be sure to check out this blog (under Software Development, tag SAFe) as we continue to share our journey.  If you are an engineer who is looking to work in a dynamic, empowering engineering organization that cares about making itself great, check out our open positions.  Read more about the SAFe framework here.

Mike Adler

VP, Engineering


  1. Averill says:

    Agile release train is a long lived team of agile. It is really an agile system development train and programs that can release any asset any time they meet market, quality and other requirements. It also helps to manage risk and variability by providing program level cadence and synchronization.

Leave a Comment