RTE Summit 3.0 provides SAFe Release Train Engineers with latest insights

10 August 2018 Consultancy.eu

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 into 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. 

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 to 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.

RTE Summit 3.0 provides SAFe Release Train Engineers with latest insights

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.

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. The 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 was also the case for SAFe 2.1 and SAFe 2.5. 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 an Agile Master and 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.

Four tips for deploying agile in the finance function

11 April 2019 Consultancy.eu

The success of agile working in the IT domain has inspired other departments to adopt the approach. In finance, agile has rapidly gained ground as a key approach for making the function more responsive, forward-looking, and, most importantly, proactive towards the business. Daniela Pleiner, a consultant at Blinklane Consulting, explores how finance can embrace agile and scale the methodology across the entire function. 

Financial Agility is realised when the finance department works in an Agile mode (e.g. using Kanban methodology) and when traditional financial processes within the organisation are adapted to support the agile way of working. With agility in place, finance can enjoy the adaptability and responsiveness needed to transition into being a strategic partner to the organisation. 

Achieving a more mature level of Financial Agility – one where agile has been scaled from a pilot environment to a more enterprise level – is however no easy feat. Typically, finance functions are used to working along the lines of rigorous and demanding processes – this is to a large extent in direct conflict with agile's core values and principles aimed at removing overhead, friction, and fostering co-creation and collaboration. 

Based on Blinklane's year-long experience in agile and finance transformations, Daniela Pleiner outlines four tips for successfully deploying financial agility:

Four tips for deploying agile in the finance function

Train your people

Behind every financial system are real people. Those professionals have to be made aware of the implications of the agile transformation on the financial processes. Therefore, it is truly important to go back to the basic agile values and to openly address challenges in the context of finance. The goal is to trigger the right discussions. You will be surprised how open they are for changes once they grasp the concept! 

Show the benefits

When you want to become a truly agile organisation, relying on business as usual from the finance function is no longer viable. However, putting some pressure on finance and asking for immediate changes to cope with agile will not help. Instead, show them the benefits from their perspective. Think: might the new process simplify their administration? Can we reduce manual data processing by linking to an agile project management tool? Or what kind of new data could we use to make better investment decisions? 

Simplify and visualise

Changing accounting approaches or funding value streams can be quite big undertakings. Too often employees say, “this is not possible in our organisation”, “we are different”, or “we need to see the return on investment” and they become doubters. What helps in such situations is to simplify the complex processes and visualise alternatives. Seeing is believing here. 

As an example, what about introducing the mindsets of venture capitalists and their investment strategies? Venture capitalists aim for a diverse portfolio that fits their strategy, they mostly invest in teams they believe in and have frequent feedback loops where the start-ups can demonstrate their value. In other words, venture capitalists plant a seed, but even if they can’t harvest the fruits yet (i.e. direct revenues), they do not bail out. This is not so different from the basic strategy at the heart of the agile approach. 

Be realistic

Turning long-established financial processes around in a few weeks? Very unlikely. In a few months? Hard to achieve as well. Bravely challenging the status quo and making small steps here and there? This is the way! Most often a hybrid version is the right first step. The goal is not to disrupt all the financial processes within the company to make them fit the Agile value delivery. Rather it is vital that Finance has a constructive role to play in supporting the business to be more effective, be it in quick funding decisions or intelligent process automation. 

Make the move: a final comment

Finance should be encouraged to be a truly supportive function – a value promoter – and Financial Agility is the key word here. For a scaled agile transformation to be truly successful in finance, it is key that the function leverage the change capabilities of the organisation. There is no question that the start will be difficult, uncertain and slow. It requires a fundamental mindset change but the benefits are certainly worthwhile.