Why SAFe Release Train Engineer Certification?

Ever since Scaled Agile Inc. introduced the SAFe Release Train Engineer (SAFe RTE) Certification, I have been getting these queries:

What is the difference between the SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) and the Release Train Engineer course? 
What does this course offer over and above the SPC course? 
I am not an SPC. How will this course help me?
I am a Program Manager/Product Manager/ Practicing RTE. How will this course help me?)

In this blog, I will address these questions.

Let me start with answering why this course is required.

In the last few years, we have seen rapid SAFe adoption. It has gained prominence as the most popular Enterprise Agile framework. Several adopters have clocked multiple PIs (Program Increments – a set of multiple iterations that result in a handful of features being implemented) for multiple portfolios across their organization. With this experience, a rich list of lessons learnt is available to improve SAFe adoptions and executions. One of them has been the need to go deeper into the key roles and provide the assistance needed to the people performing the roles.

While SPCs have been instrumental in successfully transitioning organizations into an enterprise level Agile shop, the next litmus test for organizations, and for SAFe will be to continuously, predictably and sustainably deliver value through each of its ARTs (Agile Release Train – A team of teams working together on multiple features aligned with a common objective).

Enterprises are more tolerant and patient during the transformation to SAFe. However, once the ARTs start running, the expectation is to reach effectiveness quickly. So, the focus shifts from transformation to execution and continuous improvement. This is where several deep execution skills become essential.

The RTE training is for the specific role the RTE plays, so it is a deep dive into the specifics of day-to-day work, responsibilities and challenges of an RTE. The training is an enabler for the role.

While SPCs are the lubricants that ensure that an organization transitions to SAFe and the portfolio runs smoothly, RTE is the engine that makes the train run on its tracks and stay on schedule. So, the focus of RTEs is the one train she is driving, while the SPCs are responsible for the success of SAFe adoption in the organization.

Though SPCs would be able to develop these skills on the go, the RTE training will arm the folks playing the role of an RTE with the tools, techniques, behaviors and insights that can be used immediately.

Difference in the training curriculum
While the SPC training focuses on the Why and How of SAFe (Principles and Practices), keeping the What (Actions) part lighter. The RTE training is more action-oriented. It assumes that the Why and How of SAFe is already well understood and, through various exercises, validates the understanding of the participants first, and draws out the several possible actions in different situations.

Recognizing that an RTE will have to spend a lot of time communicating and convincing various stakeholders to keep them aligned to the Program goals, several real-life scenario-based exercises are conducted for the RTE hands-on practice.

RTE Training – Useful beyond the SAFe and RTE role
For me, the RTE training (just like the SA training – something I plan to cover in another post) is more than just running ARTs as part of organizations that have adopted SAFe. The training can be thought of an extension of the Program Manager’s training (if there is one). It arms a Program Manager with the skills that are required to substantiate her “gut feelings” – a very important reason for success.

By explaining the extent and type of involvement the RTE (Program Manager) needs to have with every other stakeholder, it guides her on how to maximize her time across the multiple dimensions of her work.

The training also guides Program Managers on how to leverage the metrics data from ART teams and the Program for decision making, course correction and stakeholder communication. SAFe has come up with out-of-box assessment tools that can be used.

The training curriculum is designed to incorporated several reflection points and learning by doing and sharing which will force the participants to validate her understanding there and then.

The RTE course will not remove the challenges that come with the role of Program Manager, or an RTE, but it will equip you with the capability to respond to these challenges in a better and more effective way.

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