Select Page

Test Environments – The Tracks for Agile Release Trains

04

APRIL, 2018

by Niall Crawford

So, you have decided you’re going to implement a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and promote a continuous delivery pipeline by implementing “Agile Release Trains” (ART)*.

 

Definition: An Agile Release Train is basically a number of teams (a portfolio) responsible for the regular release of features and business benefits. All the teams are bound by a common set of goals, a program backlog, and a roadmap. ART is central to understanding and implementing a Scaled Agile Framework.

And why not? An Agile Release Train (or Enterprise Release Management) methodology is usually much better than the alternative chaos of different project teams running off in different directions (as “fast” as they can), competing for shared resources (service & systems), misaligning group priorities and ultimately causing collective delivery delays due to mismanaged dependencies & relationships with other teams.

If implemented correctly ART will help IT deliver on the necessary IT business transformations as quickly and safely as possible, and ultimately deliver timely solutions into production and to the end-customers.

Key Benefits of the Agile Release Train

  • Increased Collaboration
  • Improved Change (Feature) Throughput
  • Controlled Velocity
  • Cross Team Productivity
  • Risk Cognizance / Awareness
  • Circumvent Release Failure
  • Delivery Streamlining

All Aboard

So, we get started by each team loading up the train carriages with Features & Change.

And we collectively commence out journey towards production.

Then the proverbial “wheels fall off”.

Delays in Development, System Test, Integration, UAT & Staging due to:

  • Test environment unreadiness (i.e. engineering team is still building it)
  • Test environment contention (i.e. BAU Team currently has it)
  • Test environment instability due to too much unplanned change
  • Test environment systems are not fit for purpose e.g. wrong scale or version or integrations

And the risk of overspend, for example:

  • Need for more systems (infrastructure & licensing) to address contention
  • Need for more support (services) to accelerate tasks & remediate

And suddenly our ART suddenly looks like something out of “Thomas the Tank Engine”.

The Issue

The problem with trains, whether real or agile, is they must follow a rail track and delays & collisions will be inevitable if tracks (or the stations) are inappropriately sized, incorrectly built, mismanaged and not kept clear.

In the case of your Agile Release Trains, imagine the train stations as your lifecycle. The ART will travel through each station (Development, System Test, Integration, UAT & Staging) to allow the necessary on-boarding of fixes (good commuters) & offboarding of defects (bad commuters).

Oiling the Track

In IT, preparing the rail track is analogous to the task of IT & Test Environment Management. A multi-faceted set of discipline – refer to the EMMI (Environment Management Maturity Index) – that ensures appropriate:

  • Understanding, Mapping & Modelling of Environments & Systems
  • Capturing of Demand & Managing of Contention
  • Planning & Coordination of Preparation Activities
  • Lean Service Management
  • Standardised & Repeatable Operations

e.g. Application Deployment & Configuration Activities, Data Masking etc.

  • And Continual Analysis & Reporting for Improvement

Benefits to ART of implementing effective Test Environments Management

After bad requirements management, Test Environments are the number one reason for Project delays. Hardly surprising when you consider that is where Projects (and I guess the Agile Release Trains) spends 95% of their time.

By implementing a proper TEM framework (tracks), you ensure:

  • Environments Readiness (systems prepared in advance)
  • Environments Suitability (systems fit for purpose)
  • Environment Stability (disruption/outage avoidance)
  • Release Team Productivity (more time to Develop & Test)
  • Release Streamlining (Maglev style) &
  • Reduced IT Costs through better project sharing & post release housekeeping

So next time someone mentions the ART, ask them about the readiness of the tracks. As trains don’t go too far without them.

Learn More, or Share Ideas

If you’d like to learn more about Release or Environment Management or perhaps just share your own ideas, then feel free to contact the enov8 team. Enov8 provides a complete platform for addressing organisations “DevOps at Scale” requirements. Providing advanced “out of the box” IT & Test Environment ManagementRelease Management and Holistic Data Management capabilities.

Niall Crawford

Niall is the Co-Founder and CIO of Enov8. He has 25 years of experience working across the IT industry from Software Engineering, Architecture, IT & Test Environment Management and Executive Leadership. Niall has worked with, and advised, many global organisations covering verticals like Banking, Defence, Telecom and Information Technology Services.

Relevant Articles

DevOps versus SRE – Friend or Foe

19 MARCH, 2020 by Michiel Mulders SRE vs DevOps: Friends or Foes? Nowadays, there’s a lack of clarity about the difference between site reliability engineering (SRE) and development and operations (DevOps). There’s definitely an overlap between the roles, even though...

Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Top 10 Best Practice

06 MARCH, 2020 by Arnab Roy Chowdhury Top 10 SRE Practices Do you know what the key to a successful website is? Well, you’re probably going to say that it’s quality coding. However, today, there’s one more aspect that we should consider. That’s reliability. There are...

What Is Data Literacy? (aka Know Your Data)

20 FEBRUARY, 2020 by Arnab Row Chowdhury   Technically, the world today has advanced to a level we never could’ve imagined a few years ago. What do you think made it possible? We now understand complexities. And how do you think that became possible? Literacy! Since...

What Is SRE (Site Reliability Engineering)?

14 FEBRUARY, 2020 by Michiel Mulders A site reliability engineer loves optimizing inefficient processes but also needs coding skills. He or she must have a deep understanding of the software to optimize processes. Therefore, we can say an SRE contributes directly to...

Data Compliance: What It Is and Why You Should Care

07 February, 2020 by Arnab Roy Chowdhury Do you remember what Uncle Ben said to young Peter Parker? “With great power comes great responsibility.” The same applies to companies. At present, businesses hold a huge amount of data—not only the data of a company but also...

The History of SRE

17 JANUARY, 2020 by Sylvia Fronczak Site reliability engineering (SRE) uses techniques and approaches from software engineering to tackle reliability problems with a team’s operations and a site’s infrastructure. Knowing the history of SRE and understanding which...