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Decoding Agile Roles: A Comparative Study of SAFe Scrum Masters and Release Train Engineers

Updated: May 19, 2023

While both SAFe Scrum Master and Release Train Engineers share some similarities as servant leaders, they vary significantly in scope, focus, and responsibilities. The SAFe Scrum Master facilitates Sprint Planning, Daily stand-ups, and Sprint review, while the Release Train Engineer facilitates ART-level tasks such as Program Increment planning and system Demos.

If you want to learn more about the responsibilities of SSM and RTE in an agile team, keep reading the detailed description of each job roles explained below.



SAFe Scrum Master

The SAFe Scrum Master is a servant leader who helps educate the agile team in Scrum, Built-in-Quality, Kanban, and SAFe. They also help remove impediments and encourage continuous flow and relentless improvement in the development process. The SSM also assists the teams in self-organization and self-management to help them coordinate and participate in Agile Release Trains (ARTs) events.

Some of the specific roles of the SAFe Scrum Master are:

  1. They ensure that the scrum ceremonies work efficiently and that the agile team follows the scrum framework.

  2. SAFe scrum masters are responsible for coaching the scrum team, Product Owner, and stakeholders to understand the scrum practices. They also guide on how to implement and adopt agile principles.

  3. They are responsible for fostering collaboration among team members so that everyone is working towards the same goal.

  4. They manage dependencies and resolve impediments that arise during the project. The SAFe scrum masters also work closely with other scrum masters and agile teams, to resolve issues that affect the project’s progress.

  5. Before preparing for the PI planning, they work closely with Product Owner to identify the stories, maintenance, defects, and other tasks the agile team needs to achieve during the upcoming PI.

  6. They maintain the team’s workflow by eliminating impediments, delays, and waste.


Release Train Engineer

The Release Train Engineer is a servant leader facilitating ART practices and PI planning. They often participate in the Lean-Agile transformation, coaching teams, and leaders to obtain new mindsets and processes.

Some of the specific roles of the Release Train Engineers are:

  1. The Release Train Engineer is accountable for managing the Program Backlog, and making sure it is prioritized and groomed for upcoming Program Increments (PI).

  2. They work closely with the product owners and stakeholders to check whether the Backlog aligns with the PI objectives.

  3. The RTEs are also responsible for facilitating continuous improvement across the ART. They encourage teams to reflect on their processes and identify areas for improvement to increase productivity.

  4. They monitor and manage the ARTs performance to meet the business objectives and KPIs. And they also help agile teams identify and address the performance issues that arise during the process.

  5. The Release Train Engineer coaches scrum masters in ART, team events, and practices such as PI planning, iteration planning, backlog refinement, and more.

  6. They also coach other leaders like business owners, system architects, and product management teams in achieving a new agile mindset.

How does the job role of Release Train Engineer differ from SAFe Scrum Master?

Here is a detailed discussion about how these two roles differ from each other:

  1. The SAFe scrum master’s scope is restricted to a single agile team, whereas the Release Train Engineer’s scope is the coordination and leadership of the entire ARTs.

  2. The SSM focuses on coaching and mentoring the agile teams, while RTEs are accountable for leading the Agile Release Train towards the program objectives.

  3. While the SAFe scrum master manages the team backlog, on the other hand, the Release Train Engineer manages the program backlog aligned with the PI vision.

  4. The RTEs play a major role in leading the ART, managing risks, addressing impediments, and ensuring the program delivery on time within budget compared to the SAFe scrum master.

Overall, both the servant leaders are skilled facilitators with a deep understanding of the agile manifesto and practices.


Which certification is for you, SAFe Release Train Engineer or SAFe Scrum Master (SSM)?

The SAFe Scrum Master (SSM) and the Release Train Engineer (RTE) courses are intended to teach you with necessary skills and knowledge to effectively implement and support a scaled agile framework in a large organization. Therefore, make sure to understand the requirements to choose a role that applies to you.


1. SAFe Scrum Master certification

SAFe Scrum Master Certification focuses on guiding agile leaders to become scrum masters who can plan and executes the work during a PI. This training course also teaches scrum masters to coach and lead agile teams inside a SAFe enterprise and to build a high-performing team.


2. SAFe Release Train Engineer certification

SAFe Release Train Engineer certification explores on how to prepare, plan and execute a PI planning event. It teaches how to create an environment of relentless improvement and lead and serve ARTs.


Conclusion

In summary, both SAFe Scrum Master and Release Train Engineer play a significant role in guiding agile teams in delivering value to organizations promptly. They coordinate the activities of agile teams, manage dependencies, and take care of risks and issues to ensure that the program aligns with the business objectives.


FAQs

1. How is SAFe Scrum Master different from traditional scrum master?

SAFe Scrum Master operates at the program level for coordinating multiple scrum teams, whereas traditional scrum master works at the team level.


2. What are the qualifications needed to become an RTE?

To become a Release Train Engineer, you should have prior working experience in agile and scrum environments. And you must clear a SAFe RTE certification exam.


3. What are the benefits of completing SAFe scrum master and Release Train Engineer certifications?

Both SAFe scrum master and Release Train Engineer Certification demonstrates that the individual possesses the necessary knowledge and skills to coordinate and facilitate Agile practices which can lead to better job prospects and higher salaries.



About Advance Agility

We, at Advance Agility, are the new-age Agile Coaching, Consulting and IT services company. We enable end-to-end Digital Transformation. Agile execution is integral to our being. We are doing SAFe implementation with small, medium and large organization across the globe. Our vision is to be the leading Agile execution player globally. To keep adding value at every process stage. We are on a mission to empower our clients, move from concept to cash in the shortest sustainable lead time by adopting human centric approach to business agility. Embracing the change is in our DNA. Things that keep us apart are Quicker and Seamless execution with End-to-end gamut of services. Our Global presence and Stellar Track Record give us an edge over our competitor.

Connect with us at advanceagility.com to learn about SAFe and SAFe Implementation. We provide various SAFe certification courses along with DevOps, Scrum, Agile Coaching and more trainings. Write to us at contact@advanceagilty.com for any agile training or consulting needs. We are always looking for competent agile trainers as well. So if you are a good trainer or want to become one, do get in touch with us to that we can learn, grow and achieve together.



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