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Release Planes versus Release Trains

· Agile Zone

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Originally written by Derek Huether at the LeadingAgile blog.

There is a lot of talk these days about SAFe.  I have a lot of respect for what Dean Leffingwell has done but there is a minor use of language that has been bugging me in recent days. Just as I disagree in using farm animals to describe people on a Scrum team, I believe the Release Train metaphor is dated and has its limitations. I believe, when doing Agile at scale, a Release (Jet) Plane offers a better representation of the complexity of enterprise level delivery processes.

When I think of a train, I think Amtrak in the NorthEast Corridor, the DC Metro, or School House Rock.  I don’t think of a train when thinking of the most modern or efficient mode of transportation. So, why pick the train?

I get the metaphor:

  • The train departs the station and arrives at the next destination on a reliable schedule.
  • All “cargo,” including code, documentation, etc., goes on the train.
  • Most people needed on the train are dedicated to the train.

When speaking to architecture, SAFe refers to architectural runway, not architectural train tracks or a rail-yard.  It’s a mixed use of transportation metaphors that is not explained.  The runway is a perfect alignment with my Release Plane metaphor.

  • Most people needed on the plane are dedicated to the plane.  Sure, each plane has a flight crew but they also have a ground crew at each airport (DevOps).
  • All “cargo,” including code, documentation, etc., goes on the plane.  I also recognize that some cargo is more valuable than others. Let’s put them in first class or allow early boarding.
  • Planes depart airports and arrive at the next destination on a reliable schedule, unless you fly American Airlines.

A few more comparisons:

  • When you go to the airport and try to get you and your luggage on a plane, don’t you and your luggage (the cargo) go through a series of checkpoints?
  • If you don’t get past a checkpoint, do you still think you’re going to get on the plane? This should be pointed out.
  • Doesn’t everyone have to comply with cargo size limitations?  Again, this should be pointed out.

None of these additional comparisons apply to the release train metaphor as well as the release plane.

I just thought I would bring this up.  Can you think of any other things that would apply to my plane metaphor?  Maybe we’ll see the release plane used in SAFe 4.0.

- See more at: http://www.leadingagile.com/2014/09/release-planes-versus-release-trains/#sthash.k0mMGmqc.dpuf

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Published at DZone with permission of Mike Cottmeyer, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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