Test Environments – Oiling the Tracks for Agile Release Trains

DZone 's Guide to

Test Environments – Oiling the Tracks for Agile Release Trains

Once the train leaves the station, there's no going back. So make sure you are aware of how to prepare for the duration of the project with these ART elements.

· Agile Zone ·
Free Resource

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

Image title

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 are 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 overspending, 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 look like something out of “Thomas the Tank Engine”.

Image title

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, exemplified in the EMMI (Environment Management Maturity Index), 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
  • 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 Agile Release Trains) spends 95% of their time.

    Image title

    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 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 Management, Release Management and Test Data Management

    test environment ,release management ,scaled agile framework ,safe ,agile ,Agile release train

    Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

    {{ parent.title || parent.header.title}}

    {{ parent.tldr }}

    {{ parent.urlSource.name }}