Introduction

In this competitive, dynamic, and digital world of business and information technology, precise planning for product releases is necessary to sustain its life. Nobody wants a software release with half-baked services or features. Since businesses run on the dynamics of the technologies and their services, it becomes crucial to streamline the process of product releases through some form of management. Release management orchestrates the processes involved in the introduction of a new service in a product to its availability to the end-user. 

  1. What is Release Management?
  2. Release Management Process
  3. Responsibilities in Release Management
  4. Goals of Release Management
  5. Benefits of Release Management
  6. Importance of Release Management

1. What is Release Management?

A release is one or more changes to an IT service that are built, tested, and deployed together. For example, a new version of a software precedes the old release. In short, the outcome of a change is “release”. 

Release management mainly applies to software projects. It is the process of planning, scheduling, managing, and controlling the progress of software built through the various stages of development and deployment. It ensures that information systems and technology (IS&T) delivers new and enhanced IT services required by the business while protecting the integrity of existing services.

As the businesses are growing year on year, their software systems, resources, and software development processes are becoming more and more complex. The release management process is responsible for essentially supervising the progress of a software release. The decluttering of the complexity through meticulous checks and discrete goals are orchestrated for various teams responsible for the software release development process.

The demanding task of release management involves knowledge from various domains viz, technical, project management, developer operations, business awareness, strategic planning abilities.

2. Release Management Process

The Release Management process works by providing a consistent framework for defining and creating new services and ensuring that the correct versions of tested and approved software are implemented on a day-to-day basis (that is, after initial rollout).

  • Release policy: The release policy is the strategy adopted for implementing new services. It can be a high-level conscious decision for a new release or a well-defined complex plan for the actual development of software and its releases.
  • Definitive software library: a central repository for storing released software serving as the central point for new software installation to distinguish between old and new release versions.
  • Release planning: This includes design, build, test, and acceptance testing.
  • Design: The architecture of the new service involving the configuration of the pieces of hardware and software involved.
  • Build: Compilation of the components of a service into a package.
  • Test: Ensures that the service is stable and the preceding services or features remain unaffected by the new changes introduced
  • Acceptance testing: service tested by nominated users to ensure that the service does what is required.
  • Release Rollout: Release rollout includes scheduling, training, communication, updating the definitive software library, and checklists.
  • Scheduling: to enable phased or big-bang rollouts of the services to the customers.
  • Training: ensures that the users can fully understand the new service. Training should always be considered before a rollout of new hardware or software
  • Communication: allows the users to be aware of the new changes being made and how the scheduling of them can have an effect.
  • Update definitive software library: latest and correct version of the software should be available to install
  • Checklists: structured deployment checks for consistent rollout

3. Responsibilities in Release Management

The release management responsibilities involve tasks that intersect with various departments that work together. Therefore, a release manager has various responsibilities like the following.

  • Building the release calendar after consolidating all the views from IT managers to the change managers
  • Assistance in project management to measure the integrity of the release.
  • Go-to action plan creation involving the release management process
  • Participate in inter-departmental meetings to discuss the scope of release and roadblocks
  • Management of risks and resolve issues that affect release scope, quality, and schedule

4. Goals of Release Management

The overall goal of release management is to introduce new updates to the existing product in a streamlined way. According to Boston University’s release management quick reference guide, the specific goals of release management include the following (not in its totality).

  • Increment in the number of successful releases and decreasing the incidents in the previous releases
  • A single documented streamlined process for all the releases
  • A single repository for maintaining all the releases throughout the software lifecycle
  • If there are compliance issues, it ensures that the process is adhered to and the issue is escalated to the management
  • Improve coordination between IS&T groups to ensure smooth and timely delivery of IT services.
  • Standardization of release processes to improve productivity between different teams
  • Auditable release controls are established as a result of a streamlined process
  • Communicate Releases to IS&T, affected client representatives, clients, and other IT organizations.

5. Benefits of Release Management

Release Management is proactive technical support focused on the planning and preparation of new services. Some release management benefits include:

  • future planning of the resources and the expenditures becomes highly possible
  • an efficient and effective structured approach to roll out software and services
  • bundled released to minimize change impact on users
  • ensures testing before rollout to minimize the impact of faults and bugs 
  • an opportunity for users to accept the functionality of the software before it is
  • fully implemented
  • central storage and version control of the software ensures that only correct versions are installed at all times, thus, removing the need for reinstallation.
  • Faster change, optimum cost, minimized risk
  • Customer assurance to support business goals
  • Improve implementation consistency
  • Contributing to auditable requirements

6. Importance of Release Management

  • Alignment of business and IT is maintained by such management which can become the backbone of the success of an enterprise.
  • It allows enterprises to enact governance policies across releases consistently.
  • Risk forecasting becomes clear with such a process in action

Conclusion

The release management process allows businesses to introduce changes in service without affecting the old ones. The process involves all the steps starting from the conception of the new service to its delivery. While release management is crucial for risk management, compliance, team productivity, etc. the myriad of skills required to carry out responsibilities like ensuring inter-departmental consensus makes it a complex process. Release management is important for alignment between businesses and IT and implementing consistent governance policies across releases.

Interested to learn all about Product Management from the best minds in the industry? Check out our Product Management Course. This 6-month-long program takes place online through live instructor-led sessions. It is the only program in India that offers the ‘Bring Your Own Product (BYOP)’ feature so that learners can build their product idea into a full-blown product, and go through an entire Product Development lifecycle. Not only this, but this is the only program in India with a curriculum that conforms to the 5i Framework. Post completion, learners receive a joint certification from the Indian Institute of Management, Indore, and Jigsaw Academy.

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