Stress-Free Software Release Management: Myth or Reality?
by Svitla Team
Your team works on a complex IT project. The first release is not far off and you get overwhelmed by an array of tasks to ensure seamless launch (or update) of a product. The closer the release, the harder it becomes to manage and keep track of all the processes. Each day you risk failing the release and dream of a stress-free workday you used to have.
Is the situation familiar? Then you understand the need for an optimized and standardized software release management.
What is software release management? What does a release manager do?
“Release management” is the process of planning, scheduling and controlling a software build through different stages and environments; including testing and deploying software releases”.
A release manager is responsible for all processes involved in a product going to the production environment. Literally, he takes over all the headache to enable the rest of the team to concentrate on their initial tasks and focus on releasing a strong product.
There are several reasons why software release management is a component that shouldn’t be missed:
- Makes shipping products more predictable and reliable. Software release management is about predicting and eliminating possible bottlenecks in the development life cycle. Implementing this strategy allows you to plan ahead and rely on that plan.
- Improves software quality. One of the tasks of the release manager is to ensure extensive product testing and all interdependencies with other products before it goes live. As a result, the possibility of negative issues after the release is reduced to a minimum.
- Saves your team time. You have a chance to optimize and standardize most of repeating processes, which results in a significant time saving for your team.
Key principles of a smooth software release management process
There are a few components that are essential for a successful software release life cycle.
Communication and collaboration between the release manager and the team.
The outcome of each software development process strongly depends on a proper teamwork. Comprehensive and timely communication between key stakeholders and team members ensure that everyone is moving towards the same goal understanding their responsibilities. Regular communication helps to discover weaknesses in the process and eliminate them until they have a crucial effect on a software release.
For a software release manager, it is important to foresee possible risks and conditions, that can cause any unfortunate consequences. Another responsibility of a release manager is to evaluate possible impact on the development process as well as think of efficient solutions to minimize losses.
Such approach allows to prepare for critical issues in advance. And instead of panicking your team will be equipped with effective solutions to not to let any unplanned issues affect software release.
Agile release planning
Planning a release should include setting a deadline and defining the set of features that need to be released within the given time. However, it is also crucial to take into account and manage all interdependencies at two levels: firstly, interdependencies of teams that work on the project, and secondly, interdependencies of the newly developed features with the existing functionality or related software products.
Automation where possible
Without doubt, every software development process is full of manual work and repeated processes. Why not to automate them? Optimizing a software release allows to hand routine to a machine and concentrate on solving more important tasks that require much creativity and decision making. As a result, the efficiency of the processes increases, your team can reach more within the same timespan.
Software release management best practices
Svitla Systems is constantly working on multiple projects for various industries. We have to deal with releases weekly. Our experience lets us develop our own agile release management best practices.
Form a detailed picture of the current release process
Understanding of the current release is crucial for the final success. What is the team releasing? What is the deadline? What is the is the goal of the release? What are the changes that need to be implemented in the current release? Will there be other releases? If yes, what is the approximate plan for the future? Having exact and unambiguous answers to these questions will help you plan the current release and adhere to this plan. The result is efficient workflow and high quality of the product the team is working on.
Establish a regular release cycle
A software development life cycle includes multiple releases. Each release results in new functionality, fixed bugs, improved user experience, etc. At the same time, all the processes are more or less repeated throughout each release cycle, which makes them quite similar. Using this fact for standardization and automation of the processes should be one of the key software release manager skills. Automation enables to cut the development time and release updates more often and not postpone them until the new feature will be adopted by competitors. Shorter release cycles are important to stay ahead of the competition.
Ensure lightweight processes. Test, review, repeat
Automating heavyweight processes isn’t even worth a try. You will make your release cycle efficient only when you cut off everything redundant. Why is that important? When you focus on the development process itself, you tend to lose your true scope. The release cycle becomes longer… and you already know why that is dangerous. Instead, focus on releasing a sufficient product in the shortest time possible. And then start working on the next release. The lightweight processes give you speed and flexibility, which is a significant advantage over competitors.
Keep the healthy atmosphere in your team
It is not necessary to be a strict manager to have all the processes running. Just on the contrary. Give your team freedom to plan their work and hold responsibility. Don’t control every step. The positive atmosphere will help you achieve much more in a shorter time than constant pressure. Motivate and reward your team, improve their loyalty towards the product, better results will follow soon.
Efficient software release management is an essential component when striving for high product quality and deadline adherence.
A release manager takes overall organizational issues, enabling other team members to concentrate on their initial tasks and not to be distracted by operational questions.
Being a part of a development team, he is responsible for:
- planning a release;
- optimization and automation of repeating processes;
- risks evaluation and elimination;
- efficient communication and healthy atmosphere in the team.
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