Understanding the Release Management Process: The Secret to a Successful Software Release

With an increasing number of people, businesses, and organizations going digital, there’s been a correspondingly higher demand for new software and web applications. And since systems are becoming more sophisticated and powerful, these new apps must also be more complex to function correctly with these state-of-the-art devices.

Unfortunately, this increased demand for more sophisticated software often causes developers to rush new products to market before they are ready, resulting in bugs, failures, and crashes. Customers get angry and impatient as the company scrambles to design and release a fix, whether in the form of a patch or a full version upgrade.

Consequently, this demand for software applications to be released in a timely fashion—and actually work right the first time—has created the need for what the development world calls the “release management process.”

This Release Management process article gives you the details on release management, its definition, characteristics, goals, origin, and workings. If you’re currently involved in any stage of software and application development (or plan to), then this article is for you.

Let us begin by understanding the Release Management process.

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What is Release Management?

Release management is the process that deals with the management, planning, scheduling, and control of an application build through every applicable stage and environment—from development to testing to deployment.

Developers need to use release management anytime they either produce a new product or create changes or new versions to an existing one. But, many developers are faced with the daunting task of releasing multiple products at an ever-increasing pace. Between new releases and having to create updates and fixes for already-existing software, the development process can potentially become hopelessly jammed up and disorganized.

Now that we have learned the release management process, let us look into its history.

History of Release Management

Release management is a relatively new concept in the world of software engineering. The process has been a slow evolutionary change, as engineers shifted their emphasis from project-based to product-based results.

Software developers used to consider each release as a project, not a product with a full lifecycle. But as the software development process increasingly resembled the product cycle, and the goal of a release was not just an end-product but a transition point between support and revision, release management grew in importance.

Continual advances in best practices and technology have served as a catalyst for release management’s rising importance in today’s development world.

Next, let us learn about the release management process flow. 

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What is the Release Management Process Flow?

Release management follows a sequence of steps covering elements like planning, scheduling, and managing application development—guiding the project through the development, test, deployment, and support stages.

Existing techniques like continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD), DevOps, agile development, and release automation have made release management easier. The discipline brings together the best of both worlds: traditional business-focused management strategies and a set of IT service management practices consisting of the IT infrastructure library and the technical knowledge of the systems development life cycle (SDLC).

Speaking of agile development, this article gives a more detailed, in-depth look at agile release plans.

The release management process is typically broken down into the following stages, and overseen by a release manager:

  • Plan Release

    Create a release plan employing resources such as the abovementioned SDLC.  The plan breaks the release into stages, sets up the overall workflow, and explains who is responsible for each task. The plan should have:

    1. Any relevant timelines
    2. All delivery dates
    3. Project requirements
    4. The project’s overall scope

  • Build Release

    At this stage, the product is actually designed and built following the standards and requirements put forth in the release plan. Note that this stage may occur several times, as the product is sent to user testing, revealing issues and bugs that require attention.
  • User Acceptance Testing (UAT) 

    Here is where the end-users that the product is meant for getting the chance to try it out. This testing is normally done as either an in-house deployment or a free online beta test trial. Just like the build release stage, there can be multiple user acceptance testing stages. If the UAT discovers issues with the app, it’s sent back to the build release stage for changes and fixes. Once the issues are dealt with, the product goes through UAT again to ensure the problems have been adequately resolved.
  • Prepare Release 

    The product is now running down the home stretch. The team puts the finishing polish on the product, using the UAT evaluations as a roadmap. Finally, the quality assurance (QA) team gives the product one final quality review, ensuring the app meets the minimum standards of acceptance and business requirements as detailed in the release plan.
  • Deploy Release 

    And the product is now live! But the team’s work isn’t over. Both the end-users and your home organization need training and information on the product’s functions and any future changes. Also, those parties will inevitably have questions and comments to be addressed.

After the product finally goes live, the development team should meet to discuss how the deployment went and the release’s performance.

The Internal Workings of Software Release Management

We’ve seen what the release management workflow looks like, but now let’s take a brief look at the individual components that make up the typical release management process.

  • Release Pipeline 

    The entire release process for the product in question, from feature planning to final delivery
  • Release Value Stream 

    The release processes that generate or increase value throughout the release pipeline
  • Release Policy 

    This policy defines the organization’s release types, standards, and governance requirements
  • Release Template 

    A single workflow process for the release pipeline featuring all automated and human interaction and adheres to the business’s release policies. The template is repeatable
  • Deployment Plan 

    This plan names the activities needed to deploy the release to the production environment
  • Release Unit

    A set of artifacts that are released together to implement a given feature
  • Release Package 

    One or more release units combined and deployed together as a single release
  • Major Release 

    Release packages composed of many release units and deployed infrequently. Major releases often have a critical or significant business impact
  • Minor Release 

    Release packages deployed more frequently than major releases, containing fewer release units and lacking mission-critical components
  • Release Manager 

    Not so much a component as a position, release managers schedule, coordinate and maintain the releases across the organization, handling multiple applications. Release managers also assist in project management, manage risks, resolve issues, conduct release readiness reviews, and report to the CIO, CTO, and business management

Objectives and Benefits of Release Management

Release management exists to meet specific and critical goals in product development. The objectives are:

  • Manage risks
  • Coordinate all applicable IT resources
  • Ensure compliance and auditing processes
  • Oversee the live release of new versions (including the original)
  • Maintain alignment and harmony between software development and the business

With such exacting and wide-ranging goals, it’s not surprising that release management brings many benefits to any software application development team. The advantages of release management include:

  • Removes team barriers across multiple functions within an IT organization, thereby helping development teams improve a product holistically
  • Enables the team to repeatedly produce quality applications and software with shorter times to market, allowing the company to be more responsive to the operating environment
  • Standardizes and streamlines the development and operations processes
  • Helps create and perpetuate a single, well-documented process that enables teams to learn from previous builds and apply that experience to future product releases
  • Delivers changes and new features to users faster and more consistently
  • Reduces the risk of unauthorized releases breaking the features that end-users rely on
  • Creates a predictable, reliable deployment schedule of deployments, featuring times that minimize the impact on the organization
  • Ensures that all new or changed services will meet any agreed-on service requirements
  • Provides the transfer of proper knowledge to users and any support staff
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Do You Want a Career in Service Management?

Businesses today need service management to maximize their value by effectively using information technology.  ITIL, an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a highly popular set of detailed IT service management practices.

Simplilearn offers an ITIL 4 Foundation certification training course that provides you with a solid understanding of the ITIL 4 framework, core concepts, and terminologies used in the ITIL service lifecycle. By the end of this course, you will understand how ITIL evolved to adopt modern technologies, operational processes, and the necessary concepts in a service management framework.

Whether you choose corporate training, self-paced learning, or Simplilearn’s famous Blended Learning course, you will enjoy 19 Professional Development Units (PDUs) for self-paced learning, 22 PDUs for online classes, 30 chapter-end quizzes, a pair of industry case studies, two simulation exams, and a certification exam voucher.

A solutions architect can earn an annual average of USD 110,663, according to Glassdoor, with a high of USD 143,000. Since new apps are in greater demand, companies need more professionals to design increasing numbers of software releases, which in turn requires service management professionals. So, if you’re looking for an exciting position that offers plenty of security and generous benefits, check out Simplilearn today and take that first step in a better career!

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