What Is Release Management? (Process and Relevant Teams)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated June 16, 2022 | Published January 3, 2022
Updated June 16, 2022
Published January 3, 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Launching new products and upgrading existing products are essential aspects of many businesses. To succeed with both, it's important for companies to maintain a consistent release schedule, stay under budget, and fulfil customers' expectations. Understanding release management can help you effectively manage an organization's operations during the release of new or upgraded products. In this article, we define the management of product releases, identify its benefits, explore the role of a release manager, outline the relevant teams during this process, explain the management process, and highlight the best practices for managing releases.
What is release management?
Release management is a specialized field in software engineering that concerns the stages of building software, from its development to testing and deployment. This process also refers to all activities involved in coordinating a software release within a production environment such that its intended users can access it easily. The goal is to ensure that the release team delivers the required components for such software while safeguarding the integrity of the production environment.
Most IT teams work on various projects simultaneously, which may relate to one another. Managing releases may involve creating a structured and detailed approach for integrating these features, testing they're functional and safe, and introducing them to the end-users in the product environment. It's common to include new features or added functionality when introducing new products or upgrading existing ones.
Benefits of managing product releases
Managing product releases can help a company improve the speed and resilience of its release process while maintaining its productivity. Beyond allowing you to deploy the software faster and providing more time to make changes and fixes, its other advantages may include:
Improves collaboration: Managing releases involves considering the demands of every department and coordinating their interactions. This can help improve collaboration and communication between the relevant departments within an IT company.
Improves operation: This can also allow a company to streamline its development process. Standardizing operations can help improve the business's overall efficiency.
Improves future processes: You may also document the entire management process, which can help establish vital details during product development. Teams can learn from this documentation and apply the information to improve the company's product development and release methods.
Supports a reliable deployment schedule: Managing the release process can also help ensure a company creates a realistic deployment timeline. It can help the company reduce the likelihood of missing a deadline and help it gain a reputation for reliability.
Improves consistency: By improving future processes, companies can efficiently deliver new features, functionality, and changes to products in the future. Consistent release processes can help improve the user experience, brand visibility, and public appeal.
Aids transfer of knowledge: Managing releases can also allow a team to establish release controls for their project. This can become the foundation for the company's other releases, which can aid the transfer of knowledge to support employees and users.
Role of a release manager
Release managers function across various departments and disciplines because most release processes involve multiple teams. They may guide and coordinate multiple stakeholders, from top-level management to developers, to complete an effective product or project release. Release managers are typically IT professionals with strong project management and problem-solving skills. They may also possess relevant soft skills, such as communication and organizational skills, to help ensure the seamless operation of the management process.
Release managers may oversee the entire release cycle for multiple projects. They typically aim to ensure that each product or project release contains the specified functionalities and features while meeting pre-defined technical and business requirements. They also typically coordinate operations employees, product owners, and IT project teams to perform their duties.
Teams involved in managing product releases
Managing product releases usually involves collaboration between various teams and groups. These are the teams most commonly involved in managing product releases:
The sales team often begins the product release process by making requests for new features based on their interactions with customers. For instance, the sales team can inform the product development team that customers may prefer a slimmer gadget if they've learned this from customer feedback. They're also relevant in the final stages of the product release, as they're responsible for preparing sales prospects. Sales employees may require training and specific documentation to understand the product or modification fully.
The marketing team is typically most important at the later stages of the product release cycle. They're responsible for creating a compelling and enticing product message to convince customers to buy the product. The marketing team may communicate this message through traditional advertisements, product packaging, or modern platforms, such as social media. In addition, they typically work closely with the product development team to understand its functionality, what differentiates it from competitors' products, and why customers may want to buy it.
The software development team is typically an integral part of the release team because they're essential to the development stage. They may create the product's software component and complete its development within a specified period. Software developers often collaborate with the sales team to determine what users may want, then work with the research and development team to achieve it.
The quality assurance team can establish pre-defined criteria to test the end product at multiple intervals. Their goal is typically to assess the product's safety and confirm that it fulfills its purpose. Usually, a company can't release a new product until the quality assurance team affirms that it's functioning correctly. They can also help the company mitigate the risk of releasing unfinished products into the market.
The customer support team is usually most important at the end of the release process. They're responsible for answering questions clients may have about using the product. They often provide video guides, on-call support, and chat support to users to help them better understand the company's products or services.
Release management process
While the process varies and can involve customization depending on the company, these are the typical steps involved in the management of releases:
1. Planning the release
The first and most crucial stage is planning the entire release. This may involve structuring the release and establishing a project timeline. Creating a release plan can help ensure the team remains organized and can measure its performance against specific requirements and standards. When planning the release, you may include a checklist or workflow that team members can easily refer to throughout the process. It's vital this checklist or workflow identifies the project timeline, team responsibilities, requirements, and project scope.
2. Building and designing the release
After the management team approves the release plan, you can build and design the product you plan to release. The software development team can help program the product or meet its related software requirements. This is typically an iterative process that starts with releasing the product to a focus group to help identify bugs and performance issues. The design team can then work to resolve these issues, usually in the order of their importance. This process may continue until the focus group finds no problems with the product.
3. Testing for user acceptance
Usually managed by the quality assurance team, this is the final testing stage in which actual users can experience the product and provide real-time feedback. This information is often critical to improving the integrity of the product. Once the product passes this final test, it's typically ready for deployment into the market.
4. Preparing the release
It's vital that the company manages the product release process and schedule to succeed in the market. The quality assurance team can also perform a last check to help ensure functionality and safety based on industry best practices. Once certified, the relevant stakeholders may approve the release, after which the product is ready to enter the market. The marketing team can now work to help ensure that the product release is well-timed and effective.
5. Deploying the release
At this stage, the business may deploy the product based on the recommendation of the marketing team. End-users can now access the product. The deployment may also involve educating end-users about product functionality through the customer support team. This can involve one-time training or ongoing training based on the product's complexity. The team can also evaluate the product's performance during this stage to help ensure they account for every variable.
Best practices for managing product releases
Here are some tips to help you improve the release process:
Define the objectives and requirements: Clearly defining the goals and requirements of the project can help ensure you fulfil them. This can also provide a metric through which you can assess the project's success.
Prioritize backlog requirements: To help ensure clarity during product release meetings, you may prioritize the backlog requirements, as they're often important and behind schedule.
Minimize impacts on users: Minimizing the impact of updates on users can help avoid interrupting the user experience. This can mean providing necessary updates at more convenient times to reduce the amount of downtime most users experience.
Automate necessary processes: You can automate the relevant processes to increase their speed and accuracy. For instance, you may automate the quality assurance process to save time, allowing the team to focus more on improvements than maintenance.
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