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Posted On 25 Jun 2021

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Release Management is a crucial process to keep your Software Releases intact, which means a solid release and happy end-users. In short, Software Release Management is a process to produce new and improved software for the end-users.

When a software release is carried out on a larger scale, things could take a bad turn if the end-end release management process is not airtight. A single miss-step in the release process could crush the team’s efforts. Therefore, Software Release Management was introduced to organizations to help with such Software Release complexities.

But here is a million-dollar question for you – Are you aware of what makes an effective Software Release Management Process? You should know a lot goes behind the scenes for effortlessly releasing software (which might include but is not limited to relentless efforts from developers, testers, the operational team, and stakeholders). That also implies having a well-knit team with appropriate release management tools that would help with continuous development, testing, deployment, and maintenance of a Software Release.

This article is suitable for anyone who wants to know or improve their Software Release Management process. Without further ado let’s get to know the How’s and Why’s.

What is Software Release Management?

As per a paper by SAS Global Forum 2020: Release Management takes care of:

  • Software Development
  • Software Testing
  • Software Deployment
  • Software Release

Below is an overview of the release management cycle:

After the latest change/feature/bugfix gets approved as a release then it gets implemented and after that, it gets deployed. After the software deployment and release phase, the software enters a maintenance phase - where the latest bug fixes, new features, and add-ons are carried on as the next releases’ to-do list.

Some of the major release management goals are:

  • Maintaining the integrity of a live production environment.
  • Releasing software components accurately.

10 Ways to Improve Software Release Management

The inner intricacies of Software Release Management are far more complex than it looks. You can reduce those complexities by keeping the learnings ready from any existing or common challenges and this knowledge could help you with designing or improving your existing processes. Some of the common occurring release management challenges (as pointed out by Wrike) are:

  • There is a problem of process visibility- That is the stakeholders, relevant team members often lose track of who is doing what and the release timings.
  • Without personalization, release management might fail to produce consistent results.
  • Getting / Integrating past data for release analysis.

Quality, throughput, and stability are the crux of a successful Software Release Management process. Practicing good and related management methods would help in maintaining a balance between all these three. Here are the 10 best practices:

  1. Know Your Requirements:

    It is very important to understand the software release requirements which mean understanding the basic release features and how it impacts interrelated services and processes. It might be a no brainer, but you would be probably amazed to know how people would accidentally forget about things like:

    • Device compatibility
    • Browser Compatibility
    • Compatibility with the previous software version - while working on the latest software release
  2. Small Releases:

    It is easier to track and maintain a release with small changes as in case of any issue one could easily go back to the root cause in less time. That means small releases are easy to manage, and bugs are easier to hunt down, leading to a smoother release process.

  3. Have a solid Release Management Policy:

    Policies are the foundations of a well-put Software Release Management process. Try utilizing reusable release test conditions so that anyone who is associated with the release can easily reuse it. It is highly recommended to have a procedure for failed test conditions as it would help with easy failure tracing.

  4. Keep Track of Your Processes:

    It is important to keep track of what worked and what did not across respective release cycles. That learning helps with building a strong automated release policy.

  5. Get to know your current process:

    If you already have a Software Release Management process in place and are looking to enhance it for better results, you can do so by thoroughly understanding the current release policies and breakpoints. Once you are aware of them, try to understand the reasons behind those breakpoints. Simultaneously keep monitoring your test environments and make them flexible to include a wide variety of testing.

  6. Release Cycle:

    Establishing a continuous release cycle is one of the important ways to create an effective release management process. It helps with team alignment and excellent customer satisfaction - as customers would get what they want with a continuous software release cycle.

  7. Test Regularly:

    Regularly monitor your process’s test results. The results are a way to know where you stand and how far you need to go. If you are using a lightweight process document it for better future reference.

  8. Automate: 

    Automation is the best way to reduce the time invested in performing repetitive tasks which otherwise you could have used to focus on important things. Automation can be implemented in several ways. To select a relevant automation procedure, you need to understand what works with your release policies and business logic. Once you are sure about the automation process implement, standardize, and maintain them.

  9. People: 

    Even if you have excellent tools, policies, release cycle, and everything necessary in place but it all boils down to the team’s commitment. If you do not have the right people or they are not motivated, getting the desired results would be a farfetched reality. Thus, invest in people with frequent hands-on training, and a reward system.

  10. Communication:

    Frequently communicating with the stakeholders, and relevant teams about the release results are important for effectively carrying out the release management activities.

We had to mention Continuous Deployment as a part of this discussion. It is one of the advanced ways of guaranteeing quality releases if done right. Once the latest code gets tested and verified, it is directly released to the production environment aka true one-click deployment capability. If your team is using continuous deployment, it is highly recommended to continuously govern the overall health of your Continuous Deployment strategies.

Software Release Management Tools

Now that we have gone through the ways to improve a software release management process, let us visit some of the top relevant tools. The rankings are taken from TrustRadius:

  • Azure DevOps Services
  • Azure DevOps Server
  • GitLab
  • Ansible
  • Chef Infra
  • Octopus Deploy
  • AWS CodePipeline
  • Spinnaker
  • JFrog Pipelines
  • IBM UrbanCode Deploy
  • Digital.ai Release
  • GoCD

Please Note: Release Management tools are not the single factors for effectively implementing a release process, there can be multiple factors like a well-put plan, the right tool, the right people, business ideologies, and a well-maintained release process.

Conclusion

A successful release would mean –

  • The whole release process was under budget.
  • They were properly deployed at correct release timings.
  • Understanding and coming up with an innovative solution to meet and exceed user’s expectations.
  • Minimum to no impact on the users using the existing products.

An effective Software Release Management can help an organization to hop their way to success – while seamlessly implementing and maintaining an efficient release cycle regardless of SDLC methodologies.

Our Solution Architects can help you on your journey to success -> Get in touch with us to know how we can make a difference to your organization.

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