Release Management Explained: Everything You Need to Know

In this article we’re going to explain everything you need to know about release management.

With Project.co release management keeps us in order. We get feedback from users, plan out how we can achieve things in the best way, we create tasks for each item, then we track the progress of these tasks through development, testing, deployment to a staging server and then finally deployment to the live environment. 

The process then goes full circle as we get more user feedback. 

This cycle helps us all stay on task and understand what our priorities are and who should be working on what and when.

With that said, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about release management and how it can help your business. 

What is a release management process?

A release is a new or modified version of software. And a release management process refers to the management of these new releases, from planning all the way through to testing and deployment. 

A solid release management process is important because, with customer expectations always climbing higher and higher, software companies are increasingly finding themselves in a constant state of improving and releasing new updates to their software. 

These new releases help software companies to remain competitive and consistently meet the needs of their users. 

How release management works

The release management process flow can look different depending on your company and the type of software you create. 

For example, software for a supermarket chain probably won’t need to be as rigorously tested as, say, software for commercial aircrafts. 

But, speaking in general terms, release management can be broken down into 7 straight-forward steps.

1. Approved change 

There’s an infinite number of changes you could make to your software. That’s why it’s always important to keep in mind the main goal of your product when it comes to release management. 

The first step towards creating a new release is approving a requested change or a request for a new feature. This typically involves getting approval from leadership and also operations teams so that work can begin!

2. Planning 

Next is planning. Here it’s likely that an initial meeting will take place and a project outline is created to make it clear who is responsible for what throughout the management of the release. 

The project outline can also help to determine timelines and ensure teams can manage their workload effectively and get the release or new feature out on time. A project management tool can be useful here to help you assign and track project tasks. 

3. Building 

Step three is the build. The developers will build the new software based on the information that has been given to them.

This is the most time-intensive step and it’s likely that regular meetings will take place here to keep everyone in the loop on how the build is going, including any snags that may result in delays to the process. 

4. Testing 

Before you can release your software it needs to be tested to make sure everything works how it’s supposed to. 

This is the step where bugs are identified and resolved (although some bugs could be identified earlier, during the build). Bug tracking is essential here to ensure you capture everything before deployment. 

It can also be helpful to perform regression testing, which is the process of double-checking the already approved functionality to ensure everything is still working as you expect it to. 

5. Deployment 

Deployment is pretty straight-forward. This is when you send your release out to the world. 

You may choose to do a staggered release so that the software isn’t available to all users at once. This will allow you to pick up on any bugs that arise in a live environment and fix those before launching to a wider audience base. 

6. Review 

At first, deployment may seem like a natural endpoint for release management, but it’s important to implement post-deployment support to ensure your software is working to its full potential. 

As you probably already know, software tends to behave differently in a live environment and it’s highly likely that users will find bugs and errors that even your team missed. 

During the review stage it’s important to collect feedback, offer support to users, and regularly communicate internally to resolve any issues.

7. Bug reporting

Lastly, you need to clean up all of the issues and bugs that users have found. Small bugs can be dealt with as and when they arise. 

Any larger issues or feedback from users that could mean big improvements to your software can be documented on your list of potential changes – and this then takes us back to step one of release management. 

The release management cycle

In software development, as with most things, there is an “evolve or die” mentality. Software is always changing and evolving, and so the 7 release management steps outlined actually begin to form a never-ending loop. 

This is known as the release management cycle.

Release management cycle

You can use this cycle to manage each new release of your software and ensure that everything remains on track so that you can deliver releases to your customers quickly and efficiently. 

Release management best practices

1. Standardise

If your release frequency is high then creating and implementing appropriate levels of governance will help you to ensure each new release consistently meets your standards.

Creating a standardised release policy will also help to streamline the development and operations process and limit mistakes and setbacks. 

2. Be organised

Release management can be a tricky process involving multiple teams, stakeholders, and moving parts. Making an effort to be as organised as possible can make a huge difference when it comes to managing your releases. 

A project management tool will help you to keep everything in order and plan ahead so that you can understand timelines, assign tasks to the appropriate team members, and keep your releases running smoothly each and every time.

3. Optimise your test environments

When testing and deploying releases, it’s important to ensure you have the appropriate hardware, storage, bandwidth, and so on to work effectively.

This may take some troubleshooting, but try to find the best time to deploy each new release. This should be during a period of low traffic (so you don’t disrupt users), and it’s also a good idea to schedule some time in the days following your release to catch any errors or work through any initial hiccups. 

Final thoughts

Release management can be an intricate and tricky process for software developers, but it’s also essential if you want to keep your customers happy and continue to improve the functionality of your software. 

A solid project management tool can help you keep on top of your releases in an easy and standardised way. Give Project.co a try and see for yourself!

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