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Release Management process

  • Last Updated : 04 Aug, 2021

In this article, we will know Release Management and the top 6 best practices for a successful release. Let’s discuss it one by one.  

Scenario :
Let’s check this fictional example of company AAA who suffered utter failure after production deployment. The software had passed its development and testing phases but suffered a total disaster in production. This company hired a 3rd party Release-Management team to know the answer for “What went wrong?” and “How to make it work?” The team realized that the company’s release process itself seems faulty with contradictory results when they studied whole process. After few months, by executing well-placed plans and strategies, Company AAA could do a successful software Release. So, when do we say “Successful Software Release”? That’s when the software is functional with no or least hiccups in production.  

Example Outcome :
In the above example, when we think how the team was successful, definitely the team would have gone through various R&D stages like as follows.

  1. Understand the problem point
  2. Create a strategic plan for standardization
  3. Executing the plan
  4. Training etc

Release Management process :

  • It is a software’s life-cycle from conception to deployment and maintenance. Depending on software’s maturity and criticality, each organization will follow its own release process and define accordingly.
  • As per wiki, the standard definition for the Release Management process remains the same: “it is the process of managing, planning, scheduling and controlling a software build through different stages and environments”, while we weave a set of best practices on this base.

Best practices for the Release Management process :
Following are the best practices for the Release Management process to avoid disaster in production:

Rule-1 :
Requirements and planning –

  • Define specific requirements and criteria for the release.
  • Always have a requirement sign-off with a good understanding of requirements and their impact on existing features.
  • For example, for a new feature/improvement/change request, have a clear development and testing plan and schedule, which helps to adhere to project timelines.

Rule-2 :
Communication and coordination –

  • It is always very essential to have effective communication among cross-functional teams, Dev team, QA team, Product owners.
  • If any impediments, always communicate and coordinate with respective teams and resolve as soon as possible, thereby reducing last-minute red flags.
  • Scope and goal-oriented meetings can be arranged to know the progress, impediments, and dependencies. Retrospectives help the team learn from past mistakes and adapt to new methods to improve in future releases.

Rule-3 :
Documentation –

  • Documentation is a key to overall release success.
  • A well-documented process must be followed in all phases (Development, Testing, Deployment, etc) of release management helps to increase standardization.
  • Documentation can consist of “Impediments” faced during the process and “Solution” to overcome the same. This way, the lesson learned from previous mistakes can be avoided in future releases.

Rule-4 :
Bring in Automation

  • Automate the process in all possible phases. For example, when a code committed, automatically run the unit tests and run regression tests on the related component, thereby avoiding bad check-in which could potentially introduce bugs in the system.
  • Automate all possible functionalities, acceptance testing, etc makes the process faster, error-free, and saves a lot of human effort. Automating the deployment process will be a big win as deploying the application to any environment can be done in one click.

Rule-5 :
Decide, measure, and improve –

  • Arrange a “Go-No-Go” decision meeting to decide that software is qualified or not in terms of test results and software quality?
  • Do we have any blockers?
  • Has it passed concrete acceptance criteria for defined requirements?
  • Has the software passed in all environments such as the Test environment and Stage environment?
  • It is very important to track the time to complete the cycle, deployment duration in each environment, bugs and escalations found in production, etc. Success or failure of the release can be measured by analyzing the metrics and patterns. Recommended not to stop here and always work on the improvements to make the release even more successful.

Rule-6 :
Risk Analysis and mitigation plan –

  • Make sure no check-ins bypass non-production environments. Should always come out clean from CI/CD. A great release is inversely proportional to human intervention, lesser the human intervention leads to a stable release. So this risk can be eliminated by focusing on automating the release pipeline.
  • Always have a simple, detail-oriented rollback plan, and make sure the rollback is tested at least once and should get completed quickly.

Conclusion: Releasing higher quality product need goal-oriented teams and should work to continuously improve their processes. A single solution cannot magically eliminate flaky releases, but adopting the best practices will bring down such bad episodes and business impacts.

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