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Release Management: Where to Start?

May 31, 2007

Mike Drapeau,Sudesh Oudi

Getting to Execution

Most organizations are pleased to learn that they are already engaging in some form of Release Management activities. The next section outlines where to look for release information and what key success factors to align with for Release Management activities.

Figure 5 below outlines the sources and critical success factors that, together, lead to a well-executed Release Management program. Follow a start simple methodology by locating the sources and consumers of releases. The idea here is to go as far “up stream” as possible to find out where a Release may begin. Using this approach enables you to find where processes exist.

Figure 5: Overview of a sample Release Management program

If you find that your organization is doing well with managing the beginning of a Release then it is best to focus on the design and build areas (often this is the where many organizations struggle). This is particularly true if IT is involved in true software development and operated on tight deadlines. The best remedy for this is the strengthening of one particular project or technology domain. Assuming a success in this one area use it the momentum to push it through the organization.

The Tool Gap

Release Management is surprisingly one of the areas with the least amount of process based tool support, however not for lack of wanting. Typically organizations mature into a Release Management process and it is really at the heart of any good development and support organization.

Release Management assists in eliminating the “toss it over the fence” mentality often found in today’s IT organizations. In fact, it focuses on the creation of dependencies and accountability in both these organizations. Part of the strategy used during implementation of Release Management should consider the Software Development life cycle and which phase to become involved.

Also to be considered is what facets of Release Management should be applied to non-production environments. It would take another separate article to discuss the sheer magnitude of the Release Management tool gap, particularly with regard to lack of integration with the CMDB, the lack of inclusion of infrastructure testing concerns, and the lack of interface with Change Management.