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Release Management: Where to Start?

May 31, 2007

Mike Drapeau,Sudesh Oudi

Sources for Success

One of the key paths to success in Release Management is being able to identify what “causes” a Release also known as its original source. Know this enables you to make some critical decisions.

  • What business value does the release have? What is its priority
  • What systems or applications will be affected by the Release?
  • Who will be affected what are the expected results?
  • Table 1 below depicts the various roles that typically generate the need for a Release. If you find that releases are being “sourced” from many different areas and not through a common process, it is best to start by resolving this issue. In many organizations this is called Demand Management and is commonly referred to as Program/Project management.

    Looking at the table there are several places a release can originate from. Each of these areas will have different wants and needs for your Release Management process. Use the table below to speak with each of the functional areas within your company about release management. Ensure that there idea of Release management is congruent with the process design you have formulated.

    Often it is helpful to bind release management to an existing project management process. This enables the business to see what is “inside” of each release. Those choosing this path should be cautioned not be to concerned with having a Release for each project. Rather, begin by focusing on the features and functionality to be delivered.

    Table 1: Release Sources


    As illustrated in the preceding paragraphs Release Management is not a turnkey process; it relies upon and feeds other processes. Though some organizations spend significant efforts building a Release Management process from scratch, others find more success in leveraging what tasks and abilities they already have and merely redirecting and formalizing them.

    In getting your arms around Release Management, start with identifying your goals and ranking their priority. An example might be:

    1. A High quality Releases
    2. Repeatable process for deploying Releases
    3. Quick and accurate Release builds
    4. Cost-effective Releases

    The goals above are not much different than those you may give to a construction contractor for a construction project. Keep the rule of 2 in mind “You have three attributes to choose from for your project Quick, Cheap and Quality.” You can choose any two in regards to Release Management, choosing all three will not yield good results.

    Embarking on a Release Management project is not for the faint of heart. Failing to find a dependable project sponsor will be your ticket to defeat. If you find that you do not have any Subject Matter Experts (SME) in the field of Release Management this is not the time to go it alone. Anyone with an ITIL background helping with Release issues should also be able to demonstrate previous experience with the Software Development Life Cycle, QA disciplines, or Software Configuration.

    Some final tips:

  • Persistence does payoff; often an organization starts a “Release Management” project as a response to a reoccurring issue or a high profile issue and, even though, programs of this nature usually prove ineffective of their own, if you are persistent you can experience success on a broader approach.
  • Chose incremental steps and measured progress, this allows you the ability to select easily consumable goals and establish a baseline to measure from.
  • Highlight achievements, don’t allow Release Management to be maligned as non-value or an impediment to promotion to production.
  • Place emphasis on time saved and Release measurement be sure to develop a good training and communication plan.
  • Don’t forget to post accolades they are sure to come as you provide structure and control where none existed before.
  • Mike Drapeau is president of the Drapeau Group, an ITIL consultancy based in Atlanta.

    Sudesh Oudi is a consultant who helps small and midsized companies sort out their IT service woes. His primary focus is in IT Service Management. To this end he has achieved certification in ITIL & Six Sigma. He can be reached at scoudi@gmail.com.