When you think of release management, you probably think of software development. But ops professionals can benefit from following a release management process as well. When you oversee a complex tech stack, it’s important to have processes in place that allow you to methodically and consistently manage change and implement new tools. Release management provides the framework to do that without having to reinvent the wheel. 

What is release management?

Release management is the process of managing software deployments and change initiatives. The process involves scheduling tasks, coordinating resources, and communicating the plan to those who will be impacted by the release. The goal of the release management process is to align the software development process with business goals, mitigate risk, coordinate resources, and ensure a seamless cutover to the new version or change. 

The release management process is overseen by the release manager, who work across departments to ensure an effective, timely release:

  • Ensures that release features are properly prioritized
  • Understands the development dependencies
  • Schedules builds, testing, and deployments
  • Ensures compliance with business objectives and regulations

What is a release plan?

The release manager also creates the release plan. The release plan is the workflow process used to map out every stage of the release, from feature planning to final delivery. It’s vital to keeping stakeholders on track and providing granular visibility into what the release entails. 

There are a number of different methods used to create release plans, with the systems development life cycle (SDLC) being one of the most popular. Generally, the SDLC approach emcompases seven phases: planning, requirements, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance.

For each phase of the process, the release plan should include timelines and details on who is responsible for various tasks. While the release manager is ultimately responsible for creating the plan, it’s actually a collaborative process. The release manager should involve all stakeholders involved in the release to provide input on the plan, ensure that timelines are realistic, and that there are no gaps.

How is release management related to ops?

Release management is often seen as a software development activity. But ops teams can benefit from embracing the release management process as well. When your ops team needs to implement a new system or make changes that will have wide-ranging impacts across the tech stack, following a methodical deployment schedule streamlines the process. 

These processes can also be applied to managing ongoing changes. For instance, when users come to you with requests to make updates to a field in Salesforce, or to adjust a workflow between two systems, you can incorporate that change into a release plan that follows a regular schedule. 

Instead of being overwhelmed by ad-hoc requests – and having to keep users up to date on your progress in fulfilling those requests – you can make them a part of a regular cadence that offers predictability for you and users. Ops teams interact with a complex group of stakeholders, from the sales department to finance, and many don’t interact with each other. The release management process enables you to prioritize their requests, manage their expectations, and bring visibility to the volume and types of requests you’re working on. 

How can release management help your business grow?

Even technology-averse businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on digital tools and processes (especially post-pandemic). And a lot can go wrong when you implement new systems or make changes. Each new tool adds complexity to your tech stack and, if not properly managed, can make users’ day-to-day work more difficult. Effective release management brings order to potentially chaotic, wasteful processes, which can be major roadblocks to accelerating pipeline.

Embracing release management processes enables you to proactively address the hurdles that come with a complex tech stack. It’s one of the best things you can do to remove friction for users (and yourself) so they can spend more time on selling, marketing, and collaborating with each other, and less time on frustrating workarounds and inaccurate data.