A very important day in a project manager’s life is release day. It’s the day everyone is waiting for and a bit afraid of. It’s basically graduation day in the IT world. Just like graduation, you’ve got lots of planning to do before the date. The release management and planning efforts include the estimates and prioritization, backlog categorization, and breaking the backlog items down into a series of smaller iterations of work. And the more projects you have in a portfolio, the more portfolios you’ve got, and the more precision you need to show while doing it.
Managing Simple Rules for a Release
The release is one of the most important and expected events in the product life cycle. It is the launch of a new product/service or a set of new features, or changes that are made available to customers or users, and provides a new product value. Often a release consists of a series of solutions to fix problems and improve the services provided, which may include changes to the software.
In fact, this is a significant event for both the internal teams and the target audience. Release management helps upper management and teams to plan their work and see the “end result,” and for clients, it is — in a way — a guarantee of quality and getting the new value.
A well-prepared release is not just about providing access to new technical capabilities of the product. This is the final date when your team can provide a new user experience, support, and develop interaction with it. Releases should include all additional tasks and activities such as updates on the official website and on social networks, support team training, updating all marketing materials, etc. The main goal of release management is to create, test, and deliver new features so that all product requirements and targets will be met. In general, there are two types of release planning activities:
- Tactical release planning is done at the backlog level by scheduling individual backlog items, defects, or test sets for inclusion in a release.
- Strategic release planning for portfolios is done by scheduling entire portfolio items. To drive good strategic plans, both management and teams can use factors such as business value, risk, team velocity, and cost to help create an optimal schedule.
Why do I Need to Implement Release Management?
- Release control allows you to make changes to the environment on time without adversely affecting the quality of the product.
- Reduce possible incompatibilities of new features with software.
- Testing allows you to identify and prevent potential problems for users.
- Release management reduces the number of uncontrolled software versions.
What are Release Notes in the Release Management Process?
Release Notes are product release notes that describe the changes between the release and the previous versions of this product. Such a document can be compiled for users and internal teams: testers, marketers, and support services.
The main objectives of the documents are:
- Informing users about the corrected errors, expanding the functionality of the product.
- Paying attention to testers to check errors, and fix them.
- Preparation of changes in user manuals and product training materials.
- The tracking system or one of the popular tools for product management, such as the hygger.io platform, can help with the release notes.
What Does the Release Management Process Include?
Understanding the release management process may vary between developers and non-technical experts. It is important to consider all aspects of the release and listen to the opinions of each team member. The release management process may include the following steps:
- Planning. The entire product path begins with its planning and strategy, and release planning allows you to calculate and determine the number of sprints or iterations. At this stage, an initial prioritization, a preliminary assessment of costs, and an analysis of interdependencies occur. Analytics and the customer are involved in planning. Planning includes expectations of major portfolio changes that may be reflected in the portfolio roadmap.
- Matching. At this stage, we get confirmation of the resources from the performers and customers; the released budget is evaluated. The content of the release is finally consistent with all interested parties.
- Documentation. This process of consolidation and systematization of all procedures, reflects, for example, the latest data on new features.
- Communication and support. For each portfolio manager, it is very important not only to launch a product or update successfully but also to ensure smooth interaction with other projects and the support team.
- Readiness status. The status is reflected in the current status of your plan. The status update helps reduce risks and ensures communication with stakeholders.
- Testing/Adjustments. In the process of managing, the release cannot do without regular checks and adjustments that help to achieve order and achieve the final goal.
- Deployment. At this stage, the changes are transferred to operation. There is a new version of the portfolio or the final product itself.
Product, Project, and Portfolio Managers
Virtually all team members can participate in product release management:
- Development teams are key players in release management, as they are involved in most processes in the product life cycle. They estimate the initial costs and time, determine the basic requirements, create the documentation, and develop the functionality. They make major decisions about what can be done and what is not needed, as well as how long it will take.
- Marketers should always “keep abreast of” and be aware of what competitors live. In release management, it is important for them to work closely with sales managers to get new customers and retain existing customers.
- Testers work together with developers. Their task is to test the results of research and development based on established criteria. The product will not come to release until all the comments and criteria for testing are considered.
- The support team or individual support specialist is the first to receive messages if something has gone wrong. They must understand and know everything about the release and must be properly prepared at all levels at the planning stage.
- Product, project, and portfolio managers are those who bear the most responsibility for securing the release plan’s successful implementation. The tasks of product, project, and portfolio managers are different, but their mission is the same — to release the product and present it to customers in an ideal way.
In addition to these main roles, other specialists may also be involved in release management: the purchasing department, financiers, sales, billing, system engineering, and others.
The process allows product managers and the team to assess the load on time and manage the scope of work, deliver changes on time. Release management allows you to collect your statistics, with which it is more convenient to justify requests for additional resources further. The trickier task is to manage multiple releases at once.
The larger the portfolio, the trickier the task. And when you’ve got multiple portfolios with multiple cross-bound projects, it becomes another level of release management. That is why release management in many companies is becoming a separate, stand-alone process because it is especially useful for portfolio management. The good news is that there are already tools that allow automating some of a load of keeping everything under control, even if you have a lot to track at once.
PPM Express is just that kind of tool.
Besides the fact that it aggregates data from every tool you use to give you “the big picture” any time you need it, it allows you to “mix and match” the data stream the way you need it. And it is extremely useful to see such things as “Progress status,” the Stage, and Percentage of completion, along with the Start and Finish date in one dashboard.
With PPM Express, you can also gain deeper insight into multiple portfolios like “Overall status,” “Risk status,” “Issues,” “Resource,” “Cost,” and “Schedule status” at once and for every portfolio. More so, you can also track, compare, and manage multiple portfolios and projects within one portfolio in one place.
Using the timeline dashboard allows you to see the results of resource calculation and forecasting, and these results are based on the data in your plan. The portfolio timeline dashboard essentially provides visibility into your plan’s forecasted dates, as well as how your teams, members, and other resources are allocated across your work items. Every portfolio item can be scheduled accordingly on the timeline, and details and bottlenecks are highlighted as well.
Ideally, release schedules should be kept brief to facilitate as many functional releases as possible within a given period. The goal is to communicate which features are intended to be delivered by the deadline. Throughout the release, the same group can gather to review progress and course-correct based on portfolio goals, product owner feedback, team velocity, and any new information discovered.
To configure schedule settings, you can sort the data by the “Scope,” “Teams,” or “Releases” view. This will display the timeline of the plan according to the view selected. You can also get the Schedule dropdown and configure the schedule settings as needed. It is very important to update the timeline; with PPM Express, all the changes to your plan are calculated automatically, so any changes are reflected in your plan.
If you want to understand the release management topic in more detail and find interesting insights from different companies, the following books will be useful: