Project Management, Release Notes

Roles and Responsibility of a Release Manager

By on December 16, 2019

Why is release management important?

Release management is still an emerging discipline in software development.

But, it is also growing rapidly due to technological changes. Release management as a discipline emerged from the sector’s shift from project-based offerings to product-based ones. Before the shift, programmers viewed individual releases as projects instead of products. 

As processes became more complex, a need to streamline change management emerged. This led to release management that includes a number of steps ranging from release planning & design to customer communication and support.

Keep the above overview in mind & it’ll be easier for us to appreciate the roles & responsibilities of a release manager.

What Is Release Management Process?

Below is a quick run-through of a successful release management process. Of course, the release process may vary depending on many variables, but the major steps will remain the same as they incorporate best practices that are known to generate results. Enterprises enhance their software’s speed, quality, and efficiency by focusing on release management. This process includes the following components:

  • Planning 
  • Scheduling
  • Managing program’s build through their various development phases
  • Testing 
  • Release and deployment management
  • Release support

The management process depends on several techniques that help to optimize its usefulness. Some of them are:

Moreover, the discipline borrows heavily from other fields. Such as business-oriented project management, IT Infrastructure Library, and understanding of the software development life cycle (SDLC).

How does release management work?

Managing a release involves a lot of core software engineering functions, and a lot of supporting functionalities too. Therefore, even after the successful delivery of projects – release might not be complete yet. Factors like training customer-facing teams, co-ordinating with marketing and other relevant functions, and other such activities that need to be in sync with the release frequency.

While this adds complexity to the release management process, but it can be automated. Release management allows for distinctive but connected aspects of a project like design, development, testing, deployment, maintenance, and more.

The DevOps development structure is conducive to release management because it allows for an increase in coordination between developers and operations in software engineering. This increase also results in the reduction of time-to-market and improvement in customer satisfaction, by utilizing a combination of automation and monitoring at all stages of software development.

How to improve release management process?

Understanding the current state of the release management process can result in the improvement of the organization’s release management capabilities. This can be achieved either quantitatively or qualitatively.

Quantitatively, gathering a few basic metrics like average release times, type and priority of releases, number of errors, and number of delayed releases help to identify the health of release management. This also provides an opportunity to establish deadlines in the future with realistic expectations, so that release management can be properly planned.

Qualitatively, people who are part of the release management process can shed light on shortcomings and possible bottlenecks. Factoring these aspects can help in establishing a regular release cycle. Establishing lighter processes, in the beginning, can lead to higher compliance – and over time, the processes that work well will become standard practice. These standards play an important role in regularizing and automating processes, such as testing and verification.

The difference between a project and a release manager

Many similarities exist between the two disciplines from which project and release managers draw their job descriptions. So naturally, these terms tend to be confusing for many. Let us briefly look at the differences between a release manager and a project manager.

Release Manager

A release manager’s primary responsibility is to focus on the fine details of assembling different interrelated components and streamline the release management process. To satisfy a complex or solution-based release. Release managers coordinate with different stakeholders for requirements, testing, and release calendar of necessary components. They ensure a synchronous running of day-to-day processes.

Planning with several software development teams is a part of the release manager’s duty. They govern and manage schedules to satisfy interdependencies. Their primary aim is to enable continuous delivery of a solution in the hands of the customers as soon as possible. Apart from that, they ensure quality benchmarks are met.

Project Manager

Inversely, a project manager focuses on a project’s higher dimensions. Such as resource management to make it remain within budgetary limits and quality standards. Their jobs may or may not produce a release of the projects they oversee. Project managers deliver one or more components for release, that they are responsible for.

Key Roles and Responsibilities of a Release Manager

Here is complete coverage of a release manager’s roles and responsibilities –

  • Managing risks and resolving challenges that impact release scope, quality, and schedules 
  • Planning release windows and cycles across portfolios, components
  • Managing relationships working on interrelated processes
  • Communicating crucial release plans and changes 
  • Measuring and monitoring progress to achieve a timely software release within defined budgetary limits and defined quality standards 
  • Coordinating processes between different teams (possibly in various locations) 
  • Communicating necessary release details to business teams
  • Managing, planning, and negotiating release activities
  • Initiating and overseeing progressive release processes
  • Coordinating enterprise release content and efforts based on OS updates and third-party apps
  • Producing deployment, implementation, and run books plans
  • Conducting release readiness and milestone reviews
  • Maintaining release schedules for every core service and ensuring it aligns with major vendors and other stakeholders
  • Working with release engineers to comprehend code merges and branch ramifications 
  • Leading and coordinating checklist and deployment plan execution 
  • Developing automation and release management tools along with scripts necessary for the construction, continuous integration, and deployment of software release 
  • Researching new software development and the best methods and techniques for managing configurations regarding a business’s existing needs
  • Ensuring that releases operate as per expectations 
  • Ensuring that requirements are clear across dependent project streams with an effective release
  • Initiating and overseeing the development of technical guides and training for external functionality 
  • Managing the development of deliverables into production environments
  • Validating release notes
  • Deployment management of deliverables to the test environment particularly guaranteeing that the external dependent items are available during the test runtime

Core Skills and Qualifications Release Managers Need

So, what kind of skills, experience, and academic qualifications does a release manager need? Here are some of the necessary qualifications for this job.

  • Excellent programming skills and experience
  • Ability to handle software infrastructure management & configuration management
  • A computer science degree or a similar discipline 
  • A two to six-year experience in using project or release management tools
  • An expert understanding of software development lifecycle
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Structured thinking
  • Experience in coordinating cross-functional work teams up to task completion

The facts are out and clear. Now you know what it entails to work as a release manager. We hope these insights will enable you to understand how best to interact with this discipline even as you enjoy its benefits in your business.

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