Release Notes

What are the benefits of release notes?

By on January 11, 2022

Great release notes and agile development go hand in hand: As releases get more frequent, more features get added and more bugs get fixed. Users need to be kept informed about these improvements and changes that are happening and that can be done with great release notes. Release notes sometimes aren’t given the amount of importance they deserve, as they are considered to be boring (not in the least because users don’t look at them anyways). It isn’t surprising to see them relegated to an obligation that needs to be fulfilled without spending much effort.

But release notes can serve a broader purpose in product marketing. The team can use product release notes to decrease churn and improve engagement. When written for a tailored audience, release notes can be a powerful sales and marketing tool.

Why are release notes required?

Release notes are not just about providing information about the changes in the product – they can provide value in marketing, support, and more. These reasons show why release notes are important, and how release notes templates simplify the matter.

  1. To inform users about new features

Software release notes prove to be a great way to increase user engagement with the product. Informing the users of new features (and fixes) shows them that the product managers and the team are listening to their feedback. Incorporating suggestions from users makes them realise how the team is actively working to improve the product, and makes them feel valued. product release notes can also link out to additional documentation that can be used to educate users about the workings of a new feature.

  1. To improve communication

Release notes can serve as the knowledge repository about the product or project for the developer, and everyone else at large. Sales and marketing teams can use release notes as a resource for when they talk to customers and plan new content. Writing release notes as a team can help in a nuanced understanding of the project that improves communication and gets more stakeholders aligned on the release. Release notes can be referenced by support teams, who can even directly share links with the users in response to the questions or feedback received about the product.

  1. To tell the product’s story

As the product evolves over time, having a historical log of these changes, improvements, and fixes helps tell the product’s story. Detailed release notes are more than just logs – they are the reflection of the team’s work and the evolution of the product. While it is great for a good change log or set of release notes to serve as the product’s historical diary, care should be taken that it doesn’t turn into a user guide.

 

What are the benefits of release notes

Using release notes not only provides documentation, but also helps in reducing risks during the sprint release process:

  • They help in keeping the goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely) while adapting with regular updates
  • They help in identifying and planning future releases, by articulating features and bugs that are to be addressed
  • They clearly define the roles for release planning. The product owner can be the one releasing goals, writing end user stories and epics, while initiating the acceptance criteria. The Scrum master can moderate meetings in addition to regular reporting. They can also consult with other team members to decide on the best Scrum practices to adopt.
  • They reduce time spent on administrative work by highlighting the features that are in focus

 

Writing better release notes

Writing good release notes involves being clear, organized, and concise – while being accessible. These best practices can improve the process of writing and publishing release notes.

Keeping humans in mind

Acronyms and tech lingo are a big no in release notes. Making assumptions about the amount of release notes that people will read or understand can cause problems too. Product managers have to make them as clear as possible, in a human-to-human tone. “Issue resolutions and improvements” isn’t helpful to an average user, but explaining what was fixed and what was improved can be.

Adding value to the release process

Explaining how the changes in release can impact users in a positive way – and it adds an extra layer of happiness to the achievement of the team. By listing out changes to the user experience, release notes can reduce the learning time of users drastically. In order to improve the focus on the value of new features in the release notes, it is ok to solicit the help of the marketing team or technical writers.

Writing for accessibility

When customers are used to the product or solution behaving a certain way, surprising them with unannounced product changes can derail them. Release notes should be easily accessible, and the latest version of release notes can simplify that journey through a product update. It can be used as a marketing or sales tool – usually they are found deep inside the app or hidden behind authentication. Having a well-displayed and simple to remember URL can provide a place where existing customers, new customers, and prospective customers can all find what they need to know. Product managers may even want to consider linking to them inside marketing emails when releasing new features, enhancements or bundling them with app updates.

 

Conclusion

Software product release notes are an important part of project management and software development process. A good set of release notes can help make a release cycle smooth and more efficient, as they are a multi-faceted tool useful to marketing, quality control, support, sales, in addition to the internal team. Reduction in the frequency of release notes can lead to repetitive issue reporting that may eventually lead to increased project hours and burnout.

To get the most out of release notes, asking for feedback is the best option. When users know what, how, and when changes are happening – the project runs efficiently. By keeping users and customers in the loop of what’s changed – be it a fix, a change, or a removal – organizations can be more accessible.

 

 

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