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Plutora Blog - Release Management

Enterprise Release Manager: The Only Job Description You Need to Hire the Best

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Enterprise Release Manager is a new role in the enterprise. It has become critical as enterprises continue to report larger portfolios with an increased number of smaller, more independent projects.

At the same time, more companies are decentralizing deployment and release responsibilities to individual development teams.

With more projects releasing software to production more frequently under Agile and DevOps methodologies, organizations are establishing a new level of IT release management: the Enterprise Release Manager.

The following job description lays out what I’ve learned in my experience with enterprise clients and prospects in several industries across the world.

Responsibilities of an Enterprise Release Manager

The primary goal of an Enterprise Release Manager (ERM) is to protect and manage the movement of releases through the build, test, and production environments. The ERM ensures there’s a proper structure in place to allow the company to scale efficiently.

The ERM needs to interface and communicate with test managers, development managers, IT operations, and the PMO on a daily basis.

Equally, the ERM must have the confidence to manage up and provide reporting as well as meeting updates to senior IT management and line of business.

The ERM is also expected to:

  • Develop common strategies for release governance across multiple departments.
  • Establish consistent release management processes.
  • Facilitate cross-department coordination of release management functions.
  • Track an enterprise-wide release calendar.
  • Inform senior management of enterprise-wide exposure to release risk and effectively mitigate it.
  • Measure release cadence and effectiveness using common metrics across the entire software portfolio.
  • Create common standards and formats for release playbooks and work with production control to standardize release decision-making.
  • Define common mechanisms for rollback and standards for capturing release-related performance indicators.
  • Forecast demand for release resources and identify opportunities for greater efficiency across the enterprise.

Skills to Look For

Multiply the number of releases by the number of projects in a department times the number of departments. Then, factor in the number of individuals responsible for supporting software delivery and you’ll quickly realize that releases often involve heavy coordination of challenging schedules and impossible deadlines.

Leadership

Leadership and managerial skills are critical for an Enterprise Release Manager. Individuals in this role won’t be focused on the details of individual releases. Instead, they will be focused on the overall trends across multiple development teams. They must be able to coordinate cross-functional teams toward task completion.

Communication

An Enterprise Release Manager is setting the overall standard for release management and governance. As such, they need to be able to communicate with both management and individual application teams to create an environment where teams understand the shared vision for releases across the enterprise. The ERM would also need strong interpersonal skills in areas such as facilitation, negotiation, and working with internal and external customers.

Analytical and Problem-solving

The Enterprise Release Manager should be able to identify and eliminate redundancies at the portfolio level. An ERM should be capable of recognizing patterns and opportunities for improvement throughout the entire organization. As more organizations adopt self-service deployments and releases, it is the ERM who ensures that this movement doesn’t result in confusion.

The ERM must have the capacity to understand multi-level failure scenarios that can result from release activities. ERMs are the high-level referees for release activities and get pulled into discussions surrounding release-related downtime and risk. The ERM should also have proven ability to discern critical from minor problems and innovate new solutions.

Qualifications

Although each organization will tend to have a unique set of qualifications it’s looking for in an ERM, below is a list of must-haves.

  • 8+ years of expertise and leadership in Release Management.
  • 2+ years of working in the employer’s industry.
  • 2+ years strong project management skills with accountability for end-to-end delivery.
  • Experience in governing both waterfall as well as Agile/DevOps project lifecycles.
  • Experience with Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD).
  • Experience with automation tools and strong ability to choose the best tools and solutions for the release management function.
  • Knowledge of ITIL standards and best practices.
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Management Information Systems and/or equivalent work experience.

Conclusion

When organizations only delivered one or two major software initiatives per quarter, the idea of having multiple levels of release management made little sense. There was a lot of ceremony around the launch of these large, waterfall-based projects, but the release frequency was lower.

Today, there are large companies with hundreds of projects competing for limited “runway” space in the form of testing environments and production support resources. To use an airport analogy, application release managers are the gate agents while Enterprise Release Managers keep track of the entire terminal – and your organization’s release schedule may start to remind you of a flight status display at O’Hare during a thunderstorm.

With most organizations delivering one or two major software initiatives every week or every day, coupled with faster, more self-service releases, your organization needs someone focused on release coordination and alignment across multiple departments.

Dalibor Siroky Dalibor Siroky

Dalibor is the Co-founder and Co-CEO of Plutora. He has 15 years of leadership, consulting, enterprise product, and operations experience across Australia, Asia and Europe. He has proven ability to build high performance teams, turn around situations, develop innovative products, and create lasting value. Prior to Plutora, Dalibor was founder and managing director of Finotaur, a leading provider of independent management consulting services. Before that he served as CIO of financial advisory software at Macquarie Bank, head of solution architecture at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Dalibor got his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Follow him on Twitter @DaliborSiroky.

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