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Plutora Blog - Release Management

Release Management RACI Matrix

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Is it done yet or Why RACI is Essential

Whether you are a release manager, a release engineer, or a someone just supporting a release you understand that the intersection of software releases and instant messaging can be frustrating.  Whether you use Skype, Jabber, Slack, or any other group-based instant messaging application your experience during a release probably looks a lot like this:

Co-worker 1 (13:02): Hey, what’s up?
You (13:02): Nothing, I’m running the release
Co-worker 1 (13:05): Great, how’s the release going?
You (13:07): We’re on step 5 of the playbook
Co-worker 1 (13:20): Is it done yet?
You (13:21): No
Co-worker 1 (17:01): How about now is it done yet?
You (17:15): Not yet, we’ll let you know
Co-worker 1 (17:45): Is it done yet?
You (18:10): Did you check your email?
Co-worker 1 (18:11): Sorry, I didn’t. Checking now
Co-worker 1 (18:14): So we’re delayed
You (18:16): Yes, there’s a SQL issue
Co-worker 1 (18:16): It’s always a SQL issue
Co-worker 1 (22:32): It’s done now, right?
You (22:45): You didn’t check your email
You (22:46): We finished hours ago

Everyone is Awake at 3 AM Asking You about the Release

Multiply that conversation by 24 and you understand the experience of release management during a complex, multi-step release process. When you are in the middle of a release two things are true: everyone wants to know status and everyone turns into a six year-old on a long car trip asking “Are we there yet?” 

  • QA might be asking if a release has entered into a specific phase where code is ready to be tested.
  • Developers who are on-call for what ITIL calls the Early Life Support phase of a Release might be asking when they can sign off on a release
  • Operations might be wondering when they should start monitoring production for spikes related to a software release
  • Managers will ping you, “Hey, how’s the release?”
  • Your manager’s managers will ping you on IM, “Just checking in on this release.”
  • The CEO might drop into IM and not say a thing.

Needless to say when you are in the middle of a complex, high-risk release process everyone will be looking for up-to-date information every few minutes. 

RACI to the Rescue

This is where a RACI matrix is useful, and this is why it is important to have a tool that allows you to track who needs to be informed about a software release.  RACI stands for “Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed”, and it is one of the features in Plutora that our customers frequently identify as invaluable.  Keeping your RACI matrix up to date helps you avoid the sort of “status churn” conversations like the one shown above. 

This is what a RACI matrix looks like for a software project in Plutora.   Our tool shows all the stakeholders, organizational information about each stakeholder, stakeholder location, and a contact number for each stakeholder.   Plutora tracks a RACI matrix for each System, IT Environment, Change, and Release.  This means that you can assemble a large list of people who might be affect by the systems, environments, and changes involved in a particular release. 

Note: Location information is an essential piece of information in a RACI matrix. When your releases involve people in several timezones.  When your developers are in Europe, your executives are in India, your operations team is in Sydney, and your QA team is in San Francisco it helps to understand how people are going to be affected by complicated software release timelines.  During a difficult release it’s essential you understand who’s having breakfast and who’s still awake at 4 AM.  Plutora helps you track this in the RACI matrix with location information.

Without a tool like the RACI matrix every release attracts a larger and larger audience of people interested in status. With very large releases spanning multiple teams you’ll start wondering why certain people are interested in a particular release.  With RACI you’ll understand not just who needs to be notified of release status and release progress but how they need to be notified.  If you track who is responsible and accountable with a RACI matrix in Plutora you’ll know who needs to be notified of release issues as they occur without having to broadcast release status to a Skype chat with 300 people listening in. 

The next time you run a release, use Plutora and populate your RACI matrix for each component in the release.  This way you’ll be responding to far fewer IM-based status inquiries.  If people still insist on asking you about release status you can respond with a simple, “Did you see my email about Plutora?  If not, I need you to login so I can put you on the RACI matrix.”

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