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Plutora Blog - IT Governance, Release Management

CAB and Release Management: The Connection

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The Change Advisory Board (CAB) is a quality control mechanism in the Change Management division of large enterprises, so before we dive in to the details of the CAB, let’s quickly differentiate between Change Management and Release Management.

Change Management vs. Release Management

Essentially, they are related but distinct functions within an organization. The crux of the difference between them is that Release Management is an action-oriented process that provides the schedule and execution while Change Management is a risk management process that authorizes the change to controlled environments.

Change Management focuses on smoothly transitioning new initiatives and procedural adjustments from development into operations. Its objective is to standardize methods and procedures for efficient and prompt handling of all changes in order to minimize the impact of change-related incidents upon service quality, and consequently improve the day-to-day operations of the organization. At a high level, change activities relate to the process of requesting changes, assessing changes, authorizing changes and reviewing changes.

Release Management is primarily concerned with the flow of changes through various pre-production environments, culminating in successful deployment into the production IT environment. It groups a series of changes into a collection known as a release, which is based on defined common characteristics of the changes. Release activities include planning, designing, configuration, rollout planning, testing communication and deployment.

Release management makes the change management process more proactive and predictable and is essential to manage the volume of interdependent change within an organization.

The Role of CAB in Software Development

If your organization follows the ITIL service management framework, then you will have a regular Change Advisory Board (CAB) forum setup which approves Change Requests for production deployment. The CAB might consist of various leaders, such as Operations Managers, Application Managers, Information Security Officers, and so forth.

CAB and release management

Without getting into the specific conduct of CAB meetings, let’s touch on the role of Release Management in the context of the CAB.

Release Managers or delivery managers are responsible for raising Change Request tickets in order to get a slot into the forward schedule of change.  These Change Requests are then assessed at CAB if they are deemed a major release. In order for the CAB to make an informed decision around approving the release for deployment, certain information is required.

A summary of the information includes but is not limited to:

  • A description of the release to be implemented and, if necessary, the release scope to be included.
  • A rundown on the test results from User Acceptance Testing and confirmation of the business sign-off sought.
  • Confirmation of testing sign-off, given that CAB members normally require confidence that System Test and/or System Integration Testing is complete.
  • The deployment plan or implementation plan.
  • Availability of resources for the change window.
  • In some cases, release managers ask the project or test managers to support the change at the CAB to answer any detailed question about the release or test results.

The CAB protects the integrity of the target environment and is generally risk averse in nature. The Release Manager is responsible for satisfying the information needs of the CAB to assure the change will not adversely impact the target environment. If the Release Manager comes across as vague or dismissive, it is likely that the change will be deferred to the next release.