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Plutora Blog - Release Management

Monthly vs. Quarterly Release Cycles: Which is Better?

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A question we commonly get asked is, “how often should we set our regular release cycle?” In other words, what should be our release frequency in our overall release strategy? Monthly, quarterly, or something else?

Release cycle frequency is a highly contentious issue in larger organizations because of the even balance between the pros and cons of each. Generally to understand what is best suited to your portfolio or greater organization, some simple questions need to be asked.

1: How much high priority change is your business asking for and how comprehensive is the change?

2: How good is your delivery methodology at ‘delivering’ and is your Production Change Management process lean, robust & repeatable?

3: How complex in terms of integration and system knowledge is your IT landscape?

Once you have answers to these questions, you will immediately see what is most likely going to work. Explaining to business stakeholders that they can have a monthly or quarterly release is easy when you can show the level of change requested and the risk to the production systems if the release is unfinished or untested. Establishing monthly releases for a smaller system which doesn’t have a large change program associated to it might mean that the agility monthly releases provides is a good release cycle strategy.

release cycle

For the sake of completeness, we have listed a few pros and cons of each:

Monthly Release Cycles

Pros:

  • Your IT Delivery team/s are a well-oiled machine. A lean robust process needs to be in place and a pertinent automated regression test suite needs to be place.
  • Usually reserved for organizations who have been practicing Agile, Scrum or Kanban development methodologies and achieve target dates.
  • System/applications releases are not dependent on each other.
  • Level of system integration complexity in your IT portfolio is not high.

Cons:

  • High risk of failed releases due to shorter time frame to remediate defects.
  • Level of regression testing may not be as comprehensive.
  • Burn of IT delivery resources (in particular Devs and Testers).

Quarterly Release Cycles

Pros:

  • IT and Business users have a longer time to perform testing activities such as performance testing and UAT.
  • Detailed Planning can efficiently forecast the roadmap and provide various IT Planning options to business leaders around resource availability for release delivery, i.e. Projects and Programs can be delivered using BAU resources.

Cons

  • The business has to wait more than 3 months for change to be implemented (over 3 months because of the lead up time to prioritize features for a release).
  • Slow.
  • Perceived lack of agility by business stakeholders and end users.
  • More resources typically required in monthly releases due to the planning, execution and production deployment processes.

Whether you’re releasing monthly or quarterly, it’s important to get reporting and analytics that can provide actionable insight of schedule and quality risks. A solid and repeatable release plan increases process efficiency, reduces rework, and lowers the risk of production failures.

If you’re struggling with the ever-increasing pace of modern release cycles, it might be time to evaluate a release management tool that can automate tasks, connect silos, and provide visibility of the end-to-end release process.