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Understanding software releases: a comprehensive guide

In many organizations, it’s crucial for everyone to be on the same page about what ‘deploy’ and ‘release’ mean, as these terms can often mean different things to different people. Typically, teams prepare a release, deploy it to production, and then release it to customers. Clear communication is key as teams evolve to make sure everyone is using the same language.

At its core, a release is a set of changes made to improve the software, which gets delivered to the production environment. This involves a release process and a package containing all the necessary code and tools.

Over time, software distribution has evolved rapidly, from physical CDs to instant online downloads and continuous cloud updates.

How software access has changed: Then and now

Physical items (CDs, floppy disks): Updates took years; everything had to work perfectly on the first try.

  • Software downloads (Internet): Updates took months to years; improvements could be made incrementally.

  • SaaS (Cloud storage): Updates now take weeks to months; continuous improvements are made based on customer feedback.

New distribution channels: Affecting development

Changes in how we distribute software have significantly impacted the ways we develop it, leading to innovations and new approaches like Agile and DevOps.

  • Waterfall: The original method, where each stage of development must be completed before the next can begin.

  • Agile: Evolved with the internet, allowing for faster, incremental updates based on customer feedback.

  • DevOps: Emerged with cloud computing, focusing on automation and faster, more collaborative development.

Common misconceptions about release management

It’s not a core IT process: Release management is crucial for aligning business needs with IT, ensuring smooth updates, and minimizing bugs.

It’s the same as project management or product management:

While they have overlapping responsibilities, each has unique functions. Release management focuses on coordinating software development strategy, ensuring successful delivery.

It’s not part of DevOps

Even with automation in DevOps, release management is essential for governance compliance, efficient resource scheduling, and effective use of team skills.

The future of release process

As technology and organizational structures evolve, the roles of release managers and PMOs will change. However, the need for someone who understands both business priorities and development processes will remain crucial for successful deployments.

Test environment - Route to live

Optimize operations, heighten transparency, speed up success.

Optimize operations, heighten transparency, speed up success.

Optimize operations, heighten transparency, speed up success.