Frequent downtime and conspicuous bugs could result in your revenue taking a hit.

Why do you need Release Management?

In business, every user makes a difference. A blotchy release with bugs and crashes could drive away potential customers and disappoint existing ones. Frequent downtime and conspicuous bugs could result in your revenue taking a hit.

Multiple delivery teams often work in parallel in an organization, which can sometimes lead to conflicting release schedules or dependencies. Establishing a release management process helps your organization streamline your releases and visualize the big picture across all the teams in your company.

The release management process

Release Management, like software development, progresses in cycles. Whether it's a product launch, subsequent versions, or a quick update for bug fixes, all releases go through a release management lifecycle.

Agile release management process - Zoho Sprints

01. Request for changes or New Features

Whether it's a request for new features for a product or the requirement for a new product, the cycle begins with identifying the need for changes.

02. Release Planning

All the stakeholders assemble to decide which features get shipped in the next release. Besides the development team, representatives from Operations and Management should also ideally be included.

03. Software Build

The development team works on building the software based on user stories and acceptance criteria.

04. Review

The new software code is reviewed and cleared through quality and security checks. It goes through unit testing, integration testing, acceptance, and UI testing.

05. Deployment

Sometimes a feature is deployed incrementally—first to internal users of the organization, then to a select user community, before finally making it available for everyone. These initial users help catch any bugs and errors so they'll be fixed before the release is deployed to the live environment.

06. Support

The cycle doesn't end as soon as the feature goes live. Marketing and Customer Relations teams coordinate with developers to create awareness and support material about the new feature for end users.

07. Feedback collection

Customers who reach out with questions or feedback are often the ones actively using your product. Engage with them to know how your end users perceive a feature and to understand where you can improve. Then, synthesize the collected feedback to create actionable work items for the next release.

Release management in Agile

The Agile approach to release management is called continuous development. Continuous development is the ability to get changes of all types—such as new features, configuration changes, bug fixes, and experiments—into production or into the hands of users safely and quickly in a sustainable way. Just as in the Agile development process, releases also consist of small bundles of high-priority, high-value features (or sometimes a single feature). So agile teams have smaller and more frequent releases than traditional ones.

Here's how agile teams accelerate the release cycle. There are three closely related yet distinct practices in play. Let's break them down:

Did you know?

On an average day, Amazon deploys code every 11.7 seconds!

Continuous integration

The practice of continuous integration advises developers to merge their code with the main repository as often as possible. An automated build is extracted for each check-in and goes through automated test cases, which helps catch integration errors early. This ensures the main code branch stays updated at all times. The benefits of an effortless release without the integration hassles outweigh the costs of setting up automated tests.

Continuous delivery

While continuous integration places emphasis on automated testing, continuous delivery goes a step further to automate your release process. This means you can release to your customers any time your business requires it—reliable releases in a quick and sustainable way. The release process is automated right up to the point where the release is deployed.

With this practice, the code is release-ready almost all the time. This reduces the coordination, efforts, and stakes associated with each release. You only need a manual trigger.

Continuous deployment

With continuous deployment, the entire process is automated, including the actual deployment of your code. All the commits go through automated testing and are released automatically to the production environment. A code change is held back only when it fails the quality review. Since new changes are made available to end users with almost no human buffer in the middle, continuous deployment requires post-release monitoring to catch any bugs that may have slipped through the automated tests.

The three practices of Continuous Software Development

Continuous Integration is about developing and testing code with automation, ensuring only good code becomes a part of the software product. Teams practicing continuous delivery extract builds for each commit, verify it using automated testing, and have it ready to deploy at any time. They can then choose to release according to their business requirements. Continuous deployment means the team actually deploys continuousl with no human involvement in the release process.

Continuous IntegrationContinuous DeliveryContinuous Deployment

These three practices together are called continuous software development and are associated with Agile methodologies and DevOps. All of these effectively accelerate the software release cycle and help Agile teams ship reliable software frequently in a sustainable way.

Role of a Release Manager

As the name suggests, the release manager oversees the entire release management process and is constantly working to improve it. They're aware of the complexities in development and operations, and act as a catalyst in coordinating the different teams and departments involved in a release.

They are adept at managing time, money, and people. Managing a release is fairly similar to managing a project, so it's crucial release managers possess project management skills as well.

Release management best practices

Maintain a prioritized Scrum backlog

Ensure your backlog is prioritized at all times. This eliminates any confusion during the release-planning meeting. Having a concrete to-do list gives your team a transparent view of what's planned for the next release and what they'll be working on in the upcoming ones.

Create a release checklist

An exhaustive checklist of things to double-check before a release can help eliminate a lot of human errors. It adds a final level of security which can catch fine details that are likely to be overlooked.

Triage your feedback

All through your release cycle, you will get feedback from different channels—stakeholders, customers, or internal users. This feedback offers a starting point for enhancements or new features. Sort the barrage of feedback based on criticality and relevance to avoid getting overwhelmed or misled by them.

Identify metrics for observation

To understand the impact of a release, it's important to identify relevant metrics and monitor them continuously. Standard release reports about downtime, type and priority of releases, and number of on-time releases can yield valuable insights about the work dynamic of your team.

Release Management using Zoho Sprints

Like we always say, Zoho runs on Zoho and we built Zoho Sprints using Zoho Sprints. We understand that a release involves multiple teams and multiple tools and so we brought it together in one platform for a seamless view of your entire release workflow. With our powerful Jenkins integration, Zoho Sprints acts as a comprehensive release management tool.

In Zoho Sprints, integrate with your code repository tools so that your work items get more context with commit details, plan and track your releases, set up your CI/CD workflow in Jenkins and monitor your build reports directly from our native application. In addition to viewing your log reports from Jenkins, you can also monitor your team's release activity using our build reports. See which of your teammates have pushed the most number of builds and the servers they work in. Track your builds based on the production environments and their build status. You can also see the distribution of your builds across production environments or their build status.