Whether function update, security patch or major release: Every new version of a software is associated with a risk. This has been an issue in product management for decades, and release management is also one of the essential integration processes in a proper infrastructure in IT.
Software development is a complex process and with every new project very different demands come together. For teams, this also means that various aspects have to be balanced – functional scope, functionality, security, quality control, documentation of changes and adherence to the schedule are ultimately critical points that also reach the end customer directly.
According to FOODEZINE, release management refers to the process of planning, managing, scheduling and checking with which various software builds are finally ready for the market. The fact that this form of software release management has gained in relevance in recent years is also due to the growing complexity of each individual task in software development. The more complex programs become and the more specialized programmers have to be, the more important it is to distribute competencies and resources.
In order to create a functioning software product as a whole, it is therefore necessary to bring together many individual sources. In addition, as a special case of software development, it is not completed with the release, but works cyclically. Development, testing, release, patches , updates and support are repetitive processes that need to be managed.
From the idea and concept to the end user
When the user holds a software product in their hands, this is the sum of many small, incremental processes that are responsible for functional and functioning software from the concept to the finished release.
The task of release management is to have an overview of all these points and to create compromises with which conceptual approaches can actually be implemented. Specifically, this means that the expected requirement is implemented with an acceptable risk and can be delivered in the required time (and the budget provided).
This also means that releases can be planned for companies and customers. Especially in the B2B segment, the release of a new product is always associated with risks, since in systems with increasing complexity, the risk of causing unforeseen errors and incompatibilities through updates also increases.
Differentiation from Enterprise Release Management
The English terms Release Management and Enterprise Release Management (ERM) are often used synonymously in German, but there are crucial differences. Release management in IT refers to the accompaniment of all development processes from planning through design and tests to the final release.
Enterprise Release Management, on the other hand, describes as an umbrella term IT specialists in larger companies who compare different releases with the requirements and technical conditions of a company and who install compatible software in more complex systems. Coordinating different releases of different software from different developers is a process that can take months or years to complete.
Of course, companies cannot risk interruptions in day-to-day business at any point in this process. ERM coordinates with change and product management and also takes on the task of quality control and the management of a revision history.
The importance of release management in more complex development environments
Due to the continuous distribution of software and increasingly agile development teams, the importance of release management in software development seems to decrease because there is no longer a single release time. But the exact opposite is the case.
The more individual teams that have to be coordinated, the more demanding the demands of the end user become, the more important planning and coordination become. This is the only way companies can actually ensure that they can use their resources sensibly and work efficiently without prioritizing features with little added value.
In addition, the release management tasks do not end with the publication of a version, but future releases can be improved by collecting feedback, reviews and user data.