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3 Steps to Excellent Release Management

05/15/2014 by: The SunView Team

Release management often gets pushed into discussions as a side component of change-related plans. While there are definitely similarities between release and change processes, the two are still distinct components of any IT service management strategy. Furthermore, changing development methodologies, dependence on diverse operating systems and other technology trends are all making release management more important.

With this in mind, many IT teams need to get their release management plans going on the right foot. These three steps will help you get started on your path to release management excellence:

1. Plan
Agile development is combining with a need for frequent updates to support different PC and mobile operating systems to create an environment in which updates, patches and new application releases are frequent. This can create an incredibly complex environment because IT teams need to be ready to get new versions of an application into production as quickly as possible. Haste is important for a few reasons. In some cases, patches are made to deal with security issues, and getting the new release instance into production is key to preventing data loss or theft. There are also times when nuances of an application's code create stability issues when it is used on certain mobile operating systems, making an updated release necessary.

These types of issues, along with demand for rapid innovation in contemporary businesses, make operational acceleration necessary in the application release process. However, hastening release operations can lead to frustration, waste and instability. Planning is the solution to this problem, as organizations that effectively plan their release functions can position themselves to execute best practices quickly and without trouble.

2. Test
A new application or updated instance of an existing solution can have many unintended consequences on the configuration as a whole. Any application needs to be thoroughly tested before the end of the release process, and this doesn't just mean thoroughly assessing the lines of code for errors, it also means performing a trial on a few systems to see how the completed solution will function within the production environment. Applications can interact with hardware and other configuration items in unusual ways, and effective tests need to be built into any release management process.

3. Implement the Change
Making the actual changes that come with release processes can be easier withchange management systems in place, but the operations are distinct enough that dedicated release solutions are necessary. Any release operation needs to be carefully scheduled and executed with precision to ensure optimal performance when the system goes into production. Effectively performing the configuration changes is the final step in the release management process, and having good change strategies in place is critical to ensuring simple, but effective functionality in this area.

Effective release management is critical because release functions require successful interaction between development and operations teams. The developers are usually focused on meeting project goals while getting the solution to market as quickly as possible. The operations team, on the other hand, are putting most of their effort into ensuring stability. Change-focused processes only deal with the operations team side of the release management cycle. Release management is necessary in helping the two groups work collaboratively to get solutions into production quickly without sacrificing stability.

Effective planning and testing helps developers understand what is going to go into changes later down the line and adjust their development operations accordingly. Furthermore, it enables operations teams to more effectively work with developers early in the process to understand how the application will fit within the configuration, making the final release easier. From there, implementing the actual changes is streamlined because release management has helped fill the functional chasm between developers and operations teams.

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