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What is Release Management? | Its Importance for Testers

December 29, 2023Yamini Priya
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What is Release Management Its Importance for Testers
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Have you ever wondered how your favorite app or software magically updates, bringing new features or fixing pesky bugs? That’s the work of release management. It helps streamline the entire release process, from ideation to deployment. 

Release management acts as a bridge between the development phase and the deployment of software into the hands of end-users. In this blog, we’ll discuss release management and why it is critical in the journey from lines of code to a seamless user experience.

Table Of Contents

A Brief History of Release Management

Release management is quite a new concept in software engineering. The change in the process was a bit slow as software developers moved their focus from project-based to product-based outcomes.

Previously, developers considered each release as a project rather than viewing it as a product with an entire lifecycle. However, as the software development process increasingly mirrored the product cycle, and the goal of a release extended beyond being just an end-product to becoming a crucial transition point between support and revision, release management became more critical.

The continuous evolution of best practices and technology has been the reason for the growth in release management.

What is Release Management?

Release management is the process of planning, designing, scheduling, testing, deploying, and controlling software releases or updates. It helps ensure that the release teams effectively deliver the applications and upgrades to the business, all while maintaining the stability of the current production environment.

Effective release management is essential in environments where there are frequent software updates. Also, it fosters better collaboration between teams in the software development process.

What is Release Lifecycle Management?

Release lifecycle management is a broader concept that covers the entire lifecycle of a software release, from initial planning to deployment and beyond.

Release Management Vs Release Lifecycle Management

Release management and release lifecycle management may sound like similar concepts, but they differ. Release management is a subset of release lifecycle management. It focuses on planning, coordinating, and controlling the release process. 

Let’s understand the difference with an example. Consider that a ‘XYZ company’ is releasing a new version of its mobile application.

The release lifecycle management process would start with planning and identifying new features or improvements. 

  • Then, development teams would code and build the application. 
  • After, they will test their software application using manual or automated testing. Using a test automation platform like Testsigma makes the entire testing process faster and more efficient. Also, it eliminates human-prone errors and ensures your software is free of bugs and meets user expectations. With Testsigma, you can make the testing process 5x faster and ship products at an 8x faster rate. 

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  • Once testing is successful, the application is deployed to app stores. The company will monitor user feedback post-release and provide updates and support as needed.

Whereas release management would involve,

  • Planning/scheduling a specific software release.
  • Coordinating with different teams involved.
  • Ensuring all necessary resources are available.
  • Communicating the release plan to stakeholders.
  • Making sure the release is successful.

The Release Management Process Flow

The release management process flow involves several steps to ensure a smooth release of software updates. Here is an overview of how the flow unfolds when introducing changes in the environment,

  • Release Planning
  • Release Building
  • Acceptance Testing
  • Release Preparation
  • Release and Deployment
Release management process flow

1. Release Planning

Start by planning the software release with stakeholders. Conduct an initial meeting, create a business case, and break down the project into manageable tasks. Connect with operations teams for approval and create a release schedule.

Here’s a software release checklist to use when starting this process,

  • Connect with stakeholders
  • Conduct an initial project kickoff meeting to outline project details
  • Write a business case to communicate project value
  • Create a work breakdown structure for project visualization
  • Submit software for approval
  • Plan the release schedule

2. Release Building

In this phase, the developers have to start developing the software. They will have to simultaneously test their code, find bugs, fix them, and work on improving the software application. The focus is on creating a stable and deployable version of the software.

  • Assign tasks to stakeholders.
  • Execute project dependencies.
  • Document software risks using a risk register.
  • Collaborate for problem-solving.
  • Roll out new features within a production environment.
  • Automate initial testing.

3. Release Testing

In the release testing phase, QA teams will test the software to ensure that the release is of high quality and free of bugs. Thoroughly testing the software for functionality, UI, integration, etc, will help you find and fix bugs before the release. 

Use a test automation platform like Testsigma to make the testing process faster and more efficient. Also, you can automate different types of testing, such as UI testing, integration testing, system testing, compatibility testing, and more, all in one place. 

An overview of what testers will do in the release testing phase,

  • Perform end-user acceptance testing (UAT).
  • Resolve or mitigate software risks.
  • Find software bugs.
  • Communicate to developers and fix bugs.
  • Perform regression testing to ensure existing functionalities work even if there are code changes.

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4. Release Preparing

After successful testing, work on optimizing functionality and resolving issues in the staging environment for a smooth transition to a live environment. What happens in this phase?

  • Replicate each software scenario.
  • Work on optimizing software integrations.
  • Fix remaining software bugs.
  • Perform a final quality assurance check.

5. Release Deployment

Deployment is the process of making the release available to end-users. This involves deploying the software to production servers and making it accessible to users. An overview of what developers and testers will do in this phase,

  • Deploy the software in a live environment.
  • Test functionality in the live environment.
  • Analyze key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Implement continuous integrations.
  • Close project tasks post-live deployment.

Release Management Methods

There are two release management methods,

  1. Agile
  2. Waterfall

We will discuss this in detail below.

Release management methods

Agile Development

Agile is an iterative and incremental approach to software development that emphasizes flexibility and customer satisfaction. It focuses on delivering small, functional increments of a product in short cycles, known as iterations or sprints.

Agile method

Each cycle in agile development will include the following steps in general,

  • Requirements gathering
  • Design the requirements
  • Construction/ iteration
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Feedback

Waterfall Development

Waterfall is a traditional and linear software development approach. It divides the development process into distinct phases, and each phase must be completed before moving on to the next. 

Waterfall model

The waterfall development will typically include the following phases,

  • Requirement analysis, 
  • Design, 
  • Implementation, 
  • Testing, 
  • Deployment, and 
  • Maintenance.

Objectives of Release Management

The main objectives of release management include the following,

  • A good release management plan in place will help increase the chance of successful releases by a business.
  • It reduces the risk of software bugs and helps improve the quality.
  • It enhances communication, collaboration, and productivity between teams.
  • Release management promotes faster software delivery while mitigating software risks.
  • It helps gather feedback and data from current releases to improve future release processes.

Tips to Structure Your Release Management for Improved Agility

A robust release management process helps ensure the smooth deployment of software updates while maintaining agility. Here are some of the tips to structure your release management process for improved agility,

Use Agile Principles

Employ sprint-based releases. That is, align release cycles with agile sprints. Plan releases at the end of each sprint, ensuring that increments of functionality are delivered regularly.

Adopt an iterative development approach, allowing continuous improvement and the flexibility to adapt to changing requirements.

Resource – Learn how Testsigma can speed up the software release cycle

Automated Testing

Automate your testing wherever possible. Use automation tools like Testsigms to automate different testing types, including unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests. This ensures that code changes are thoroughly validated.



Continuous Integration (CI) 

Integrate changes frequently using CI tools. Automated builds and tests help catch issues early, reducing the time between development and deployment.

Monitoring and Feedback

Implement robust monitoring solutions to track the performance of applications in real-time. Use feedback from monitoring tools to identify and address issues promptly.

Rollback Procedures

Have well-defined rollback procedures in case of failures. This ensures that you can quickly revert to a previous stable state if issues arise post-release.

Benefits of Release Management

  • Proper release management helps identify and manage potential risks early in the process.
  • Release management encourages collaboration among various teams involved in the software development process, such as development, testing, operations, and product management.
  • It ensures that the software undergoes thorough testing before being released into the production environment.
  • Regular and well-managed releases enable timely delivery of new features and improvements to end-users, which helps increase customer satisfaction.
  • Release management processes decrease the chances of issues arising during software updates/releases.
  • They work effectively in complex operations related to software development.
  • It helps ensure smooth bug fixes and upgrade releases.
  • You can easily monitor and approve dependency and critical tasks, preventing oversights.
  • In cases where changes might adversely affect other aspects of the software, a robust release management process will help prevent or mitigate potential issues.

Challenges That Release Management Can Help Address

  • In the past, many companies didn’t have effective ways to handle the release cycle. This was a problem because issues in the release cycle could be costly, both in terms of time and money, as well as damage to reliability and reputation. That is when release management became a thing.
  • Some companies struggle to move code smoothly from development to testing and production. While this might not directly impact revenue, it is a concern for the software team. 
  • Also, there can be clashes when multiple teams work together, and there is a risk that one team’s work might affect another. A good release management process will help avoid many of these problems.

How Release Management Works and Inclusion in Test Automation?

By including test automation in release management, teams can achieve faster and more reliable releases while maintaining high software quality. It’s essential to continuously evaluate and improve the release process based on feedback and changing requirements. Let’s see how test automation can help make your release management more efficient.

Automated Testing

Include automated tests at different levels of the testing pyramid – unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests. These tests provide fast feedback to developers and ensure that changes don’t introduce regressions.

Continuous Testing

Integrate automated tests into your CI/CD pipeline to achieve continuous testing. This way, you can ensure that every code change is automatically validated, reducing the likelihood of bugs slipping through production.

Parallel Test Execution

Run tests in parallel to speed up the feedback loop. Parallel test execution is crucial for handling large test suites efficiently.

Test Data Management

Easily create and manage test data on the cloud to ensure that tests are executed with consistent and realistic data.

Automated Regression Testing

Automate regression testing to ensure that new releases do not affect existing functionalities.

Third-Party Integration

Integrate test automation tools with release management tools to provide a seamless and automated release process.

Change Management Vs Release Management

While release management and change management share certain similarities, they also have distinct differences. Release management involves implementing a software product, while change management involves coordinating project or business changes through a change control process. Let’s check the differences in detail,

Change ManagementRelease Management
Focuses on configuring, planning, releasing, and testing a project.Focuses on assessing, authorizing, requesting, and reviewing project changes.
Gatekeeper – Ensures  that the production environment is protected while evaluating the release planDoer – Develops, tests, and deploys the changes in batch or as a whole
Consists of pre and post-deployment activitiesConsists of deployment activities
Authorization processImplementation process
Not every change results in a releaseEvery release involves one to several changes
Strategic levelOperational level
Quality control pointPackaging of approved changes
Post Implementation Review (PIR)Version control

Best Practices of Release Management

Here are some best practices for effective software release management,

A Clear Release Plan

Create a detailed release plan with tasks, timelines, and other key activities. Clearly define release objectives and make sure they align with your business goals. Also, assess both the upstream and downstream system impact of the release.

Version Control

Use a robust version control system like Git to track and manage code changes. Each release should correspond to a specific version in your version control repository.

Environment Testing

Test staging and production environments for consistency. Maintain environment integrity across the release cycle.

Detailed Documentation

Maintain detailed release documentation with notes, guides, validation scenarios, troubleshooting info, and recovery plans.

CI/CD process

Implement CI/CD pipelines to automate the build, test, and deployment processes. This ensures that the code is always deployable, reducing the risk of errors during releases.

Perform Testing

Conduct rigorous testing before and after each release, including functional, integration, regression, and performance testing.

Automated Testing

Automate processes wherever possible to speed up deployment and reduce the chance of human errors. It helps catch issues early in the development process and ensures the reliability of the release.



Rollback Plan

Assess risks associated with each release. Have a rollback plan in case issues are identified after the release. This plan should include steps to revert to the previous version quickly and effectively.

Better Communication

Foster better communication and collaboration among teams such as development, QA, managers, operations, and stakeholders. Use collaboration tools to keep everyone informed about the progress and status of the release.

Change Management

Create a robust change management process to track and manage changes throughout the entire release cycle.

Continuous Monitoring

Monitor the software release in the production environment continuously. Use performance monitoring tools to identify issues or performance bottlenecks.

Maintain Test Environment

Maintain multiple environments such as development, staging, and production to simulate the release process before deploying to production. This helps identify and address issues before they impact end-users.

UAT Testing

Perform User Acceptance Testing where stakeholders can validate that the release meets their requirements and expectations. 

Tools for release management

There are various tools that allow users to streamline and automate the release management process. Here are the top 3 tools that you can use for release management,

1. Freshservice

Freshservice is one of the most popular IT service management (ITSM) tools that supports release management. 

Pricing: Starts from $25/agent/month. It also offers a 14-day free trial.

2. Jira Service Management

Jira Service Management is a robust ITSM tool by Atlassian. It helps handle service management processes, including release management. It allows teams to create custom workflows and also supports automation.

Pricing: Start from $22/agent/month. It also offers a 7-day free trial.

3. Chef

Chef is a popular configuration management tool that you can use with release management tools to automate infrastructure provisioning and configuration.

Pricing: Pricing upon request

Conclusion

Effective release management is crucial for a successful software development lifecycle. Through meticulous planning, coordination, and automation, businesses can ensure that the software is released with high quality, efficiency, and minimal disruption.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the scope of release management?

Release management is a comprehensive process that involves planning, scheduling, coordinating, and controlling the deployment of software applications and updates into production. Its scope covers various aspects of the software development lifecycle and aims to ensure a smooth and controlled software release to end-users. 

Why is release management important?

Release management is a systematic and structured approach to software deployment that minimizes risks and enhances collaboration, communication, and overall efficiency in delivering software to end-users. It is an integral part of the SDLC that contributes to the success and reliability of software applications.

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