William_M_PragueWhile I have written much about Configuration Management and Change Management on my site here, I recognized that I need to have a few articles on Release Management. Therefore, this series will discuss Release Planning, Enterprise Release Management and how that applies to DevOps and Waterfall.

 I recently had the opportunity to give a lecture at the University of Economics, in Prague, Czech Republic in February 2016 on Enterprise Release Management. And the topics of interest were around how Release Management plays a role in Software Application Release within  Project Management cycle.  In addition, how do we help a project be successful in the release execution. These are all good topics.  To start, you are probably wondering how I had modeled my experience in the field.

I don’t know if any of you have watched the recent Space-X Launch, but I always thought that Release Management and Release Planning were similar exercises to what you see in the launch execution.  For the many years that I have been doing Release Management, even before we called it Release Management, the success in deployment activity has always been around the detailed planning.  The control center, the dry run of the plans, and the proper execution, including how to handle situations that go off the plan.  The successful Release Manager is that one that can look around corners and plan for the unexpected.   Courtesy Wiki CommonsSimilar to what we see in a launch of a rocket, you have to consider all the possible scenarios that can interrupt your release activity.   I would comment that many release managers will carefully plan their deployment activity within the project they are working on, but if you notice in a space launch, the same control center also looks outside that box to what can also impact their launch. For example, I noticed that they even consider ships and boats within the range of the trajectory of the rocket, as well as some common sense things like planes flying near the launch site.  So, when it comes to the IT project, do these same project managers and release managers consider things outside of their project that could impact their release? If so, how are you capturing these activities so that they are part of your plan.    So, let’s talk about Release Planning.

Release Planning foremost is about the information. You have to have the information in order to be able to make that actionable.  In my prior posts, we discussed the importance of a good, quality Configuration Management System as well as the relationships in the CMDB that help you with Impact Assessment.  The second part of that importance is now coming to light with Release Planning and the calendar of events.  And, when I speak of Release Planning, I am speaking of Dev/Test and Prod Release Planning. Too many times, the Forward Schedule Of Change (FSC) is focused on the Production FSC, but if these changes progress through the non-prod environments do in fact impact your project release schedule, then you need that information too in order to prevent disaster to the schedule.   And, if you think about it, the way non-prod changes are scheduled are really much more flexible and detailed to what you could list on the FSC.  The FSC may list a span of activities that are happening, but the Release Manager needs the details of how things are impacting Dev/Test so that project build and test schedules are not effected or impacted severely.    So, what we find in the enterprise is project managers and release managers are keeping that data externally of the CMS usually in spreadsheets or other media.    We also find that the information comes down to the teams on the reliance of other communications, such as email distribution lists, memos, and other forms of announcements.   Just as I stated in my prior post about the Change Manager needing to make sure that relationships are in place, now these relationships as well as their stakeholders are the key tools to help in Release Planning. It’s the visibility of all change and release activity beyond the visibility of the project manager, is the value a good Release Manager can add to the program.

This role we play as the Release Manager is now looking at things beyond the normal Project Manager view.  I know some will say a good Project Manager also looks out for this too, and my intent is not to state otherwise.  My intent is that a good Release Manager is providing this information to the Project Manager so that this information is known and part of the plan. The Release Team is performing a service to the Project team.   The Release Manager helps provide timely information to the Project Manager so that decisions and risk can be assessed with regard to the project and timing.    The focus of the Release Manager is a bit different in this regard so that it frees up the Project Manager to focus on their project.  The Project Manager is focused on project tasks, events, and communications specific to their project to make sure that goes without any issues.  The Release Manager has a view beyond what the project team is looking at such as, Infrastructure Change activities, Business Event Activities, other Project Release Activities by other PMs, including enterprise events . So, in the enterprise, you can imagine that flow of information coming in to be actionable.  That’s why some tools have emerged to assist in Release Planning and Release Management.   That information, if actionable, is shared to the Project Manager to assist in decision making. This is where I like to say:  “Release Managers save Project Managers.”

In this series, I plan to discuss a few topics around Release Management.  Release Planning, Environment Management (non-prod and prod), as well as environment reservations,  build-deployment management, and Deployment Planning which is similar to the SpaceX launch that I started this article on.  I also want to touch on DevOps and IT automation within the Release Process, but, before we talk about launch, we need to talk about scope and how scope becomes a Release and how we plan that successfully.   That will be the next article. Stay Tuned!


William is a certified Practitioner in IT Service Management for Release and Control, with experience in Global Change, Configuration and Release Management.  He is also an experienced Project Lead in delivery, IT Automation, systems implementation, build, deployment and release practices.

This article is in a series of articles around IT Change, Configuration and Release Management using ITIL’s Foundation Framework.

Copyright. William Mantz 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Images used with permission from GNU, please see Image Description or Alt Tags for attribution.

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