Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.

Warren Bennis

 

Release Management Abstract

Release Management (sometimes referred to as a Release Management Team, or RMT) typically assists with planning, managing and governing releases for one or more Agile Release Trains. In so doing, Release Management has the requisite authorities and responsibilities to help guide the train towards the business goals, to provide some oversight and feedback on program execution, to  coordinate and facilitate the activities necessary to prepare internal and external stakeholders to receive and deploy the new solution, and to assure that the most critical governance elements of quality—particularly internal and external security, regulatory and other compliance related aspects of the system—have been appropriately addressed prior to shipment.

Summary Role Description

As the governing authority for the Release, release management typically consists of the Release Train Engineer, and Product Management, along with senior representation from those functions that are not full time participants in the train, including marketing, quality, development, program management, operations, deployment, and distribution. This function has the requisite authority, knowledge and capacity to foster and approve frequent releases of quality solutions to customers.

In most enterprises, release management meets weekly to evaluate content, progress and quality. As SAFe espouses fixed quality/fixed-cost-schedule/flexible features, release management will typically be actively involved in scope management, even up to the end of the Program Increment cycle. In addition, the function concerns itself with other elements of the whole product solution, including things such as internationalization, packing and deployment, training requirements, internal and external communications, and ensuring conformance to the most critical quality standards, including external and regulatory.

Release Management in Larger Value Streams

The release management icon is pictured on the Agile Release Train because that’s where the solution is built. In multiple ART Value Streams, however, it it more likely the case that release management operates at the Value Stream level, (See Figure 1) where they take on some additional responsibilities of helping Coordinate that the value stream-level solution is fit for its intended purpose.

Responsibilities

Planning a release is the easy part; the hard part is coordinating the implementation of all the features over the multiple iterations within a release, especially as new issues, roadblocks, dependencies, overlaps, over-scopes, and gaps in vision and backlogs are uncovered—all while the external environment is evolving. This is the challenge for the self-managing, self-organizing Agile Release Train; the scope of each release must be continually managed, re-validated, and communicated. But some of these changes and impediments may be outside the authority of the train, so they are typically assisted in this challenge by release management, who share the responsibility for coordinating releases and communicating to significant stakeholders. Primary responsibilities include:

  • Ensure that the organization’s release governance is understood
  • Communicate release status to external stakeholders
  • Ensure that an appropriate deployment/distribution plan is in place
  • Coordinate with marketing and product management on internal and external communications
  • Validate that the product meets relevant quality and governance criteria
  • Participate in Inspect and Adapt to improve the release process, program productivity and product quality
  • Provide final authorization of the release
  • Liaison to the Program Portfolio Management as appropriate

Membership

The Release Management function is typically comprised of individuals form the following areas:

  • Release Train Engineer
  • Line-of-business owners and product managers
  • Senior representatives from sales and marketing
  • Development managers who have responsibility for the teams and technology
  • Internal IT, production, deployment personnel
  • Senior and system-level QA personnel who are responsible for the final assessment of the solution’s system-level quality, performance, and suitability for use
  • System architects, CTOs, and others who oversee architectural integrity

Regular Coordination

In many enterprises, release management meets weekly to address the following questions:

  • Is the ART mission still understood and are the teams aligned to the that purpose?
  • Do we understand what they are building, and it is aligned with our understanding of the purpose of the ART and current Strategic Themes?
  • Are the scheduled releases still largely tracking?
  • What impediments must we address to facilitate progress?

The weekly meeting provides regular senior management visibility into the release status. This team also has the requisite authority to approve any scope, timing, or resource adjustments necessary to help assure the release. In this manner, release management represents the final authority on release governance issues.


Learn More

[1] Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Addison-Wesley, 2011, chap. 4.

Last Update 18 July, 2014

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