Jul 15, 2021

Release Management: Best Practices and Tools in DevOps

Let's analyze what DevOps release management is, whilst discovering release management best practices that have proven themselves fluently over the years.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. reading time: 11 min

    Navigate through the article!

    Find the topic you are interested in and proceed to it directly from the table of contents!

What is release management?

Firstly, let's define what release management is. In short, it is the process of delivering software from developers directly to clients(users). DevOps release management is planning and control over the assembly of software at all stages of development. Usually, it also includes software testing and the rollout of releases. This is one of the top software development processes. According to Alpacked there are several main points that play an important role in release management:

- Coordination of resources in IT
- Balance of software development and business
- Risks management
- Monitoring the transition to new versions

Release management has gone through many stages of development and evolution. However, it is a crucial process for software delivery and service management in IT. It includes both planning management, requirements sizing, testing, assembly, and deployment. There is the structure of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Depending on its release management includes different processes. Let's look at the main ones.

Processes of release management

What is involved in the release management process?

  1. Standardization
    At this stage, you should define the types of releases, requirements and standards in management
  2. Pipeline release
    Release flow from planning to delivery.
  3. Release template
    A process that includes both automated and human steps. A process that is one and the same for the release pipeline. Accurately meets company release standards.
  4. Release strategy
    A more detailed and customized release template for a specific project.
  5. Deployment strategy
    Steps to take to deploy the release to a production environment.
  6. Release unit
    A specific package of artefacts. They are applied in combination with another function.
  7. Release set
    One or more release units, employed as a single release. If there are interactions between them or such are the priorities within the business to do so.
  8. Key issues
    A collection of release modules that have a significant business impact.
  9. Low profile releases
    These units contain fewer units of issue. They lack key release modules.

Participants in the process and their responsibilities

Product owner

The responsibility of the product owner is to set the release requirements. The result of the team's work will depend on the competent and clear statement of these release requirements. After all, the development and testing teams will follow the requirements set by the product owner in charge.

Quality manager

The quality manager has a very important role to play. It is his responsibility to ensure that the acceptance criteria is met with the requirements set by the product owner. This enables the accuracy of the tests, as well as the minimization or elimination of false positives. All of it is the responsibility of a quality manager specialist. Additionally, it also notifies the development team about bugs.

DevOps team

DevOps is a very important part of the entire company. Experts are involved in setting up continuous integration and deployment. With these settings, developers can iterate efficiently. The testing department will also have the assurance in these tests. So, they know that tests from the development phase are carried over to the production environment. The DevOps team ensures the quality availability for a production deployment. This can reduce the time spent on new deployments.

Release Management Best Practices

As stated above, release management continues to evolve in parallel with the evolution of technologies. Therefore, we can say that it is impossible to single out a single clear process as a best practice. Even though release management is an important part of the SDLC. Each company adjusts the process itself based on their requests and needs. All of these practices can be used in companies implementing DevOps. Let’s consider a few basic traits of them.

ITIL - IT Infrastructure Library

Many people define ITIL as a methodology aimed at debugging, improving and managing an IT business. As a library, ITIL offers a varied collection of books on IT Business Process Management. ITIL is the most widely used IT service management guide. ITIL's focus is on integrating business and IT. The ITIL library consists of the ITIL core. This is a guide to using the leading experience for companies providing services to business. In addition, there are many diversified tutorials in the library. It provides more constructive comments on specific industries and operating models. At the core of the library, there are 5 books on services. These books are about strategy, design, transformation, operation and continuous improvement. Each of the 5 books is a guide to providing release management services. The books explain processes such as planning, monitoring, implementing, operating, maintaining and improving.

ITIL version 3

The third edition was released in 2007. It has completely redesigned and reorganized sections. The goal was to support the new service lifecycle format approach. The third version also contains 5 books. 4 functions are in-service operations. This includes the management of applications, technologies, operations and the Service Desk

ITIL version 4

This is the latest version released by AXELOS Ltd. Version 4 focused on capitalizing on changing technologies. The prioritized component of the 4th version of the framework is the Service Value System and the 4 dimensions model. The utmost vital component of ITIL defines the service value chain. This is a sequence of actions that must be performed, in order for a company to provide a valuable and effective project or service.

The service value chain includes planning, improvement, interaction, design, assembly and support.

In addition to the value chain, ITIL also has a service value chain - SVS. It is a combination of activities that provide a model for developing, delivering, and maintaining services.

Release Management in DevOps

Release management is important in DevOps as it involves developing a non-stop process in a production environment. This is what DevOps as a service strives for, by aligning work within the company and the organization. However, DevOps release management is different from other practices. Companies that implement DevOps are also implementing continuous integration. Most often, continuous integration is implemented in tandem with continuous deployment. However, release management only uses continuous integration. This maintains the level of centralization. The release policy supports the RASCI requirements -a requirements definition matrix. 

DevOps focuses on loop improvements through constant feedback. The approach is also focused on reducing software changes, to shorten the risk of interruption. It is also worth noting the typical processes for DevOps. Namely, automation at all levels - integration, assembly, and testing. This affects the reduction in human resources at each release. The release management team works with product owners. Whilst the product owner acts as a liaison between the business, development, and product.

This is a noted project management technique. It implies an even transition between stages without having to revert back to previous steps. Moreover, the transition to a new stage is possible only if the previous one is completed. This approach works perfectly when the software requirements are well defined in advance. This approach implies 6 stages (or more) of software development:

  • Definition of product requirements
  • Analysis in the form of models and business plans
  • Product design: both external components and product logic
  • Writing program code
  • Software testing, product check for defects
  • Operations: adaptation for different operating systems, product updates. Also,  improvement and updating of functionality, technical support

Furthermore, the advantage of this practice is simple - it is within the uncomplicated structure of the software development process. Clear reporting that makes it easy to track requirements, risks and challenges. Goals and objectives are set at the very beginning of the project and do not change during the work on it.

Although, the lack of flexibility may be one of the main disadvantages... Because you often have to fix bugs after release. This then brings huge financial expenses and time costs. Also, there is no way to optimize the project in any way after the work has begun.

Agile for Release Management 

Agile is one of the popular practices in release management. Famous methods such as Scrum, Kanban and Extreme Programming (XP) were created on the basis of Agile. Therefore, it focuses on iterations that deliver the same correct results to the customer.

There are very famous Agile manifestos that define the essence of this approach:

  • People-to-people interactions are more important than tools and processes
  • A functioning product is more important than documentation
  • Customer interaction is more important than the contract
  • Making reasonable changes is more important than following the initial plan

Therefore, Agile differs substantially from the Waterfall model in its flexibility.

In Agile, the main role of the CAB (Change Approval Board) is replaced by a process that is more flexible and adaptable to the requirements of the sprint. The popular SAFe (Scalable Agile Platform) framework enables delivery of every sprint cycle. It takes about 11 weeks of sprints to roll out a release to a production environment. There is a very important job role in this process - it is the release manager. He/She continuously monitors the entire process. Their job is to communicate with all departments (development, testing, etc.), as well as determine the scope of sprints.

The benefits of Agile are short iterations that lead the customer to a version of the product. In this approach, all participants are highly engaged and their input is valued more than the original planning. Changes are made extremely quickly and easily. Due to these advantages, Agile is very popular in the business management software environment.

However, there are also disadvantages. Namely, the constant improvement of the project can lead to the fact that it will not have a final completion date. The qualifications of the team members involved must be high. Agile implies that employees are involved in the process and are maximally interested in the success of the project. Therefore, they must constantly improve upon their work processes. Also, team members would have to repeatedly think about improvements and be highly motivated.

Agile is all about flexibility. It is common here to change requirements, increase or decrease the time and costs involved. There are no defined frames that cannot be changed.

Conclusion

Regardless of the practice used, release management provides opportunities for software improvement. In order to speed up and improve software delivery, processes are more transparent and efficient. Defining a specific practice is an individual task and release management in DevOps is an aspect of great importance. Companies that have made changes to a product at least once fully understand the importance of a robust release management process. Conclusively, this is control over all stages of the release from development, testing and to deployment. Release management is required every time a product is released or changes are to be made. The processes can be different depending on the chosen practice and the company itself.

Let's arrange a free consultation

Just fill the form below and we will contaсt you via email to arrange a free call to discuss your project and estimates.