The Basics of Release Management

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Release Manager
The primary role of a release manager is to focus on the details of bringing together the various dependent product components to satisfy a release. This role also focuses on coordinating the requirements, testing, and release schedules of other products so that they are available to work with this product release. The release manager will also participate on the CCB in order to be aware of what changes are occurring to the release and may participate occasionally on the CCB of co-dependent product releases so that changes may be discussed. This role may also communicate any challenges or impacts to external products in relation to managing the internal dependencies. In general, this role focuses more on the details of release scheduling and may lead the release related meetings.

The role of the release manager is sometimes confused with that of the release engineer. A release engineer primarily focuses on the building, packaging, and migrating of the release into production. In some cases, a separate role of build engineer will focus on building and packaging a release and a release engineer focuses on migrating the release through test and into production whether that is installing the deliverables onto a production server or creating the master media by which duplicate copies can be made available.

Product Manager
The primary role of the product manager is to focus on the product direction by establishing the product roadmap. This role also prioritizes the high level functionality that is targeted for successive project releases. The product manager may not be involved in the day-to-day tasks of a project release but will focus on acquiring the appropriate funding for product development and participate in the marketing of the product. In addition, they will solicit requirements from customers and ensure the product releases meet the satisfaction of the customers. The product manager may be involved in the high-level coordination of dependent product items which is typically limited to the coordination with other product managers to get buy-in to ensure the other products will be available. However, it is usually the release manager who handles the details of the dependent products including specific scheduling.

Summary
The good news is that there are aspects of release management already being handled today by other roles. What can make this more effective in the future is to implement a release management strategy, when there are product releases within your company that have co-dependencies to other products, whether internal or external. This should include introducing release management as a super discipline that provides context to the other engineering disciplines. The strategy should work as a mechanism for coordinating co-dependent pieces from across various product that must come together to work as an integrated release package.  It should also function as a planning and communication method to ensure that future dependent product timelines come together to meet the needs of this product release schedule. Finally, it is recommended to define the specific roles within this space so the responsibilities are clear and this will promote more effective release management.

References

1. ITILPeople Glossary, IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL ®)), http://www.itilpeople.com/Glossary/Glossary_r.htm

2. Know-How, Templates & Checklists, Managing Software Projects, ProjectConnections.com, a service of Emprend,Inc, http://www.projectconnections.com/knowhow/template_list/phases/software.html

3. “Release Management, Super Discipline”, by Mario Moreira, CM Crossroads, November 2002 

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