Comparing Roles in More Detail
Let us take a moment to take a look in more detail at the comparable roles and responsibilities of the release manager with the project manager and product manager. It should be clear that some of the tasks associated with these roles may overlap. For example, on a single project release of one product, the project manager may play the role of the release manager. However, as soon as there are dependencies of a product to other products and they must work well together and even be released together, then someone must be made available to manage all of these interdependencies across products and their projects therein.
It is important that all roles work well together. As an example, a product manager needs to ensure the project manager has everything needed to get the release into production, while the release manager will work with the project manager to ensure that all dependent pieces from other products are ready to support the release in build, test, and production. To get a better view of how the roles work together, I have provided a high-level diagram indicating the primary focus areas of each role.
The primary role of a project manager is to focus on the tasks to develop a specific set of project deliverables for one product (e.g., singular release). This role establishes and manages the project plan. The deliverables are defined by the requirements and defects that make up a release and the product direction prescribed by the product manager. The project manager should be intimately involved on the project’s change control board (CCB) and aware of any change of scope and direction to their project. The project manager role should manage the internal dependencies of a project and ensure any internal parallel development efforts are integrated effectively as appropriate (for both build and run time).
In many cases, there are other products in which this release is dependent. The project manager is aware of the dependencies and must ensure that the dependency product is ready for them to test against, but it is the release manager role that focuses on ensuring the dependencies are available according to the schedule of their release. In a more agile environment, the ScrumMaster would play this role but use sprint planning to manage changes that are provided by the product manager (often called the product owner in agile).