What Is a Release Management Plan?

A release management plan contains the processes of planning, designing, testing, scheduling, controlling, and deploying software. It guarantees that the team responsible for releasing software effectively delivers the necessary upgrades to applications that the business needs while maintaining the integrity of the current production environment. Across the organization, it schedules relevant internal and external tasks, assigns various resources to carry out activities, and oversees the execution of assignments. Release management utilizes different techniques like agile development, continuous delivery, DevOps, and release automation to optimize the process. Release management is a relatively new discipline in software engineering, and it is growing rapidly due to swift technological innovations and advancements. As a specialization, it stems from traditional and business-focused project management and technical knowledge of the system development life cycle (SDLC) and the IT infrastructure systems, including IT practices for service management. Since software systems, resources, and processes are well-distributed in different sectors and industries, software inevitably becomes more complex that require areas of specialization. Release management focuses on ongoing developments, testings, and releases of these applications.

According to an Amazon article published on their website regarding their deployment tools, there is an established pilot program focusing on the software delivery systems for several teams within the organization. Throughout the program, the headlining pilot team possesses incredible numbers of 90 percent reduction in their overall time to go through the systems from check-in to production.

Key Terms in Release Management

To better understand the release management process, there are several terms that an individual must know when creating the release management plan. Below are some of the terminologies widely used in the document. It is best to be aware of them to know when and how you can use them.

Development work order: The development work order is a document that details the development or modification of the software system and application.DevOps team: The main priority of DevOps is to enhance coordination between developmental and operational functions and create a separate team that makes the term a misnomer. Nonetheless, the term refers to the team members that are both working on the development and operation teams that work to coordinate the two functions.Installation work order: The installation work order shows similarity to the development work order. It is a document that details the installation procedures of a software application, infrastructure, or system.Product owner: The product owner of a development project refers to the principal stakeholder. They are the individuals that represent a business or the products for potential customers. They are also responsible for defining the vision statement for a product. Project manager: The project manager is liable for overseeing the direction of a single product or project. They also commit to creating and visualizing the product development roadmap and the vision and negotiating the expected outcomes of the project. The core responsibility of a project manager does not extend beyond the single product they are handling, even if the product is closely related.Release: Release refers to the release of software in one or more units.Release manager: The role of the release manager is to coordinate, plan, schedule, and manage all components and resources associated with the release. These items are the overall resource for the entire project, not necessarily for a specific product. For example, the release manager also helps with coordinating work with other products that are in line with the integration of the new release.Release policy: The release policy is a document that contains a set of rules regarding the deployment of releases to the live operational environment. Different release policies apply to various releases, depending on essential factors like impact and urgency.Release record: A release record documents the release history of software, from the planning stages to the closure of the entire development process.Release unit: Release unit is a term that refers to a set of configuration items that the team simultaneously tests and releases in the live operating environment to implement all approved changes. It also consists of a configuration item that is a component of the system under configuration management. Configuration management is the process of guaranteeing that the attributes of a product and performance remain consistent concerning its design, operational details, and requirements.Service owner: A service owner has the responsibility to take on high-level accountability for a particular IT service. Quality manager: A quality manager ensures that releases meet quality standards set by the company. Quality managers also have the release managers report to them for possible collaborations.

Release Management Methods

There are various ways that an organization can go about performing its software release. Many companies utilize two methods, namely, agile development and waterfall development. While different, they have similar results. The option for choosing one over the other depends on the complexity of the software and the scope of the involved teams. The section below details these methodologies.

Agile development: The agile development release management method refers to the planning of software releases in increments. Another term for these increments is sprints or iterations. The component of the agile development management approach involves creating a comprehensive roadmap, prioritizing the product backlog, setting logical project goals, and breaking down tasks into increments. Teams manage and execute intricate projects like software releases with ease by using the agile development methodology. The approach best suits groups that break down the tasks into smaller and attainable goals, perfect for smaller teams with larger projects.Waterfall development: Waterfall development focuses on a linear path compared to agile development. Each task follows a dependency, and a team cannot proceed without completing the task before another. The waterfall development method comprises gathering requirements, planning, and scheduling project milestones, testing and verifying the software, and implementing, maintaining, and improving the plan. The use of waterfall development is best for large projects since it requires more detail. It is also best suited for teams looking to work on phase-specific tasks, especially if the organizations already have sufficient resources but need to implement order and organization in their executions.

How To Implement the Release Management Plan

The release management plan consists of a lifecycle that has five distinct phases that include planning, building, testing, preparing, and deploying the software to live operations of the update. It is critical to follow the stages of release management as it properly organizes and executes successful releases. The guide below helps you understand the stages of release management.

  • 1. Release Planning Stage

    The initial step to launching software is to plan with the primary stakeholders on the development team. Each task of the planning stage helps the release manager to execute a systematic development plan. In this phase of release management, it is best to communicate with the operations and leadership teams for the approval of the software build to continue with its development. Prepare a release management planning checklist that contains the processes of the planning stage. Start connecting with stakeholders by sending them a project summary report before the first meeting. During the first meeting, the release manager must communicate more details about the project, including objectives and success metrics. The next step is to write a business case that elaborates on the value and impact of the project, including its long-term benefits. Establish a work breakdown structure that visualizes the project in a more digestible format for stakeholders. Submit the software plan for approval, and plan the release schedule as necessary.

  • 2. Release Building Stage

    After completing the release management checklist, the second phase is the most time-intensive to the development team; the release building stage. In this step, stakeholders are aware of their tasks and responsibilities and accomplish the communication of project details. After all of these, the development team starts building the software and simultaneously testing and improving its performance and features. It’s also advantageous to begin tracking potential risks or bugs in systems or applications as preparation for testing. As part of the checklist, make sure to communicate with stakeholders, identify project dependencies, create a risk register, initiate problem-solving initiatives, introduce new features in the operating environment, and automate initial testing.

  • 3. Release Testing Stage

    The next stage of the release management cycle is the testing phase. It ensures that the software runs properly, making it ready for launch. Start the software testing method by having team members identify and resolve issues and implement end-user acceptance testing. User testing depends on how complex the development team completed the software release, but it provides an opportunity for the consumer market to test software for their critical feedback, and in return, they can have rewards. During this stage, the development team also performs regression testing that involves rechecking approved functionality by verifying its performance. When it comes to software, testing becomes time-consuming if there are several modifications.

  • 4. Release Preparing Stage

    When preparing for a software release, the team must accomplish and complete all the necessary changes while optimizing the functionality in a testing environment. Doing this guarantees that each part of the software performs properly and is ready for live implementation. Perform multiple quality assurance checks to ensure the overall functionality of the software. The team members or the manager is responsible for conducting the quality assurance checking, and it is advisable to get members from another team for a fresh perspective on the software. After the final review and approval, the organization can deploy the software to a live environment.

  • 5. Release Deployment Stage

    The final stage of the release management process is the software deployment management stage. In this step, the manager executes the initial software idea and moves it to a more functional and live environment. Before the software deployment, the development team must conduct more testing to guarantee the preservation of functionality in a live setting. After all the retesting processes are complete, the development team must continually evaluate software integrations and make the adjustments necessary to improve its functionality. Only close the project tasks once the software is on the live environment and all the essential integrations are complete.


What is a release plan?

A release plan is a tactical business plan that captures and tracks features of the software for an impending release. A release plan usually spans for a few months and is an internal working document for the development, operating, and product teams.

What is a release checklist?

A release management checklist contains all software development stages with their corresponding tasks. The stages of software development in the list include product management, development phase, quality assurance, DevOps, reverse engineering, and configuration, technical support, and release management. The tasks in each step involve the creation, ideation, and approval processes.

What are the responsibilities of a release manager?

The role of a release manager involves planning a release lifecycle and managing involved risks in the scope of the release. They are also responsible for communicating the project plans, commitments, and changes. The release manager also shoulders the responsibility of measuring and monitoring project progress and ensures the delivery of releases within the due date and budget plan.

A release management plan is necessary for an organization to grow and develop. Innovating software takes time, resources, and communication from different members of the development, operation, and production teams. As such, the release manager carries a variety of responsibilities to ensure that the release management cycle goes smoothly. Without the release management plan, there is no clear roadmap on engaging with various processes. Create a release management plan for your business by downloading the samples available in the article above.