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Can Release Management Be a Competitive Advantage?

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For anyone looking to reduce the risk of release management, DevOps has got to be on the table. DevOps represents not only a set of practices, but also a mature operational mindset. “Release Management and Deployments: Why Is This So Important?” does a great job of explaining a mature mindset with respect to release management best practices. In the article, Joe Townsend has a few critical suggestions for making sure a solid release management practice keeps typical points of failure at bay.

  • Planning for Continuous Change: Workload estimating is more of a black art than a science, and we all know no plan survives contact. However, continually estimating and changing timelines is one way to avoid getting crushed by fixed deadlines that can never be met. Change is the only constant, and it’s the only thing you can really plan for.
  • Release and Deployment as Competitive Advantage: Being a first mover matters when the market is this competitive. Both the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the 2005 Ford Mustang came out well ahead of their competitors, but the success of both projects had to do with the integrity and advance planning of the design. The same applies to IT and software projects.
  • A “Doable” Vision and a Calm Hand: IT and business need to align in purpose, drive and execution. Risk must be agreed upon before it can be managed. The project plan must be a “living” document that can be referred to and updated frequently, not a monolith in stone. Success is defined not by anticipating every possible problem and baking that into a spec that never changes. A missed date doesn’t have to spell project death – we don’t have to overcorrect like a driver on ice. Being proactive rather than reactive is the best insurance policy you can have.
  • Open Lines of Communication: Release management and deployment need to be a top subject at every step in the software development lifecycle as well as at every communication opportunity related to a project. Don’t sweep “fails” under the rug – that will only make things worse. Failures happen – they should be communicated and dealt with right away. That’s what keeps silos from building up – and projects from burning down.

Joe’s recommendations are a great example of how the DevOps mindset is becoming more a part of businesses today, even if they don’t use that term.

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