What is a Release Manager and When are They Necessary?

Walid Abou-Halloun

Posted by Walid Abou-Halloun Date: Nov 5, 2018 3:19:23 AM

It’s time for your next major software deployment, and you can feel it in the air.

Stress, chaos and stiff-deadline pressures surround you like a cloud, and you wonder how you’ll make it through this deployment unscathed yet again.

Stop. Take a deep breath. And get yourself a release manager.

For those who don’t work in the information technology field, the term “release manager” might seem like a foreign job description.

However, these extremely organised and helpful professionals can turn complicated deployments into smooth ones.

And that’s a big deal in 2018.

In a recent study, 16% of respondents acknowledged that they’d like to release brand-new software builds each hour. Many companies currently deploy code on a weekly or a daily basis.

If you want to stay ahead of your competition, here’s a glimpse at what a release manager is. We’ll also take a look at what these professionals can do for your company long term.

Let’s get started!

What Exactly is Release Management?

Release management is essentially a combination of software artifact management and compliance activities related to quality assurance.

A release manager releases software artifacts for deployment in a client production environment.

They can do this either automatically or manually. It all depends on how mature a company’s release management process is.

Here’s an example of how release management works.

You’re a company that makes websites for various clients. However, you notice that your clients have begun to frequently ask for you to change their sites.

For instance, one clients would like its users to easily browse through its merchandise.

Meanwhile, another client would like a system that is more complex. In other words, it needs one that would allow users to easily order all options and details.

In this situation, you need to be able build websites that have many similar elements, such as top headers and navigation bars.

At the same time, they must also have configurable mechanisms that can be used to deploy features when necessary.

This configuration idea would be your release manager’s Holy Grail.

The Value of Release Management

These days, it’s quite common for all products to be configurable.

For instance, Android is extremely customisable on multiple levels, including features related to end usage, development and testing.

When configuration is built into all products, you need a central body to make sure that all requirements are met from start to finish. This is necessary to produce a complete and sellable product.

You must also consider how the requirements are translated to code, then tested and verified.

Finally, the products generated based on these requirements must be packaged for release to customers in your production environment.

Release management makes all of this possible.

In fact, you could call it the glue that keeps every key department of your company’s software development lifecycle together.

Essential Roles and  Responsibilities

When overseeing application releases, release managers have a variety of specific responsibilities.

Repositories for Source Code

Release managers manage code for several clients. This requires them to be able to access and maintain repositories for source code.

You could say that release managers are gatekeepers to production code. After all, they must know about all software code artifacts that move out of their organisations.

A good release manager can tell anybody right away where a certain artifact is located in the repository and who can access it.

Such artifacts may include the following:

  • Functional specifications
  • Project schedule
  • Quality assurance plan
  • Design document
  • Quality assurance test suite
  • Requirements document
  • Deployment plan
  • User manual
  • Deployment manual
  • Service-level agreement for a client
  • Release plan

Certain qualifications typically exist for determining whether a certain document can be shared with certain personnel levels.

Other Responsibilities

Release managers are also responsible for managing the risks that impact the quality, scope and schedule of a release.

These professionals also communicate key project changes, plans and commitments.

Part of this involves creating procedures and policies for enforcing additional practices for dealing with unwanted anomalies.

A release manager must also manage relationships, coordinate work among various teams in different locations and report on releases regularly.

These managers work with everybody in software shops and provide guidance with solving release management-related problems.

Staying on top of configuration management standards is another important role of a release manager. This is possible by researching industry technologies and methodologies.

Core Skills to Look for in Release Managers

So, who exactly is suited well for a release manager position?

First off, you need an extremely mature person to take on this role at your company. This person must be experienced in just about all of a software development shop’s phases.

The release manager you choose for your company should also possess excellent skills in time, work and people management.

After all, they are basically project managers who are adept at automating working habits.

This person will essentially shape and strengthen your internal information technology controls with continuous delivery and integrations.

What Makes Some Release Managers Stand out from the Rest?

If you want the cream of the crop of release managers, be sure that your prospective manager can do the following.

First, they should be able to tell you how release and change management are different.

Change involves removing or adding something that could impact information technology services.

Meanwhile, the holistic process of release management involves bundling together several changes as part of a deployment.

Understanding the difference between the two is essential to succeed in a release manager role.

Second, your potential release manager needs to be a master planner.

Effective planning helps to minimise downtime and, in turn, the inconvenience it causes your business.

It also helps you to save money, as you don’t have to worry about paying for extra overtime or external support resources.

Finally, your release manager should be all about improvement, rather than settling for the status quo.

Carrying out reviews following all major releases is an excellent way to track and document all lessons learned. This will only help to enhance the release management process long term.

To Whom do Release Managers Report?

Release managers might report to various teams; it all depends on how large your organisation is.

For instance, you may have your manager report to the quality assurance lead, the product development lead or the office of project management.

Alternatively, they could report to your chief operations officer.

The more mature your organisation’s process is, the more autonomy your release manager will have.

This means they can have more control in developing application release procedures and policies.

Formal Qualifications of Release Managers

If you’re ready to hire your first release manager, be sure to include in your job ad that the person you hire must have a computer science bachelor’s degree.

It also helps if the person you hire has at least a couple of years of experience in project management or release management.

This should ideally be coupled with several years of information system operations environment experience.

Here are a few other requirements to list in your job ad:

  • Experience in coordination of a cross-functional work team
  • Analytical skills
  • Advanced verbal and written communication skills
  • Formal project management training
  • Understanding of life cycle for software development

The release manager should also have general personal computer knowledge, including knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite.

What Not to Look for in a Release Manager

What you don’t want is a release manager who’s like an old-school auditor.

In other words, they shouldn’t be strict when it comes to following procedures and policies.

After all some rules might slow down your software development process. In this case, adjustments must be made.

For instance, in some instances, a release manager might ensure code reviews before these program instructions are checked in.

Meanwhile, at other times, a release manager might relax a little.

For example, they might give the development engineers plenty of freedom to get their jobs done.

Also, the release manager might relax when it comes to how the quality assurance team creates their environment once the company’s technology team provides them with a build at the beginning.

How We Can Help

If you’re looking for a release manager to join your staff, we can help.

We offer top-of-the-line recruitment services for the following company professionals:

  • Information technology project managers
  • Big data managers
  • Cybersecurity managers
  • Infrastructure managers
  • DevOps managers

Get in touch with us to find out more about how a release manager can add value to your team and thus strengthen your bottom line.

Then, we’ll help you to secure the best one possible and thus take your application release project to the next level this fall and beyond.

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