By: Mike Drapeau, President, TDG
Published: 13th July 2007
Copyright TDG © 2007
It's More than Just Application Code Bundling and Testing
The current ITIL implementation landscape is populated with Incident, Change and Configuration process improvement projects. However, mention Release Management (RM) to an IT Manager in the Infrastructure group shop and you will likely receive a few blank stares. In fact, many IT careers have been preserved by defending the idea that RM cannot be mastered by a single IT manager and, in any case, the requirements of software development and infrastructure are so distinct that they merit different treatment. This ‘separatism' is the single greatest factor hampering RM implementations and it is a profoundly mistaken notion.
Articles touching on the many benefits of Release Management occasionally appear, but their focus is almost exclusively on the technique of bundling application modifications together and almost never on the complete scope of the ITIL process, which goes well beyond the confines of software development and the deployment of code from QA to pre-Production environments.
In its full expression, Release Management can be a complex topic, so any attempt to cover it in a single article would be a mistake. This article will provide a "lay of the land" in terms of common day practices and some insight on what makes a good ITIL based Release Management process function effectively. In writing this article the author assumes the reader has a basic understanding of the related IT Service Support process Configuration, Change, Incident, and Problem Management. The remainder of this article will fill in the details about the usage and adoption of Release Management for enterprise organizations.
Basic Flow of Release Management
Figure 1 (click for image) outlines the basic steps that constitute a "Release Management" process. In this diagram the movement of a Release from left to right depicts progress through various environments (Development, QA and Production), each of which is a distinctive operating environment that progressively seeks to replicate Production conditions and functions separately from the other although they leverage common methods for promoting a Release between them. It is important to note that Figure 1 right does not reflect certain environments (e.g. Sandbox and pre-Production) which exist in more mature operations.
Release Management is already in your organization—"Just Look for it"
Many read the full-fledged description of RM in a book on ITIL and become convinced that it is too esoteric and advanced a concept for them. Such is not the case, though, because most IT organizations already boast many RM-related activities; they are simply located in other groups and other names. One of the first tasks, especially when conducting a process Maturity Assessment, is to look at the following six (6) areas, which can overlap with each other but which also contain many aspects of RM, although in varying degrees:
Getting to Execution
Most organizations are pleased to learn that they are already engaging in some form of Release Management activities. The next section outlines where to look for release information and what key success factors to align with for Release Management activities.
Figure 5 (click for image) outlines the sources and critical success factors that, together, lead to a well-executed Release Management program. Follow a start simple methodology by locating the sources and consumers of releases. The idea here is to go as far "up stream" as possible to find out where a Release may begin. Using this approach enables you to find where processes exist.
If you find that your organization is doing well with managing the beginning of a Release then it is best to focus on the design and build areas (often this is the where many organizations struggle). This is particularly true if IT is involved in true software development and operated on tight deadlines. The best remedy for this is the strengthening of one particular project or technology domain. Assuming a success in this one area use it the momentum to push it through the organization.
Posted: 13th July 2007 | By Jeremy Kelly :
Excellent article - well explained. Thanks.
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