Release management is the oversight and administration process used during an entire software development cycle, which includes development, quality assurance testing and production. The process of delivering software to end users can result in a stressful cycle of development and intense testing. Adherence to protocols, testing minimums, solid communications and production standards can help minimize bugs, reduce the development cycle time and increase the effectiveness of a software launch.
Even the best programmers are faced with constant changes during a development cycle. Product changes, management requests and problem solving can all result in multiple changes. The goal with these changes should be to document and manage the change process. A system that documents and distributes changes to all members of the development team is critical to ensure all relate components and processes are updated in line with the necessary changes. The documentation on each change should be explicit and detailed. When changes are properly managed, they become a routine process rather than an escalating problem.
A solid, robust and up-to-date test environment is critical for software development. The system should replicate the speed and environment of the live system as much as possible. Testing in a strong environment minimizes discrepancies in software functionality, shortens testing cycles and minimizes the number of bugs that appear after software launch. The test system should be on a similar update cycle as the live system.
A foundation of test cases, or use scenarios, should be developed for regression testing. These cases should cover the typical and atypical uses of the software line. These test cases serve as a foundation for testing new versions and for software modifications. Each new software function should adds new test case requirements that are built on top of the existing scenarios. Having a strong catalog of test cases that are used for each release helps minimize errors, speeds up the quality control process and offers a more comprehensive testing process.
An exact schedule of component release dates, milestones and the final software release must be established for the proper management of all system and manpower constraints. The schedule can be divided into longer cycle periods for large software releases, or short-term project-based periods for frequent updates to a system software product. A schedule can also help integrate non-development needs such as marketing, sales and training into the software life cycle. A schedule can also help all stakeholders prioritize functionality needs and product requirements.