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What does a release look like today?
It’s considerably faster, more intelligent, more frequent, and more automated than five years ago. These advancements transform the roles and responsibilities of release managers, too.
In this article, I will discuss the key developments in the release management domain and share valuable tips on developing and sustaining a successful release manager career in the future.
The role of the release manager
A release manager heals the pain of the release process by removing whatever it causes. This includes a broad scope of tasks, like:
- Planning and scheduling
- Mapping processes and procedures teams should follow
- Assigning and reassigning roles and responsibilities
- Collecting reviews and improving workflows
To do this, a release manager should have an extended range of capabilities, like
- Understanding the work capacity of different teams
- Understanding the availability of resources
- Being able to communicate between business leaders, product owners, product development, and testing teams, as well as being able to speak their language
- Re-prioritizing product features to be released if needed
- Having a vision of how changes in one stage of the development procedure influence the whole process
Yet, although the very essence of the release manager role remains the same, their daily duties undergo considerable changes.
Software release manager’s job duties: then, now, tomorrow
In the past, the software release manager role consisted of controlling and providing coherence between project parts. A good manager facilitated communication between customers, company owners, and developers.
According to Bob Davis, a CMO at Plutora, “Release managers kept the technology specialists focused on turning ideas into deliverables. As such, their work truly mattered.”
Yet, companies gradually shifted from water flow to DevOps methodology. This influenced everyone: great e-commerce platforms like Amazon or outsourcing vendors like a software development company MLSDev.
Shorter communication rounds were organically injected into working routines, and now they embrace all participants in the development process.
From coordinators, release managers turned into spectators watching their colleagues racing into communication without them.
Alt name: Release manager job duties evolution (Source: Plutora)
This brings about a change in the paradigm. Instead of working as communication facilitators, today, release managers focus on detecting upcoming threats, bringing all the release processes across the company under one structure, and finding new ways to cut costs and time without sacrificing value.
Yet, the tech evolution goes on, and this will require release managers to evolve.
How to stay a successful release manager in the future?
In our times, those who oppose the change lose, yet those, who control it and lead it, win.
Tips to become a great software release manager in the future
Like Bob Davis said in his article for Forbes, those who want to be successful in the release manager job in the future should evolve from gatekeepers to enablers. He suggests that a successful release manager of tomorrow should be able to:
- Facilitate conversations about how the release is going and how it can improve.
- Manage by exception, or focus on areas needing unique correction instead of controlling the process. This means a progressive release manager will show up as required and not bother the team if they do well without help.
Other tips that can help anyone become a better release manager in the future are:
- Use proper tools: a small team can manage a release manually, yet if they scale, new tools will be a must. This is the path of prominent corporations like Amazon, which releases new software every second.
- Learn from reviews: Collecting post-release reviews from the deployment and testing teams and end-users is an excellent practice. You can manage incidents associated with release or satisfaction ratings. The outputs of the process may be improvement suggestions and work instruction updates.
- Use quality gates: prepare predefined quality criteria and stick to them to enable safe and fast releases.
- Bring everything to standards: it is recommended to standardize all processes and templatize, if possible, scripts, tests, and documentation.
- Look around: the best way to keep pace with evolution is to be well-read about the latest developments.
Through decades, the role of the release manager evolved since the pains of software deployment management changed too. From gatekeepers, they evolved into guides, focusing more on product value and workflow than project cost and timeline. To be successful, release managers should be fast and organized to be able to lead the challenges of future projects.