Release management process: Best practices

Software release management is a complex process that can demand a lot of your attention and time, where any code error can cascade into a ton of costs. Good news: there are some great techniques to help bring safety and efficiency to your release management process. 

In this article, we’ll go over some of the best practices used by top tech companies.


What is release management?

Release management vs. change management – what are the differences?

Release management process – how does it work?

IT release management effective – best practices

Release management – key benefits

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Why is the traditional software development process slowing you down?

In a more traditional software development model, a team of developers builds code, then send it to a quality assurance (QA) team. The QA team checks performance and looks for any bugs. 

If the code contains bugs, it goes back to the programmers, who then fix the code and send it back to the QA team. After it passes quality testing, it goes to the operations team, who deploys the code to production.

 This is, of course, a textbook approach, without taking into account variables like  life events and deadlines.

However, in this case, the teams responsible for these three areas tend to be isolated from one another. This adds time to implement each feature and gets in the way of fluidity between development, testing, and deployment. 

You’re probably familiar with this approach already, and many accept this process as just the cost of doing business. But what if it weren’t?

Read: How to get your users to try new features in software development?

Release process management – how does it work?

Release management can vary depending on many factors. Below you will find the most common steps in the process:

Change requests

The first step is to collect requests and requirements for changes to existing software and evaluate them for feasibility. If the evaluation is positive, we move to the next step.


Once the requirements prove feasible, planning begins in this step. It is essential to define the division of roles, responsibilities, and the specific objectives of the work in question. 

Does this plan have to be final? Not at all.

Release process management means agility, and agility allows for flexibility. You can work with your stakeholders to determine possible changes at any time. 

Programming and testing

It’s time to move from planning to action. At this stage, the development team creates code based on the collected requirements and the initially prepared plan. 

Next, the team deploys their code to a test environment to see how their users interact with it. If there are any bugs, the developers quickly fix them.  

User acceptance testing

User acceptance testing (UAT) is the most important part of the entire process. At this stage, select users are given the chance to test the software and provide feedback. The feedback is the basis for future iterations of the software.


The code is deployed to production and made available to users. 

Familiarizing users with the changes

The final step involves training end users to familiarize them with the implemented changes and learn how to use the updated software version.

Gathering the next requests

That’s not the end of fixes and improvements! After this release’s implementation, any other bugs and suggestions for improvement are recorded. It will soon result in the need to implement further changes, and the cycle begins again.

Software release management process – best practices

1. Include feature flags in the design process

Feature flags can be critical in this design process. You’ll want to consider who would get the most use out of a feature, then identify the appropriate group of users who should use the feature first.

Make sure you have a plan on how you want to segment your users and identify the attributes that define who and when you see a particular feature. Otherwise, you won’t get relevant data to assess its usability. 

Also, remember that not every function requires a flag, and sometimes one feature requires multiple flags. It all depends on your individual needs.

When you get started, it’s important that you:

  • Create a consistent flag-naming strategy:  Establish consistent and understandable flag names to avoid confusion and misunderstandings and minimize the risk of technical debt.
  • Set the main goal of the flags  Make sure the goal is both understandable and clear to all team members.

Read more: What are feature flags and why are they important in software development?

2. Prepare the deployment path

It is essential to have a clear understanding of the deployment path for a new feature. It may involve a beta release or canary launch, which allows a select group of users to test the feature and provide feedback.Alternatively, the feature may be released to all users at once or through a percentage-based rollout. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to deploying a feature. Still, it is essential to have a plan in place to create an appropriate flag.

3. Make sure your data will be safe

Before implementing solutions as feature flags, you should test how your system works when it is toggled on and off. Pay special attention to your data and ensure that implementing feature flags will not cause it to be lost or corrupted.

4. Define success metrics

Establish specific KPIs and criteria to evaluate whether the project will be successful. Here are examples of success metrics you can consider:

  •       The version was implemented on time.
  •       The release has fit within the planned budget.
  •       The new version meets the needs of users.

In addition, it’s also a good idea to define metrics for each new feature, such as: 

  •       availability,
  •       reliability
  •       response time,
  •       performance (page load time, errors, uptime, conversions) 

5. Organize a meeting with all stakeholders

Once you have all the most important information gathered, invite all stakeholders to a meeting to discuss all the critical elements of the project: goals, timeline, division of responsibilities, and success indicators.

Software release management – key benefits

Reduced risk of errors

With standardized deployment practices, the development team can eliminate many of the risks associated with bugs in the code. Moreover, the team can continue to improve its release process and adapt them to the company’s specifics.

Increased productivity

One of the main features of release management is reducing the time needed to create and release changes, resulting in more efficient software deployment.

Improved  user experience

Software release management allows you to learn about user feedback and meet their needs. You can continuously increase the value you deliver to them through an iterative development process. It has an invaluable impact on their engagement. Plus, they’ll like you better.

Read: 5 key aspects of a great release management process

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