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Tips and Tricks for Becoming a Great Software Release Manager

Updated on June 17, 2021By
Tips and Tricks for Becoming a Great Software Release Manager

Releasing a new feature or product may feel like the simplest thing in the world — there isn’t much to manage there, right? Yet making sure your release makes waves and truly creates some value for your customers is a process that goes beyond the simple deployment or an act of un-drawing the curtains to reveal something new.

Behind the scenes, releasing a new product or feature is a robust process that takes a lot of skill, knowledge, and talent. So, if you’ve been in the SaaS management for a couple of years and you’re ready for a new professional challenge? Check out this guide and learn more about release manager’s job description, goals, and some good practices in this branch of SaaS management.

What are a software release manager’s job duties?

As we established, releasing a product or its new feature is more than just deployment — in fact, this milestone is somewhere in the middle of a release roadmap. Product or feature release is actually a process that incorporates planning and maintaining impeccable user experience.

Software Release manager’s job includes:

Software Release manager’s ultimate goals are to:

Companies that incorporate release management into their product development can rest assured that their products and features are meticulously planned and tested before they reach the users, mitigating numerous risks that come with each release deployment.

Release managers have to be well-versed with programming, computer software, and product development process. On top of having great technical knowledge in the industry they are working in, release managers also need to be skilled with Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration (CD/CI) pipelines. They have to be well-organized, analytical, and great communicators and leaders.

Now that we’ve run through the basics, let’s see how the release management process is organized.

Release management: The 5 Step Process

To become a great release manager, it is important to understand the importance of a full-proof standardized system. Once you have this system in place, all you need to do is simply stick to it. While there may be some fine-tuning along the way as you gain experience, try to be as precise and meticulous as possible from the get-go.

1. Setting up a system

Yes, setting up a system that works with any project and environment is easier said than done, but there are a few tricks to make this process as painless as possible. What you want from your perfect release management system is to ensure effective repetition and enforce strict hierarchy or priorities and dependencies.

The easiest way to do this is to employ high-quality remote collaboration and productivity tools that allow you to go way beyond day-to-day routine checklists. Using these tools, you can spread milestones across a timeline, seamlessly incorporating project sprints and deliverables. Look for a tool that enables you to set up milestone dependencies, which will automatically enforce a priority of procedures.

Many collaboration tools offer different views of your project roadmap — classical timeline view, swimlane view (which crosses milestones with task lists for agile times) or a master view (recommended for large, multi-department projects and organizations). Having a clearly visualized roadmap of the project is incredibly important for release managers who have to overlook multiple processes at the same time.

Using this kind of automated process will also allow you to analyze milestone costs and delivery times against projections. That’s a good way to fine-tune your system to perfection, basing it on realistic expectations and proven productivity practices.

2. Establishing checks and balances

An honest conversation between the product owner, upper management, development team, and release manager is of utmost importance for creating products and features that are valuable to your customers.

Quite often, business owners and managers don’t understand that more features don’t necessarily make the product better. Sometimes, they don’t quite understand what their target market wants and needs. Finally, they don’t know all the technical details about developing new releases and the way this process can benefit or harm your current product and offer. Make sure you run through all the questions that cover these possibilities — you may even create a small questionnaire you can use for every proposed release. It is also recommended to evaluate the risks stemming from each release.

Before you cross to a planning phase, ensure that every member of the organization is on the same page about the product or feature.

3. Creating a plan

Before development, the release manager is tasked with defining the scope of the release and making sure its development will follow the procedures outlined in your standardized system.

We already mentioned that the easiest way to organize the release management process is to use roadmaps. The planning phase is all about weaving the tasks and subtasks into the milestones. One feature you should look for in a productivity tool is also the option to automate the workflow by setting up recurring tasks and assigning users to entire task lists.

4. Overseeing the development and testing

In this step of a release management process, the most important task for you is to keep tabs on multiple processes at the same time. Great collaboration and productivity tools come with a plethora of reporting features that allow release managers to keep track of individual and team progress.

You can easily filter tasks by due dates, team members, and milestones to check how far you’ve come. These tools are also good at one more thing — identifying drops in productivity and issues in the workflow. These findings can be invaluable in pinpointing parts that need additional or particularly detailed testing. General reports will also allow you to fine-tune your release management system.

The crown of this phase is the deployment of the product or feature, and then — it can start all over again.

5. Adopting lessons for future releases

We’ve shown you how each deployment is an opportunity to learn more about release management, your own product, and organization, as well as your customers. Since every product is a continuous pursuit for a better version, you go back to the beginning.

Analyze your reports to strengthen your release management system and use customer feedback to solidify the checks and balances in the decision-making process.

Final tip

We saved the best tip for last! If you’re looking for a tool that can support you in every step of the release management process, you’ll find it with Nifty! Nifty comes with all the features that will help you turn from good to excellent release manager. Apart from enabling you to outline and automate the release process efficiently, it also allows you to seamlessly communicate and exchange work materials with your team members.

You can sign up for Nifty here with a 14-day free trial you can use to test the tool and see if it fits your organization’s needs. You’ll also find that Nifty offers flexible solutions for different organizations and projects, including product teams, legal teams, agile development, client management, etc. If your projects and clients change, Nifty is on board — you can upgrade, downgrade or cancel anytime you want!

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