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Release Management Abstract
Release Management typically assists with planning, managing, and governing releases of the Solution and has the authority and responsibility to help guide the Value Stream toward the business goals. They help coordinate and facilitate the activities necessary to help internal and external stakeholders receive and deploy the new solution, and they help ensure that the most critical governance elements of quality—particularly internal and external security, regulatory, and other compliance-related aspects of the solution—have been appropriately addressed prior to deployment.
As the governing authority for the Release, Release Management typically consists of Solution Management, along with senior representation from those functions that are not full-time participants of the Value Stream, including marketing, quality, development, program portfolio management, operations, deployment, and distribution. This function has the authority, knowledge, and capacity to foster and approve frequent releases of quality solutions to Customers. In many cases, the Release Management team includes representatives from the Agile Release Trains that contribute to the Solution.
Release Management meets regularly to evaluate content, progress, and quality. As SAFe espouses fixed quality/fixed-cost-schedule/flexible Features or Capabilities, Release Management will, typically, be actively involved in scope management, even late in a Program Increment. In addition, Release Management is concerned with other elements of the whole solution, including internationalization, packing and deployment, training requirements, internal and external communications, and ensuring conformance to the most critical quality standards (including external and regulatory requirements).
Planning a release is the easy part; the hard part is coordinating the implementation of all the capabilities and features over the multiple iterations within a release, especially as new issues, roadblocks, dependencies, overlaps, over-scopes, and gaps in Vision and Backlogs are uncovered—all while the external environment is evolving. This is the challenge for the self-managing, self-organizing ARTs; the scope of each release must be continually managed, revalidated, and communicated. But some of these changes and impediments may be outside the authority of the train, so they are typically assisted in this challenge by Release Management, who share the responsibility for coordinating releases and communicating to significant stakeholders. Primary responsibilities include:
- Ensuring that the organization’s release governance is understood
- Communicating release status to external stakeholders
- Ensuring that an appropriate deployment/distribution plan is in place
- Coordinating with marketing and with Product and Solution Management on internal and external communications
- Validating that the solution meets relevant quality and governance criteria
- Participating in Inspect and Adapt to improve the release process, value stream productivity, and solution quality
- Providing final authorization for the release
- Acting as a liaison with Program Portfolio Management, as appropriate
Note: Releasing is generally detached from development cadence in SAFe. “Planning a release” assumes the effort during PI Planning, directed toward a specific release or releases within the current PI boundaries, or close to them. In SAFe, solutions are developed on cadence but released any time in support of business demand.
The Release Management function is typically comprised of individuals from the following areas:
- Release Train Engineers and Value Stream Engineers
- Line-of-business owners, solution and product managers
- Senior representatives from sales and marketing
- Development managers who have responsibility for the teams and technology
- Internal IT, production, and deployment personnel
- Senior and solution-level QA personnel who are responsible for the final assessment of solution-level quality, performance, and suitability for use
- System and Solution Architects, CTOs, and others who oversee architectural integrity
In many enterprises, Release Management meets weekly to address the following questions:
- Is the vision still understood, and are the trains and teams aligned to that purpose?
- Does everyone understand what they are building, and is it aligned with the understanding of the purpose of the value stream and current Strategic Themes?
- Are the scheduled releases still largely tracking?
- What impediments must be addressed to facilitate progress?
The weekly meeting provides senior management with regular visibility into the release status. This team also has the authority to approve any scope, timing, or resource adjustments necessary to help ensure the release. In this manner, Release Management represents the final authority on release governance issues.
 Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Addison-Wesley, 2011, chapter 4.
Last update: 29 November 2015