As Agile breaks through the WaterScrumFall format of rapid development wrapped in slow project initiation and release cycles to actually delivering more frequently, Release Managers have been put into something of a bind. Change is flowing at them faster, application change requests are being accepted later in the cycle, and dependencies between applications are only growing.
The risk they face is responding to this by trying to hold back flood. They can try to use their authority to slow things back down. That puts them on the wrong side of what the business wants (more stuff faster). They can look to experience of Project Managers (and the Project Management Institute) which were skeptical to outright hostile to Agile in the years after it burst onto the scene in the early 2000s. Project managers were often displaced and worked around by Agile teams and as whole organizations went Agile, project managers lost out. More recently, the PMI is offering Agile centric training and today one of the banners on their website proclaims “Embrace the speed of change and win!”
Release management shouldn’t follow that path to exile and back. While Release Managers are charged with protecting production first and foremost in most organizations, they need to facilitate the rapid change that will help the business win. Rather than fight Agile, they should embrace DevOps. Being at the hub between development and operations, release managers are well positioned (and trusted) to bridge these groups help bring them together in the name of quality at speed.
Now, if your organization is moving faster than it is capable of doing safely, the brakes may need to be applied. But when you slow things down, offer a plan for speeding up towards continuous delivery. You’re going to look for:
- Fewer sign-offs and more automatically enforced quality gates
- Better visibility into dependencies between applications (and their component pieces)
- Fewer spreadsheets
- More automation in testing, deployment, and provisioning
- More collaboration between development, testers, security teams and ops
The business is going to want more change faster. Release Managers have a choice. They can fight this shift and end up getting run over, or they can take a leadership role in the transformation.