For over a decade, agile development has introduced new practices and processes that are aimed at producing quality code much faster than ever before while changing the team dynamic to ensure better collaboration and teamwork to complete projects. During this time, some concepts under agile testing methodologies have been more fleshed out, while others are still a bit ambiguous as to what they actually mean. Release and deployment management is an example of the latter, where most people refer to it as release management or deployment management, but don't understand the differences or how they're interconnected.
Release and deployment management are two subtly different things. Release management oversees development, testing, support and deployment of software. On the other hand, deployment management plans and schedules the movement of projects to the testing phase and live environments. While there is certainly some overlap here, there are five other important things to know about release and deployment management:
1. Different Environments Involved
As noted earlier, there are a few different areas that release and deployment management cover. Software Testing Help noted that the four most common distinctions include Dev, QA, user acceptance testing and production, but there are other environments that you may wish to have as well like staging. It's important to address each area and understand what they cover. Dev oversees code creation and maintenance; QA is where the testing takes place; UAT addresses when business users test the system and production is the live environment. These domains all have their unique roles, and they will also require different means of support, upkeep, and adaptation.
2. Why They're Necessary
Release and deployment management are processes that must be in place from the very first step of the project, but it's important to understand why these practices are necessary in the long run. Isn't it enough to just schedule releases like in waterfall development? In agile software development, there are a lot more considerations that are involved, and tools like test management are a necessity to keeping everything and everyone on the same page. Northwest Cadence contributor Bryon Root noted that the biggest role these practices play is in reducing the overall risks associated with projects. Agile pushes phases to be completed faster with release management but eliminates the confusion and risk of going through operations teams for deployment. This frees up a lot of time and avoids potential bottlenecks that occur when Ops teams are involved with deploying projects into production.
3. Activities Included in These Processes
Since it's likely that teams will be using release and deployment management throughout a project's lifecycle, it's important to know what steps these processes require. TutorialsPoint noted that release management in particular addresses these areas: support, building, planning, early life support, deployment, and closure. Essentially, these areas deal with everything from ensuring components are ready to enter the testing phase to pushing releases into the live environment, to verifying that activity logs are updated and operational issues are resolved. Release and deployment objectives may not be the same across projects, so it's important to evaluate each one separately.
4. How They're Beneficial
Now that we understand why these processes are necessary, it's important to address the actual benefits and business value that release and deployment management offer to organizations. According to a white paper by Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association, there are several advantages such as assuring that the new or adjusted service can be used to support the business and user needs, improving implementation consistency and providing traceability for the entire process. Teams can deliver changes faster, more cost effectively and at minimal risk to the organization. These capabilities will make a big difference to service costs and overall capabilities.
5. Roles Included
With agile software development came a number of new roles and revisions concerning traditional responsibilities. Software development and release management takes a page from this playbook by adding and adjusting positions to meet the needs of these processes under agile environments. IT expert Troy DuMoulin wrote on his blog that there are several jobs that can come from these practices. The release deployer, for example, is an individual that moves the release to production. On the other hand, a release manager determines and communicates potential risks and complexity each release represents. This can help catch problems early on and keep priorities top of mind. Even testing will be different in these environments.
"The functional role of the Release Tester can often be found in various parts of an organization," DuMoulin wrote. "Sometimes testing is done by a dedicated testing or quality assurance group. At other times the testing role is given to another function such as a production support group or another non-involved developer. The primary consideration is that the tester be separate and distinct from the builder."