IT release management is a set of processes that can help companies formalize and standardize – and ultimately, improve – the way they create and roll out new software applications, hardware components, and other technology assets. Wikipedia defines it as “the mechanisms of building and releasing software, and is included as a component of the Service Support Set in ITIL”.
Designed to provide greater control over and visibility into the entire software creation lifecycle – from design and development, through testing and quality assurance, to deployment and ongoing improvements in IT service management – IT release management can provide significant benefits, such as:
- Increased efficiency of technology development and implementation
- Minimized disruptions to end users and core business activities when new technologies are introduced
- Improved planning, as well as better allocation and coordination of human and financial resources
- Reduced support requirements, through more thorough testing procedures prior to deployment
- Improved ability to align technology initiatives with strategic business objectives
Some of the processes encompassed by IT release management include:
- Requirements gathering/needs assessment
- Design and development
- Testing/quality assurance
- Pre-release preparation
- Implementation, roll-out, and user training
Companies with more mature IT release management strategies in place also incorporate such activities as patch management, change management, and configuration management into their methods.
Many experts believe that IT release management is one of the most complex of the disciplines covered by ITIL, because of the increasing sophistication of software solutions, as well as the high level of diversity in requirements from one company to the next. Additionally, some claim that IT release management poses more challenges than other technology service management processes, with issues such as bugs and defects, change requests (i.e, new features and functions), and security risks making it difficult to put significant structure around related activities.