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How Change and Release Management Work Together

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In the modern world, you can count on two things when developing applications and services of all forms, whether they’re enterprise B2B software or smaller B2C services. To remain competitive, those two things are continuous change and rapid releases. In order to maintain reliable CI/CD pipelines and deliver value to customers faster, DevOps and IT teams are learning how to cope with change and release management to continuously improve operational efficiency.

Change management applies to any changing process, not only DevOps and IT, but it’s important to understand change management best practices and apply them when working toward an efficient release management pipeline. The more flexible you are and accommodating of change, the faster you’ll be able to fix production issues and move work through the software development lifecycle.

So, let’s take a look at change management, release management and how they work together to the benefit of DevOps and IT teams everywhere.

An overview of change management and release management

Change and release management both depend on transparency, collaboration and flexibility. But, an effective system for change management can actually also lead to a more efficient release management process. So, let’s first define change management and release management in DevOps and IT in order to see how they can work together to help you build a more reliable CI/CD pipeline.

What is change management?

Change management in DevOps and IT refers to a team’s ability to easily manage configurations, run automated tests, alert on-call responders and take on unknown unknowns across all applications, infrastructure and operations.

What is release management?

Release management is the process of planning, building, testing, preparing and deploying new code and services to production environments. Software developers and IT professionals alike contribute to the release process in order to quickly and reliably deploy services to end-users.

Change management is more about the way people work with changing processes and tools whereas release management is more about the specific process behind delivering features and services to production. Continuous delivery and continuous integration of complex cloud-based applications and services require both release management and change management processes to be in-tune and optimized. Flexibility and preparation in incident response lead to DevOps and IT professionals who can quickly fix problems and control their reactivity to unknown issues.

Death to Downtime

How can change management lead to efficient releases?

Being flexible to change and establishing a change management plan can help you maintain faster, more consistent release schedules. Why does a change need to be made? What’s the scope of the change? What are the benefits of the change? Questions such as these can help you decide what you need to change in the release management process and why it’s important. With the right questions, you can take on organizational change in a logical way that leads to highly effective release pipelines.

Every business encounters change, some at higher velocities than others. But, no matter how fast it’s happening, every organization needs to manage the change and maintain business process continuity with things such as release management. Efficient change management effectively leads to more informed developers and IT professionals who can continue to work within a changing system and deliver customer value.

So, let’s dive into some tips and tricks for change management that will directly affect release management in a positive fashion.

Tips for efficient change and release management

1) Why and how are you changing something?

Change for the sake of change just causes confusion. Sysadmins will especially give you grief if you’re changing a step in the release process and can’t explain the benefits behind it. Reliability and a stable process are core components of a traditional IT operations team. So, getting them to buy into change, especially for CI/CD, you’ll need to explain exactly how it works, how it will be implemented, and why it’s important to the business. Many times, if you can’t explain the reasoning for a change, then changes can look like they only benefit the development team at the expense of IT operations. So, make sure you show how and why the change creates a positive impact on the overall business.

2) Define the scope and the cost

Don’t just start changing things without a plan. Build a comprehensive layout that shows everyone who’s affected by a change and the costs associated with the change. Then, do a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the costs of a change are worth the benefits to be reaped. It’s important to understand both the financial costs and the human costs associated with change.

Are you losing internal productivity due to changes? Do you think employees will quit or current customers will churn due to the changes you’re making? Will you gain more new business based on the changes? Don’t only look at external factors or internal factors when assessing the scope and cost of changes, make sure you’re looking at both.

3) Be proactive with a monitoring, alerting and incident response strategy

In a world of continuous change, the only thing you can plan for is change. Knowing that you’ll be releasing more features and services faster helps you build a plan for the unknown unknowns. Detailed monitoring and alerting across the entire release management process can help you develop a proactive incident response strategy. So, when things go wrong in production, DevOps and IT teams are equipped with the context and tools they need to quickly remediate problems. The only way to ensure service reliability in a changing world is by preparing yourself for the scenarios when a change has negative consequences.

4) Outline a communication plan

Constant change depends on effective communication at all times. From product development planning to when you deploy code to production, the development and IT teams need to work collaboratively. With greater visibility across all development and release workflows, as well as processes and tools for real-time collaboration, DevOps-forward organizations can fix issues faster and continue to deliver customer value at a high velocity.

5) Track everything

Last but not least, tracking and reporting of incident management KPIs and essential release management metrics can help you improve the way you change in the future. With detailed reports and tracking of the effects of change, you can begin to paint a picture of what works and what doesn’t. You can use the information to update on-call rotations or change the typical release cadence in a way that makes sense for your team.

Leveraging a culture of DevOps

Software engineering and IT operations organizations are learning to work closely throughout the entire release management and development lifecycle to deploy reliable applications and services faster. By shifting testing and IT involvement left into the development lifecycle and giving developers more exposure to production environments, the business is improving its ability to resolve incidents quickly AND deploy new features. A culture of DevOps collaboration and transparency is leading to better relationships between IT and software developers and helping businesses use their engineering org as a competitive differentiator.

Faster deployments, faster recovery

Change management and release management work hand in hand to help developers, IT operations and security professionals get comfortable with ambiguity and rapid change. More than ever, engineering organizations are adopting DevOps practices to shorten feedback loops between IT and developers – helping them deliver software to the end-user faster and more reliably. An established plan for change management and a flexible approach to release management leads to faster deployments and faster incident recovery.

Start looking at your organization’s people, processes and tools today and draw up change and release management plans based on that information. But keep in mind that just like change itself, change management plans also need to open to continuous improvement and updates. Use change management as a way to build efficient, reliable release management pipelines that are flexible to change and keep employees and end-users happy.

Learn more about the benefits of DevOps in incident management in our free guide, Why DevOps Matters. You’ll see exactly how developers and IT operations teams are improving workflow transparency and collaboration to build services faster and make on-call incident management suck less.

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