Home > Articles > Information Technology

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Release Management and the Project Life Cycle

Almost every organization has a change management process, but very few have a specifically named and defined release management process. Unless your organization does a lot of software development, you may not have given much thought to release management. Whereas many of the issues described earlier for change management are familiar to you, those described here for release management may cover new ground. This doesn't, of course, make the issues any less important. You will soon discover that release management is every bit as important as change management, and that together change and release management form the core of how new services get introduced to your environment. This section covers the highest-level process issues in release management.

Release Unit Identification

Just as change management begins with defining which activities will require a change record, release management begins with documenting which components will be released simultaneously. ITIL defines a release unit as the set of components that get upgraded, installed, or changed all at the same time. As a simple example, often the next version of a business application requires new versions of middleware software products. This means that the application and the middleware form a release unit, because they are deployed at the same time.

There are many reasons to form a release unit. Vendor prerequisites might determine release units, as in the business application example. Sometimes purchasing considerations define a release unit, such as when new PCs come with a new operating system already installed. The PC and operating system become a single release unit. Project management often determines release units based on an analysis of the risks versus rewards of implementing multiple parts of a complete project at the same time. In some cases, there are valid architectural reasons to create a release unit out of multiple components. Whatever the reason, when your organization determines that multiple components should be joined for the sake of introducing a new service, you have defined a release unit.

You should try to create release units along consistent lines. Some people find that releases based on business application environments work well. They change out the operating system, middleware, and business application all at the same time as part of the release management process. Others like to create release units based on technology types, creating a desktop PC release consisting of bundled hardware, operating system, and standard software.

It takes a great deal of communication to create a release unit policy. It would be extremely difficult to identify in advance every situation that might cause a release unit to be formed, so you should focus instead on creating some guidelines that help people decide how to best create them. Work with the various deployment teams in your organization to understand and document these guidelines. Ultimately, deploying two or more things at once is always more risky than deploying only one component at a time, but most organizations find those risks worth taking in certain circumstances. Understand what those circumstances are, and document them as part of your release unit policy.

Release Policies

As soon as you understand release units, you can begin defining some general policies concerning release management. Most organizations find it useful to define a policy about how many releases should be produced per year. This policy helps in IT planning activities, because the organization can lay out the annual plans based on how many release units are active and how many releases each of those units will go through per the policy.

Of course, the number of releases per year will most likely depend on the number and type of components that make up the release. If a significant component of your release package is a software product, you won't be able to create releases more often than the software publisher produces releases. If you are bundling hardware refresh into your releases, the release cycle will depend on how often you choose to refresh your hardware. This will lead to a release policy that determines the frequency of releases based on the kinds of components that will make up the release unit.

An alternative to defining numbers of releases is to constrain the size of releases. You can constrain the size by either project budget or hours expended. For example, your policy might say that each release will require less than 2,000 hours of planning, testing, and deployment. This kind of policy ensures that your organization doesn't attempt huge projects that have correspondingly large risks. Limits of this kind will force projects to break their desired results into multiple releases and allow your organization to stop those releases if the cost or risk of achieving all the benefits appears too high.

Regardless of how you choose to define release policies, they are worthwhile to define. Release policies help create consistency in your organization and tend to create deployment projects that are roughly the same scope or size. This consistency helps you better evaluate successful and failed projects, and you can tune your release policies to optimize the size and scope of the projects for your organization. By creating fewer, larger releases, you will get larger projects that run longer, consume more resources, and return more value. By optimizing toward smaller releases, you wind up with small projects that generally return value more quickly.

Releases or Bundled Changes

Somewhere in your definition of the release management process, confusion is likely to arise about the difference between a release and a set of bundled changes. Although these may seem similar on the surface, they are really quite different.

Normally changes are bundled as a scheduling tool. There might be three different activities that all require the mainframe to be restarted, so rather than restarting the mainframe three separate times, these changes are bundled. All three things are done, the mainframe is restarted, and the changes are marked as complete. This is a convenient grouping of changes that happens one time because the schedule works out that way.

A release, on the other hand, is determined by a set of permanent policies that define release units and release frequency. The components of the release are related to one another by technology or business purpose, and the relationship is permanent rather than transitory.

A release might be deployed as a single change, or as a group of changes that are related to one another. For example, if the release includes an operating system and a middleware product, these might be deployed through two changes that take place on consecutive weekends. If the first change fails, the second change cannot happen, because the release control process ties the two together into a single release, and the release cannot be only partially deployed. In other words, a release can result in a group of bundled changes, but there are perfectly legitimate reasons to bundle changes that have nothing to do with release management.

Support and the End-of-Life Cycle

One of the key benefits of release management is that it causes an organization to think about the entire life cycle of a release unit. Many organizations have no policies or, at best, ineffective policies, around the end of support. I've been involved with companies that had six or even seven separate versions of an application all being supported because they just didn't know how to sunset that application. A key part of the release management process definition should be a policy surrounding the end of life for your releases.

Normally a release reaches end of life because a newer release replaces it. It might take some time to fully deploy the new release, and during this time both releases will be part of the supported environment. Your policies should take this situation into account and define how long the older versions will be supported. Your policy might insist that each release deployment project include the costs of supporting and then removing the old release.

In addition to the end of any specific release, your policy should consider how to define the end of a release unit. For example, imagine that your release unit consists of a payroll application, web server, database middleware, and common server operating system. You can define new releases as the middleware changes or new versions of the application become available, and each release retires the previous release. But you should also consider when you will move to a new payroll application that requires different infrastructure and thus creates a new release unit. If you make it an organizational policy to include this kind of long-range planning in release management, you will be able to forecast the large number of resources required to actually launch such a large project. This kind of complete life-cycle thinking is one of the hallmarks of a mature release management process.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020