Are you ready to talk tech? We’re excited to announce the launch of Benchmark IT – Tech Talk. This installment features Senior Release Engineer, Peter Bradeen. We caught up with Peter to discuss the latest trends and what’s hot in release management and DevOps. Continue reading to learn more!

Peter, what are the hot areas in release management right now?
Today, in release management, we’re trying to become a more mature process with the inclusion of areas like release valuation, which looks at the strategic and cost-benefit of doing a release. It’s a collaboration between the business users and the technology teams. Overall, we ask ourselves, why are we doing this, and is it worth taking the risk to do it?

Next, we look at our dedication to metrics. When a release occurs, it’s important to document if you were accurate in determining how long it took and if you had the right people involved. It all feeds back into learning new ways to improve. Release management is all about continuous improvement. Throughout the process, the metrics collected are not just for higher management, but for everyone involved, so they know what went well and what needs to be improved. Everything circles back to the value of doing the project. Everything circles back to the value of doing the project.

A recent trend is the integration of security into release management. With the growing need for security across all companies and business units, security is a natural addition to the release management ecosystem. Understanding vulnerabilities is now one of the top areas of focus and discussion.

Another trend in release management is true continuous delivery. Truthfully, true continuous delivery is the holy grail of this process. It means that you don’t have a huge set of features or fixes, and you are doing it every couple of days. Sometimes, problems occur when too much is put into a release because it can take several weeks to be released. It becomes a more nebulous process and defeats the purpose of true continuous delivery. By using a continuous methodology, you limit the amount of change within the release and won’t cause an immense amount of damage if a rollback occurs.

With this said, can you discuss why release valuation has taken on a more critical role?
Today, it’s truly part of what businesses are all about and what value they give to their users and business owners. These days, businesses not only drive purchases through technology but also do extensive marketing and analytics. The data collected through technology feeds right back into marketing. The technology becomes much more strategic and mature as businesses integrate and rely on technology in their daily operations. We are now getting to a place where businesses understand the extensive adoption of technology and add value to features that get added or taken away. Release valuation is becoming an essential part of release management because more companies are moving to understand what their data and customers are about and the value that any feature or technology brings/takes away from their bottom line.

You mentioned that part of the reason release valuation has stepped up in importance is due to the collaboration between business and technology. What is driving this?
The business drives the collaboration because they have come to expect much more out of technology. It’s surrounded by the idea of “how can this technology help me drive the business?” You can make huge changes or fine-tune your business through technology. Businesses want to put value out into the marketplace and ensure that it’s not at risk. The valuation is something that businesses tell you, “this is why we need it and why it is important.”

Specifically, what is driving the integration of security in release management?
Security, which was often considered a separate concern, is being integrated because there is a level of security that needs to be addressed for each type of product. If it’s an internal product, there is one level of security integrated, but if it’s an outward-facing product, then it needs a higher level of security. It is imperative to educate the developers about specific security vulnerabilities and the required level of security for each product. Release management is the glue that takes all of the disciplines and puts it all together in production. Integrating security has become much more important overall.

We hear more and more about true continuous delivery; can you tell us why this is increasing?
True continuous delivery is increasing in importance because it’s alleviating the risk of releases. It’s about small and quick delivery cycles, which only add a few features at a time. It’s released with a well-understood process of deployment so that DevOps is working properly, and the businesses are understanding increases. It’s an endpoint that people have been working towards. As people get better at doing the deploys and integrating the business valuation, it becomes easier to accomplish true continuous delivery. The technology and the maturity of the development cycles have enabled true continuous delivery to be effective. With true continuous deliveries, there might be one or two features embedded in a release that can go through automated testing and make its way out to production with low risk. If you do a good job with DevOps, which is the actual deployment to production, the risk is significantly lower, and you are able to provide a feature more reliably.

Can you tell us about metrics and the increasing importance of it in release management?
Metrics allow you to make decisions based on data and provide the ability for continual improvement. We don’t just want to protect the product from issues; we also want to learn how to make the process better. The job of the development team is not just to develop software but also to improve their technology skills. Unless you have metrics, there is no way to tell if you are improving, nor are you receiving guidelines to improve certain areas.

Businesses are taking more of an interest in technology as it’s becoming a core strength of a company. For example, metrics can tell you how accurate the estimated time of deployment was, how many features you have done in a deployment, feature completeness, how much business expectation was met, and/or if it was an overall success. In retrospect, you can use metrics to pinpoint the root cause of any issue that comes up. You get a better image of the path to improvement. As you go through these processes, they become more mature.

Release management roles are rising in value to companies because they understand the central power and benefit of technology while also realizing that they need to reduce risks to their bottom line. Release management protects production, delivers real value to the field, and reduces the risk of bad things occurring upon release. There was an idea of release management in the past, but today, people really understand its value. Many companies realize that bad experiences with technology in the marketplace not only impact the bottom line but they also negatively affect the perception of their brand. Release management is quickly becoming more important in protecting both revenue and the brand.

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