Release Management Best Practices

The world of software development is incredibly fast-paced, and companies continuously tailor their software to the fluctuating needs and expectations of the market. Software updates are delivered in the form of releases – which, in turn, have to be managed properly.

Below, we explain the meaning behind this process and describe release management best practices that help companies remain productive and efficient.

Release Management Best Practices

What does release management mean?

Before jumping to release engineering best practices, let’s first define release management. It is a process of managing the development and deployment of software releases and brining them from the development to the production environment. Though being a relatively new discipline, this process is rapidly gaining traction among companies that want to add efficiency, speed and organization to heir releases.

The main benefits of release management 

We’ve mentioned that release management is a relatively new discipline – but it brings businesses several tangible benefits:

  • High velocity and consistency: a well-structured and automated release management process allows companies to produce releases much faster and with increased productivity. This, in turn, results in greater consistency and has a positive impact on user experience
  • Improved security and quality: regular updates and releases of new product versions contribute to more stable and well-protected software. Second, deployment automation leaves less room for a human error.
  • Increased ROI: the process significantly reduces the number of touchpoints for a project and automates testing, which leads to minimized number of bugs and errors. By being able to fix or mitigate issues in the beginning, companies greatly reduce their operating costs and are able to increase the return on investment.
  • Reliability of the environment: automation and streamlined processes eliminate the mess and confusion from your dev pipeline and help create a more reliable and predictable environment. 

5 stages of release management

Proper release management follows its own lifecycle and entails 5 core stages that every organization needs to follow. 


The first stage is planning and it starts with recognizing the need for a release. During this stage, stakeholders and the development team discuss the value of the upcoming release for end users and what exact features it will have. Examples of activities involved in this stage include:

  • A kickoff meeting to discuss the main objective of the project and its success metrics
  • Creation of a project summary report and its discussion
  • Definition of tasks to be performed
  • Creation of the release schedule

The main goal here is to approve the release with stakeholders and map its development. Once everything is discussed and the tasks are defined, you can move on to the next stage.


During this stage, you develop the software according to the predefined requirements. Usually, testing happens in parallel with the development to minimize the possibility of an error and to catch any glitches or bugs at early stages. In addition to development, the team also creates and maintains detailed documentation, placing special focus on software risks and using a risk register to manage them.


Though testing activities already started during the building process, there is a separate stage for testing since it’s highly important for the product. Testing helps ensure that the software performs and looks as intended and fully aligns with the requirements.

For that, testers start and end UAT (user acceptance testing), detect and eliminate bugs, and perform regression testing. With all these activities combined, the team ensures high quality and security of the product and its seamless performance.


Some organizations have a separate release preparing stage, during which they perform final testing activities. But it’s more common to either conduct them during the testing stage or in the beginning of deployment.

Once the software is thoroughly tested, the team starts transferring it to the live environment. After that, testers once again test how the software performs in real-life conditions, analyze set KPIs, and employ needed continuous integrations. 

Release management best practices

Finally, it’s time to discuss software release management best practices that you might want to implement in your organization. Though each company is unique and has a different approach to release management, these practices serve as a base and will help you build a solid strategy.

Define acceptance criteria

When you roll out a release, you want to measure and track its success and performance, with an aim to understand whether it corresponds to business goals and user expectations. For that, you need to establish clear metrics or KPIs that you will use as a baseline. Note that wrong KPIs will lead to false assumptions, so make sure to discuss them beforehand with all stakeholders.

Plan a schedule

You cannot roll out a release the moment it’s ready for deployment because it needs to fit into your company’s overall marketing strategy. Hence, plan a release schedule well in advance, taking into account all factors that might impact user experience and your business. Also, a well-defined deadline will help your team plan the overall development processes and allocate the tasks properly.

Implement version control

A release is basically an updated version of your product. In order to maintain visibility and to effectively track all changes and all product versions, it’s highly recommended to implement version control. Also, you might consider adopting merging and branching methods to enable easy parallel development and make the process more effective and swift.

Use automation

Release management includes a complex set of processes and can consume a lot of time and resources. As well, manual performance of certain processes leaves room for a human error, which in turn, might have a huge impact on software security. To speed up and facilitate the process of rolling out releases, deploy automation tools for repetitive and mundane tasks.

Consider dark launch

Another release management best practice is dark launch. Dark launch is a strategy when a development team rolls out a release to a subset of users, not to a full user group. This approach helps the team quickly react to feedback, fix the product before its full release, and gradually scale up.

Focus on risk management

Risk management is an essential part of any software development process and is relevant for release management, too. When starting the development of the upcoming release, invest some time into planing your risk management strategy. This includes definition and assessment of possible risks and ways of their mitigation and/or prevention. Among other enterprise release management best practices, this might be the one that often gets overlooked – but is actually very important.


Release management is a must for any software development company that strives for a high level of quality and consistency. Same as development of new software, release development and deployment should follow a well-organized sequence of steps, aimed at ensuring flawless quality and security of the new product version. For that, a company needs to implement release management best practices to ensure that the process is well-organized and will benefit the company in the long run.

Want to stay updated on the latest tech news?

Sign up for our monthly blog newsletter in the form below.

Softteco Logo Footer