Before You Say GoThe Release Process

Even if you have never been involved in a software release before, you have certainly seen something very similar— a NASA space launch. Basically, it's the culmination of years of preparation, testing, and vigorous checking. At last you are ready to go. You have checked the systems, trained the astronauts, invited the press, and so on. There's nothing more to it than someone pressing a button, or is there?

If you are wondering why an entire chapter is devoted to "the release process," it's simply because it is this important. If you have had a brilliant idea, researched it diligently, developed it impeccably, and then you mess up the release process, you will have wasted everything.

Now, after that stark warning, take comfort from the fact that the release process, like this chapter, is straightforward and short.

The release process covers everything from bringing out a new product to uploading a minor bug fix—the process for each of these is essentially the same. And, surprisingly, it's the same whether you are releasing millions of boxed product to be sold in every computer store in the world or running a Web site requiring an upload of a single copy of the latest cut. At its heart, release is about distribution and communication: making new product available and making sure that clients, future clients, and staff all know about it.

Given the simplicity of the goals, it's amazing how often elementary mistakes happen. Haven't we all had the following experiences?

♦ Software being announced that isn't ready

♦ Software released but sales/support not informed (they normally find out when customers call in)

♦ Forgetting to write the documentation

♦ Not synchronizing the advertising, marketing, and public relations (PR) with the actual release

The best way to get a handle on this is to plan and draw up a watertight checklist.

It is not uncommon in software organizations for release to be tacked on to the end of the quality control process. I don't advise this. First, it isn't just a software operation and there are logistical and marketing operations that need to be integrated. Second, by treating release as an extension you increase the chances of turning the whole thing into a fiasco.

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