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How to Build a Software Release Plan: A Complete Guide

Quick Summary:

Nowadays, Software development has evolved into an extremely complex process.It requires rigorous knowledge, experience, expertise, skills, and talent. But to ensure a successful software launch, the most important requirement is a concrete software release plan.

As technologies have evolved over time, so is the complexity of the software development process. And because of that, building a software release plan has become a growing discipline.

According to a report, 75% of issues in software are caused simply because of the lack of a comprehensive software release plan. These issues, later, can easily turn into unnecessary costs & a negative impression in the eyes of the target audience.

To help you prevent that in your software development endeavors, we’ve prepared a detailed guide on how to build a software release plan the right way & ensure a successful software launch.

What is a Software Release Plan?

Software release planning is all about deciding the desired schedule of assorted software release dates and making sure to meet that schedule.

It basically involves planning, managing, and controlling a software development lifecycle through the stages of developing, testing, deploying, and supporting the software release.

The primary goal of software release planning is to ensure the quality, efficiency, and speed of software delivery.

And with a proper software release plan, you can ensure that your team is armed with all the required information to increase the probability of a successful software release.

What is Involved in a Software Release Plan?

A software release plan usually consists of multiple factors that ultimately help to devise the right software release plan.

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Specifically, an ideal software release plan involves the following:

Objectives – A software release plan needs you to come up with appropriate objectives that align with the needs of both, your target audience & your business goals.

High-Level Scope – It must help your software development team members to clearly understand the high-level scope of your project.

Rough Estimate – It should help you to evaluate the rough estimate of the required workload to successfully develop & launch your software.

Scope of Implementation – It should help you define the list of features and when each feature must be ready so that it’s easier to track software release progress.

Objectives – A software release plan needs you to come up with appropriate objectives that align with the needs of both, your target audience & your business goals.

Timeframe & Budget – It must include the timeframe and budget required for successful software development & release.

Where Software Release Plan is Useful?

As you just saw above, software release planning is quite complicated. On the bright side, though, it is useful in many scenarios.

Project Scheduling

The project schedule, also known as the target schedule, is basically a schedule performance analysis process that includes project milestones that are compared with the actual achievements.

One of the metrics of this process is the Schedule Performance Index (SPI) and it simply indicates whether your project is running on schedule or behind the schedule.

In every agile software development iteration, there are usually 5 project scheduling control steps involved:

  • Checking the current status of features
  • Performing a thorough review at the end of every iteration
  • Making the required changes as per the review
  • Assessing the iteration results
  • Making the required changes to the project schedule

Project Budget Management

Project budget management is another area where a software release plan can be useful. It generally involves defining the total budget of the project.

Although, budget management in software release planning is more about story points & complexity than defining the total budget. It basically acts as the foundation to make detailed estimations and form the actual budget later.

Put another way, a software release plan helps to control the overall project budget. And based on the features implemented, it helps to identify if there is any difference between the planned budget and the actual spending.

Client & Team Expectation Management

The third area where software release planning has proven to be most useful is client & team expectation management.

Now, the majority of client expectation management is mostly about clear communication.

In simple words, you must be honest & open about expectations from the beginning of your project. And more importantly, you must provide all assumptions and follow all pre-defined goals.

Apart from this, defining goals is also a crucial part of a solid software release plan. It helps to follow goals with minimal fluctuations throughout the project lifecycle.

Backlog, on the other hand, is another important feature of a software release plan. It usually includes storage for all your assumptions regarding the project.

The last important feature of a software release plan is a formalized planning system, which helps to establish clear & transparent communication among all stakeholders.

As for team expectation management, it’s best to use industry-standard tools that help to elevate the performance of your team and make the work more comfortable.

How to Build a Concrete Software Release Plan for Your Project?

Now that you’re fully aware of what a software release plan is, what are the things involved in it, and where it can be useful, it’s time we teach you exactly how to build a concrete software release plan.

Generally, software release planning is divided into two separate parts: First-Time Release Plan & Updates During Future Iterations.

First-Time Release Plan

The first-time software release plan basically involves a 9 steps process.

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Decide What You’re Releasing- The first step of building a software release plan is to figure out what kind of software exactly are you releasing. Is it a web application, mobile app, PWA, or any other type of software?

Define Specific Requirements- The next step of first-time software release planning is about defining the specific requirements of your software. This generally involves defining the list of features you want to implement and user flow throughout your software.

Ensure Clarity on Goals & Expectations- Once you’ve defined the specific requirements, you need to ensure that they’re well-aligned with your long-term goals as well as expectations. Ideally, you should focus on story points, in the beginning, to make it easier for all stakeholders to understand project goals & expectations.

Prioritize Product Backlog- Most people treat product backlog as the dumping ground for all ideas, feature requests, bugs, and tasks. But the right way to prioritize your product backlog is starting with the list of tasks that your team needs to complete next and everything they need to focus on after that.

Prepare a Proposal- Your proposal should forecast how the days leading to the actual software release will unfold. The software release proposal is mostly helpful in defining goals, designating tasks to team members, and setting up a timeframe for project completion.

Analyze All Risks- Once the proposal is prepared, you need to conduct a risk analysis to discover all possible risks, the probability of whether they’ll happen, steps to minimize their consequences in case they do.

Create a Development Plan- In order to create a project development plan, you must analyze the product backlog and set priority for each feature that needs to be implemented in the first release.

Test Your Software In Production- After you’ve successfully built the first version of your software, you need to perform testing in production (TIP) where the new code changes are tested on live users rather than in a staging environment.

To perform TIP, you can simply invite beta users by offering incentives for using your software and collecting their feedback.

Release Your Software to End-User- The final step of the process is to simply launch your software to your end-users and monitor its performance closely to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Updates During Future Iterations

The second part of the software release plan is about all the updates for the future iterations of your software product.

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Analyze The Scope Burndown- After you’ve successfully released your software, you need to check the scope and find out if there are any tasks remaining with the first time release.

Analyze Changes in Product Backlog- Next, you need to consider all tasks & features deleted from product backlog and reassess their priority. If there are changes need to be done, you must keep in mind that it will also affect your next software release plan.

Examine Actual Performance- You need to examine the performance of personal & team independently and compare it with the software release plan.

Reprioritize Product Scope- After each iteration, you must reprioritize the tasks in your product backlog to ensure a successful software release iteration.

Assess Ongoing Risks- If you happen to make any changes to the next release, you must assess the risks and its factors associated with it to minimize their consequences.

Release Your Iteration to End-Users- Finally, once you’ve followed all steps carefully and the next iteration is ready, it’s time to release it to your end-users in the live environment.

Benefits of Software Release Planning

Now that you’ve learned exactly how to build a software release plan on your own, let’s check out the benefits you will gain if you actually make a software release plan for your project.

Lean Software Development

Lean software development is the first and primary benefit of a software release plan.

It lets you eliminate waste, streamline all processes, and focus on continuous improvement. This, in turn, significantly improves the software quality, performance, and usability.

Improved Release Activities

Release activities basically include scheduling, developing, testing, documenting, distributing, and installing the new software releases for end-users.

Now, a software release plan helps you to form improved release activities that yield best results possible. Furthermore, it also supports continuous improvement to minimize trials and errors and deliver better software releases in the market.

Better Change Management

Change requests, which are inevitable in the software development lifecycle, is another benefit of a software release plan. In other words, a software release plan helps to discover and enables positive changes to be made in your software product without affecting your services.

Besides that, it also helps to control the configuration items in configuration management, leading us to the next benefit of building a software release plan.

Enhanced Configuration Management

Configuration items generally include people, software, and documentation. Now, whenever a problem arise in release management, they’re almost always linked to one or more configuration items.

Fortunately, the controlling feature of the configuration management helps to ensure positive changes that not only support but also reinforce improvements in the overall software release cycle.

In simple words, a software release plan enhances the overall configuration management in your project and lets you easily track open bugs, new features in server page, or a tool for developing a web page.

Concluding Thoughts…

Creating a software release plan is no piece of cake. But, it’s definitely worth the effort, especially if you decide to go with Agile development.

Moreover, software release planning just gives you a complete understanding of your business goals, expectations, and allows you to be in a better control to achieve them all.

And as a result, the chances of success, thanks to the well-planned software releases, are unquestionably high and with a minimal chances of bugs & errors.

So, with that, we hope that you found this guide helpful. Now, if you need our professional assistance with Software Development, feel free to reach out to us for help.

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