What Is IT Environment and Release Management?
IT Environment and Release Management encompasses a set of best practices proposed to provide an effective, end-to-end management process flow targeted for test software platforms, development, and production environments.
IT Environment and Release Management is misunderstood in terms of the role it plays and the contribution it provides to the overall success and quality of IT Projects. An effective and efficient IT Environment and Release Management process can provide substantial cost savings while increasing the availability of various environments, resulting in accelerated project delivery dates.
A typical IT shop will at a minimum need to manage the following environments from a software, data, and hardware perspective:
A majority of Program, Project, and Test Managers encounter environment related issues that can severely impact any of the above environments and often times delay overall project deliveries due to environmental discrepancies, issues, or failures.
The software development environment can be complex, consisting of Client Server Applications, Relational Databases Management Systems, middleware, interfaces, and customized process.
Testing phases such as Unit, Integration, User Acceptance, Performance, Regression, etc. often require unique IT Environments or are forced to share a test environment with other projects or testing cycles leading to a greater need for an IT Environment/ Release Management plan.
What does an IT Environment and Release Management process address?
- Manages the creation, build, upgrade, and maintenance of all test and development application environments
- Establishes a process to address the allocation of application environments, migrations, shared usage, software upgrades, service level agreements, patching, decommissioning, and re-allocation
- Manages data refreshes on a scheduled basis including data cleansing of sensitive data if required to maintain current testing data base.
- Manages test environment usage across projects
- Assists project team with establishing application environment requirements
- Contributes to the Project Initiation Document, ensuring the environment requirements are represented
- Establishes key project milestones for scope, test environment booking cut-offs, and production booking migration cut-offs
- Provides reports on usage/ utilization availability, forward planning, and schedules
- Serves as a repository for all information on an IT environment to include such as Host Server Names, Hardware Type, Operating Systems, and IT Addressed.
IT Environment and Release Management Tool Examples
Configuration Management Database (CMDB)
This tool is required to maintain a repository of the environment components and its versions. The data in this tool is also helpful in incident management and problem management.
This tool is required to capture the allocation of test environments and to check for availability of the environments. Usage analysis can also be captured.
Problem / Incident / Defect Management Tool
This tool is used to capture and track problems/ incidents/ defects though a lifecycle and manage what and when these are promoted to each test environment.
Release Management Plan
A documented plan and accompanying procedure controls when components are promoted to what environment. This will align with needed testing timelines for each release.
Patching / Refresh Plan
A documented timeline used in conjunction with the Release Management Plan helps plan for required environment patching and scheduled environment/ data refreshes from production
Many organizations use spreadsheets instead of specific tools depending on size of the shop, the number of environments, volume of problems/ incidents/ defects, deployment frequency, and overall data volume. However, many tools are available, and many times they are already present within an organization.
What concerns can Environment and Release Management resolve?
Ensure that there are little differences between the testing environment and the Production Environment
This is from a code base, hardware, and capacity perspective. Differences can introduce errors while executing test cycles and could introduce defects into production that were not evident during test cycles.
Ensure proper maintenance of the test environment devices
Hardware and electronic testing devices not maintained on a regular basis and allowed to fail during test cycles will delay project deliveries and add to overall project cost.
Ensure test data is current and refreshed from production on a regular scheduled basis
Old outdated test data can lead to inconsistent test results and production results.
Ensure software base is current and refreshed from production on a regular scheduled basis
Constantly applying software fixes over software fixes can lead to a corrupted or nonfunctioning test environment pushing out project delivery.
Ensure introduction of new / revised software into the test Environment adheres to scheduled cut-offs, deployment windows, and testing gates.
This will assist in preventing those “last minute” software deployments that have not been properly tested.
A well-defined and executed IT Environment/ Release Process can:
- Provide structure for all deployments to all environments
- Improve the quality of test cycles
- Improve the quality of test data
- Reduce overall testing cycle time
- Reduce debugging/ development timelines
- Ensure on-time or early project deliveries
- Improve the quality of production deployments
- Reduce overall project cost