The Lightness of Releasing

In the beginning it was dark, and procedural.

So for instance, if you wanted feedback on a feature, you would either communicate it verbally, send screen shots, or wait for the release.

Then the managers rebelled. We saw the obvious problem here – our customers needed to actually use the software to give feedback, sooner rather than later.

So we came up with a concept of a prototype. In early stages it would still be screenshots, but then it would be a mock up application, and later the application, but with not everything in-place.

And since we (I’m still in the PM role here) thought feedback was the most important issue here, except for showing the customer we actually made progress, we insisted on some flexibility. Less process, we said – wouldn’t it be nice if there won’t be a full release process?

And here we are today (I’m switching my hat now…)

One of the teams released a prototype, due to pressure by the customers to see progress. The decision to release was between the project manager and the product manager. The R&D manager was not in the meeting (although in the know), not to mention QA.

We do not have a process for releasing prototypes. It remained vague and open for interpretation. But instead of talking about bureaucracy and process, let’s talk essence: I (QA) want to make sure that what we’re releasing will not end up thrown back at us. We’ve been too many times where, because of external pressure to release, it came back to haunt us.

The build passed the sanity test, and the new features looked OK, but were not tested. There are bug fixes for high severity bugs, but some were not verified by the testers.

So on one hand, it looks OK for it’s purpose – getting feedback on the new features. On the other hand, this is a very risky build, as it was not tested enough.

What’s next?

We need to formalize preliminary releases in some way and provide some kind of bar to measure releasability (I’m not sure if it’s a real word, but I like it). I guess it would be as easy to measure releasability for full releases… The problem of course, is that we can set the bar as high as we want, it would always be external pressure that overrides it.

At least I made a few people think about the lightness of releasing.

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