Are You Really Ready?
A Simple Process Can Help Ensure Your Software Release Is Prepared to Make Its Grand Debut
By Renee Galligher, PMP
You've completed risk management, coding, unit testing, acceptance testing, communications and all other planning for your software project. You think the product is now ready for release—but are you sure? How can you double-check that the product has everything it needs to be successful? One final process, the release readiness review (RRR), can help project managers uncover and define any missing items.
I discovered the RRR years ago when I became a project manager and was looking for a simple but thorough checklist procedure to ensure that nothing was missed in our software releases. Over time, I've adapted it to fit different software projects, and it always has proven effective.
The RRR brings everyone together for a final check and approval before a software's release. It ensures that every department or stakeholder identifies what they need to do or provide to release and support the product successfully. But some minimal planning is needed first.
Project managers should schedule this meeting well in advance of the release week so identified tasks can be completed by their designated date and so stakeholders can meet again if needed.
Identify the stakeholders who need to be at this meeting. Then, for a large project, plan for the RRR by determining which key components must be addressed by each stakeholder. If the project is small, you can let the stakeholders identify the key components, but make sure to have them follow an established set of rules.
First, identify the functional areas. These could be design, documentation, product development, software quality, marketing, operations, sales and customer support. Or they could be dev/testing, external personnel, internal personnel and support. Whatever you identify must be a key area or responsible party in your organization.
Begin with the group on the bottom of the hierarchy in relation to the project components or workflow structure, and progress through the various stakeholders—product owners, external stakeholders and support—asking the following: Are you ready for the release? What do you or your department need to provide in order to release and support the product? What is yet to be done in order to successfully release the product?
Use a whiteboard to document the details of each action item identified, along with the person responsible and due date. If necessary, depending on the level of importance or severity of the discovery, schedule another meeting to follow up on the items.
It's amazing the type of action items that can be identified with this exercise. On one project I worked on, we realized during the RRR exercise that the software release required integration with another application's data—and that data was out of date. As a result, the data was reviewed and corrected, and the project was a success.
After you pinpoint a few items that must be resolved to successfully complete your project, you have to communicate the results. Take a picture of the whiteboard using your cellphone or an app. For a small project, I like to email the photo to all the meeting participants and then archive it with the other project documents. For a larger, more complex project, you can take the whiteboard capture and expand on it by creating or updating a tracking document and circulating it for review. This document can also track any critical path items that might postpone the release.
Either way, when you email your meeting notes, one of these images should be attached along with a few notes pointing out the action items identified. Make it easy for the action item owners by identifying them in the body of your email. It will save them time and make them more apt to act promptly.
Then follow up by checking on the completion of the action items based on their due dates. Do this in advance of the date to give the owner time to respond.
As project managers, we know that all it takes is one missing piece to threaten our project, and it's up to us to guide our team of stakeholders to identify any obstacles. The release readiness review is able to help us do just that. PM
|Renee Galligher, PMP, is an IT project manager at the Idaho State Department of Education, Boise, Idaho, USA.|