Monday, August 28, 2006

Project Management vs. ITIL Release Management

What's the difference between Project Management and Release Management? This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get from Project Managers and PMO staff. The answer I always give is that while they are very closely related, Release Management is the process which governs how IT projects go from the Development/Test environment to the live or Production environment.

Release Management is the process which governs or manages the release of new or changed systems/services or products. These changes can be software, hardware, or a combination of both. Sometimes the development and subsequent release of the service/system components is organized in the form of a project.

Project Management is focused on the delivery of projects (which may or may not result in a release) within a defined scope, budget and timeframe. Release Management assists Project Management by defining the guidelines that each release must adhere to with regard to testing, acceptance, scheduling, securing code etc.

Although the Project Manager maintains control over the project itself, often the output of that project can be one or many "Releases."

By nature the project will definitely end, the releases, however, will continue to live on in the production environment as a system/service or as component of a system/service. In this sense, the project is the vehicle through which releases are delivered. Release Management is the "map" which describes the route to go from development to the production environment.

The project formalizes the effort and breaks it down into manageable tasks with resources, costs and timeframes assigned to each. Other times, releases are implemented through less formal mechanisms such as in response to break-fix activity, or as part of regularly scheduled maintenance activities. No formal project is necessary to carry out these activities.

Additionally, because Release Management takes a holistic approach to release, the process also considers the necessary levlel of training, communication and user/customer preparation necessary to deliver the defined level of quality.

Release Management can also define the procedures for each of these activities. These efforts help to provide a consistent set of standards that are applicable to all releases (including those that result from projects.)

By defining a standard set of procedures, Release Management helps to build "quality" into the process.

I've developed the following table of more of the differences between Release and Problem Management. (Click to download)

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For more information on Release Management, including templates and implementation guidance, submit your comments to this post.

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Fleurs 4 A said...

Organizationally, how are release managers and project managers positioned? Are they on the same team? Who do they report to?

Administrator said...

This is a question we get a lot. And the answer is always that it depends. Remember that Release Management is a Process while Project Management is a function. The difference is that one is a process (group of related activities) and the other is a group of people.

The Release Management process is made up of the Release activities as defined by ITIL. Those who perform these activities are usually from several functional areas (i.e. QA, Dev, Infras. Deployment, Architecture etc.)

Therefore, the Release Manager (process owner) may be part of any functional organization as long a he or she has the visibility and the authority to be effective in managing the Release Management process.

As for the PMs, ususally they report to a centralized PMO function or to the individual functional areas. This depends on the prferences of the organization.

Hopefully this answers your question. The key is to try not to think of process managers as manager so people or even of a specific task (i.e. deployment, testin etc.) but as managers of the end to end process ensuring that it meets its defined objectives.


ITSMSpot Consultants

Nathaniel @ project management institute certification said...

Great post! Thanks for explaining the difference between Project Management and Release Management.

PMs really got confused about their difference. Anyway, this helps and means a lot. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I like the explanation of release versus a project. Many people say upgrades are not projects just SOP. However, we note that you do not execute upgrades every day and if it requires a large amount of communication, adds functionality and has a beginning and end (unique), we say it is a project. As you point out, the project can have one or many releases. I would like to reference this explanation. Who do I give credit to?

Administrator said...

Thanks for your comment. We value all feedback from the user community. It's our objective to provide timely and practical ITSM related information to assist with the common challenges we all face in helping our organization to adapt to the ITIL way of managing, supporting and delivering IT services.

We have many contributors to the blog from the ITSM community. In fact, most of our posts are authored by some experts in the field who have delivered ITSM services for many of the Fortune 500 companies over the past decade.

The Release vs. Project Management post was authored by a Senior Consultant from Red Engine Consulting.

Thank you again for your comments. We invite you to continue to check back often for new posts.

- The ITSMspot Team

olivia jennifer said...

I would say that a PMP is highly respected within both IT & non-IT communities where strong project management skills are required. If you plan on a long term career as a project manager, then yes, even with your level of experience, I would suggest getting your PMP. You can prepare yourself for the exam in one of the leading training providers like . You can do minimal prep-work to get 40 PMI® Contact Hours and apply to PMI for PMP Exam before the class begins.