Release Engineering is how software gets packaged, shipped, and distributed to the end users.

Industrializing Release Process

Release Engineering is needed in circumstances where you cannot point the product as a whole to a single owning team anymore. This is a scaling problem, as noted before. Release Engineering focuses on the process so the product isn’t impacted by the lack of ownership on building, compiling, testing, and shipping it to customers.

As teams scale and own disparate chunks of a product, the Release Engineering team emerges as gatekeepers and becomes a natural integration point to make sure a quality product goes out to customers.

It’s worth noting that Micro Service Architecture for web applications can skip Release Engineering by defining versioned interfaces and contracts between the components. This removes the focal point of integration as each team can directly deliver their solution to customers independently. This is a huge reason why organizations are attracted to Micro Service Architecture.

This organizational and architectural design breaks down in our context of shipping a binary to customers that bundles all the pieces together. A Release Engineering team, therefore, disentangles the organization from the responsibility of delivering the product so the teams can independently concentrate in their domain areas.

And by extension, a good release engineering process allows the organization to grow each team without worrying about allocating more resources towards scaling and maintaining release processes.

Achieving such organizational independence requires an attitude of constant and continuous improvement in the release processes. A new task might even begin manually but because the focus of this team is on engineering the process itself, they implement automated workflows. Over time, this rigor brings fluidity, trust, and confidence in being able to consistently deliver software to customers.

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Jamie Larson