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

Write Playbooks

A playbook captures all of the details that are needed to ship a product out to customers. Instead of relying on word of mouth for context sharing, playbooks allow team members to ship products by following documentation step-by-step.

When you begin implementing a process to regularly release your product, you'll find out that there are certain tasks that are required to be performed in order. It's hard to figure out what needs doing unless it's written down. It's risky to rely on memory and built knowledge in a team as it will create single points of failure. Playbooks are the way to allow your team to be on the same page to lay down how to ship your product.

A playbook standardizes the process and helps execute the Release Engineering workflow. When the system isn't fully automated, playbooks allow the team to keep operating instructions of the current Release Engineering state of the system in a document. It should be easily accessible and understood by the team. Playbooks provide a space for any change needed in the system for it to be propagated to the team.

Playbooks increase efficiency by removing the need to remember how to perform a lengthy yet mundane task repeatedly.

Here are a few ways to better manage and maintain playbooks:

  • Divide them up into logical parts of the process. Our Tanzu Application Service playbooks are divided into several key workflows that are followed in order.
  • Only include operating instructions. We typically keep any context of the change separately in Decision Records.
  • Ideally, they should be editable by the whole team and improved with each ongoing release train.
  • Include common failure modes so it doesn't require asking other team members when things don't go in the happy path.

While writing and maintaining the playbooks may feel painstaking in the beginning, the dividends add up quickly as it brings robustness and reliability to shipping your products to customers. You'll also discover that increased investment in automation will begin shrinking the manual portions of the playbooks overtime.

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Jamie Larson