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

Release Management and Release Engineering

While Release Engineering concerns with designing and automating the process of releasing software, Release Management deals with what makes up the release itself. Release Management assesses the importance of features and bug fixes going in from a business outcomes perspective.

While Project Managers scope out the features to be designed & developed in a product based on the customer need and value to the business, Release Managers scope out which features are shipped in releases based on the quality and readiness of its capabilities. They keep stakeholders informed of changing priorities from release to release. Release Management adapts Project Management skills along with knowledge about the specific release cadence and machinery built to ship product releases in a reliable manner.

Release Managers also assess risk and complexity of a particular release. They provide updates to the customers, development teams, and stakeholders and act as the human contact and assign tasks to the team members in the organization.

A Release Manager is a key stakeholder when designing Release Engineering systems. A system designed to serve the needs of a Release Manager increases fluidity in the release process. Generally, a person with systems thinking is aptly suited for these roles.

At Tanzu, the Release Engineering team assigns a Release Manager who determines the set of changes that are shipped with every release cycle. They are supported by a couple or so engineers who see the integration, testing, and delivery of the product through.

Some companies tend to offload the release duties solely to the Release Manager  ignoring Release Engineering entirely, keeping the process manual entirely. This leads to burnout and piling on of manual processes and tasks over time.

Think of the Release capability as its own product. The Release Manager acts as the Product Manager while the developers help make this process automated. A product's release capability often starts with a manual process or a few scripts hacked together but the partnership and investment in an independent team enables the business to mature this capability over time, yielding better cadence, quality, and control in releasing the product to customers.

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Jamie Larson