Posted by: Jeff Timmins | December 30, 2013

Release Manager my Notification please

Excuse me Release Manager, my Notification please

I think the typical customer wants to be notified regarding an update to a system they use to make a living. Wouldn’t you want to know if something on your system of record YouGotAllMyStuff.com was going to change?

If you think about it, companies outsource critical business operations to SaaS, IaaS & PaaS (or XaaS) companies. That is why there is value in providing services over the Internet. The theoretical beauty of XaaS is that the customer could cancel any month. If that is true, these solution providers need to earn the business each time we interact with the customer. Since updates make up a large part of that customer interaction, this puts the spotlight on how the Release Manager handles customer notifications.

There is often debate the benefits and drawbacks of customer notification. Too little notification and the customer will be disappointed but too much notification and the customer will become numb. What does the SLA require, what should the customer see or what are the chances the customer will see a problem? 

In the end, the Release Manager should engage the decision makers in thinking about the big picture of what the customer really need. Typically what will be discovered in this kind of conversation is that the customer wants the right information at the right time in delivery methods that work for them.

Depending on the solution provided, this could be solved in many ways.

  • If a company utilizes Agile, you could safely assume that every X weeks you will be able to deploy a change to Production.
  • That being the case, it would be easy to set expectations with your customers that every X weeks, on the same day of the week and at the same time period, the Production system will be updated. (I would communicate this on a quarterly basis to provide some flexibility if a schedule change is needed in the future.)
  • Once the Sprint & integration testing is complete you could notify the customer exactly what is changing. In theory this could be 1 or 2 weeks before the Production update.
  • The methods of communication could be email, blog, twitter or any combination that the customer selects. Typically customers are more happy if allowed to select a method that works for them.

I agree that the above scenarios was one of the easiest out there but hey, I think that solution would make live easier for a number of companies and customers.

If you have any harder scenarios you would like help with let me know, I love helping people solve problems!

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Responses

  1. I see a lot of info on the technical aspects of release mgmt. This articles touched a little bit on customer notification but there is much more. Releasing in a SAAS/Cloudmodel requires also a different pace or view for what I call Channel readiness. A software company that releases a on-premises update once a year has it’s procedures to provide upfront sales training, Support desk training, updated sales kits, partner communication etc. Given the much higher speed of Cloud releases and the fact that releasing is done directly in production with no choice for the customer to wait to go live, this process needs to be reajusted to this pace. I see sofar no or very little attention to this topic.: how do I make sure in a monthly release cycle of a generic SW product that not only customers know what is coming, but also implementation partners, sales channels, Support desks etc. is there any material, good reading on this particular topic that goes beyond the technical/development release and touches more the market introduction of small and large updates in a Saas model?

    • Great feedback and I’ll work on a post to address your concerns/request. I am an RM for a similar product on a quarterly update schedule so I think we share similar problems.


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