Enterprise Release Manager is a new role in the enterprise. It has become critical as enterprises continue to report larger portfolios with an increased number of smaller, more independent projects.
At the same time, more companies are decentralizing deployment and release responsibilities to individual development teams.
With more projects releasing software to production more frequently under Agile and DevOps methodologies, organizations are establishing a new level of IT release management: the Enterprise Release Manager.
The following job description lays out what I’ve learned in my experience with enterprise clients and prospects in several industries across the world.
The primary goal of an Enterprise Release Manager (ERM) is to protect and manage the movement of releases through the build, test, and production environments. The ERM ensures there’s a proper structure in place to allow the company to scale efficiently.
The ERM needs to interface and communicate with test managers, development managers, IT operations, and the PMO on a daily basis.
Equally, the ERM must have the confidence to manage up and provide reporting as well as meeting updates to senior IT management and line of business.
The ERM is also expected to:
Multiply the number of releases by the number of projects in a department times the number of departments. Then, factor in the number of individuals responsible for supporting software delivery and you’ll quickly realize that releases often involve heavy coordination of challenging schedules and impossible deadlines.
Leadership and managerial skills are critical for an Enterprise Release Manager. Individuals in this role won’t be focused on the details of individual releases. Instead, they will be focused on the overall trends across multiple development teams. They must be able to coordinate cross-functional teams toward task completion.
An Enterprise Release Manager is setting the overall standard for release management and governance. As such, they need to be able to communicate with both management and individual application teams to create an environment where teams understand the shared vision for releases across the enterprise. The ERM would also need strong interpersonal skills in areas such as facilitation, negotiation, and working with internal and external customers.
The Enterprise Release Manager should be able to identify and eliminate redundancies at the portfolio level. An ERM should be capable of recognizing patterns and opportunities for improvement throughout the entire organization. As more organizations adopt self-service deployments and releases, it is the ERM who ensures that this movement doesn’t result in confusion.
The ERM must have the capacity to understand multi-level failure scenarios that can result from release activities. ERMs are the high-level referees for release activities and get pulled into discussions surrounding release-related downtime and risk. The ERM should also have proven ability to discern critical from minor problems and innovate new solutions.
Although each organization will tend to have a unique set of qualifications it’s looking for in an ERM, below is a list of must-haves.
When organizations only delivered one or two major software initiatives per quarter, the idea of having multiple levels of release management made little sense. There was a lot of ceremony around the launch of these large, waterfall-based projects, but the release frequency was lower.
Today, there are large companies with hundreds of projects competing for limited “runway” space in the form of testing environments and production support resources. To use an airport analogy, application release managers are the gate agents while Enterprise Release Managers keep track of the entire terminal – and your organization’s release schedule may start to remind you of a flight status display at O’Hare during a thunderstorm.
With most organizations delivering one or two major software initiatives every week or every day, coupled with faster, more self-service releases, your organization needs someone focused on release coordination and alignment across multiple departments.
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