Release Management (see the discussion here) is an emerging discipline - one of the last parts of the development process to be formalised and automated perhaps It is part of the evolving of "design for operations" into DevOps, an agile collaboration between development and operations teams (there is going to be an CMSG all day event - "Seamless Delivery of Application and Web Services - DevOps and Beyond" - on this subject on 15-Feb-2011; see here for the latest info).
Nevertheless, it is important to remember to take a holistic view of the whole process and not just concentrate on parts of it. As Shirley Lacy and I report practitioners saying in our configuration management book, talking about The viability of the incremental approach to the implementation of a Configuration Management Service (CMS): "How does this approach work without certain key facilities being already in place? For example, starting, with incident, problem and change management is fine but how do you ensure that data is accurate without including release management?" (Configuration Management Expert Guidance for IT Service Managers and Practitioners by Shirley Lacy, David Norfolk (ISBN: 9781906124588).
This perhaps explains why I like Serena's new process-based orchestration approach to ALM, with its incorporation of release management from Nolio, announced today. Since Serena's new message (see its promotional video and other materials on orchestrating application delivery here) is to use process to orchestrate what your already have, rather than rip-and-replace with new tools, I'm pleased to see it incorporating the tools from well-respected Nolio rather than trying to re-invent the wheel for itself. I'm also pleased to see a focus on building-in traceability and auditability, which are essential to good IT Governance, which (in itself) is increasingly essential to the running of any software dependent company (which means, in practice, most companies), not just for regulated Global 2000 enterprises.
According to David Hurwitz, SVP of Worldwide Marketing for Serena Software, Serena's focus is on reducing the cost of application delivery, an aim which I imagine many enterprises will agree with with days. Serena is particularly interesting to large enterprise players, however, as it is one of the few companies outside of IBM supporting mainframe applications as equal partners in the process, along with Linux and Windows applications.
What Serena actually announced at the GARTNER AADI Summit 2010 in Los Angeles today (16th November 2010) is a process-driven approach to application delivery and an ALM solution strategy based on federation and orchestration of end-to-end application delivery from demand to deployment.
Developing from this, what we are starting to see, I think (and Serena's orchestration story is just one example of this; CA and IBM tell similar stories) is the use of business analytics and optimisation tools and techniques to mange the development (now "orchestration") process in a fact-based way - as mature businesses manage business processes. And this implies automation that can generate any required metrics (for governance and regulation) and management KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) as routine outputs from the orchestrated processes. In fact, I think the orchestration of automated business service delivery in support of business outcomes is a "business process" in itself.
Release management is just one part of the automated business service development process - but an important one and one which many companies may not be up to speed with yet. Serena's announcement, along with its orchestration approach generally, is therefore to be welcomed.