This is an overview of a Software Release Life Cycle (SRLC) targeted for software-heavy development environments, either pure software development or product development with a large software component. It's intended to emphasize the necessary process documentation without resorting to unnecessary bureaucratic overhead.
What this is
This is an overview of a Software Release Life Cycle (SRLC) targeted for software-heavy development environments: either pure software development or product development with a large software component. It provides a description of the entire SRLC, including the purpose and main activities of each phase.
Since every organization may have broadly different development life cycle definitions for their project work, this overview is general enough to allow easy adaptation to your environment. You should also be able to easily extract and adopt of key elements that are missing in your current process. It emphasizes the process documentation and approach necessary to properly plan and execute a complex software release, without being overly bureaucratic. The 10 phases that are described here for SRLC are by no means set in stone; they can be adapted for your company's needs.
Why it's useful
This document gives an overview of the SRLC and provides a comparison to a typical development life cycle used for completing individual projects (product development or otherwise). The purpose of this comparison is to show how multiple projects would typically fit within an overall software release process framework. Conceptually, a software release is just a very large project, with the individual product development, system level work, maintenance or support projects under the umbrella of the larger software release. Many of the phases are identical in concept between the release level and the individual projects, although work in the release phase is larger in scope than the corresponding phase in the individual development projects.
How to use it
This SW Release life cycle can be used to start with and then tailored later for your department or environment as the team becomes more familiar with the process. The process includes a Lessons Learned deliverable at the end of the software release project for process improvement and identifying "best practice" guidelines.
In some cases you may choose to combine two phases into one. They are listed separately here with the philosophy that condensing phases is easier from a general model than expanding the phases. If you have a large number of individual projects and contributors, you might find have the 10 phase gates and exit criteria milestones approach is useful. As the number of development projects is reduced, it may be more efficient to reduce the number of phase gates in the SRLC.
Peter Michels has served as Director of Engineering and Program Management, Senior Project Manager, Software Development Manager and software developer in large and small companies, with most recent focus in commercial wireless and 802.11 network communications. His professional interests are in project recovery, organizational behavior, and organizational restructuring.
It has been commented that Pete has a higher tolerance level than average for negativity, which he explains must be the reason he enjoys, remains in, and excels at the project management profession. He often remarks that "almost everything is a project of some sort," and he uses MS Project for many personal activities too. He firmly advocates that schools should teach basic project management along with consumer economics and shop classes.
Pete contributed this series of software release life cycle overview documents and templates from his hard-won experience putting together software release methods in a growing software company. Even as the company grew a sound process for developing each hardware/software project, they found they needed an overlay to help with planning of their overall releases-- which often brought together 10-20 individual (and complex in themselves) software and platform projects, as well as numerous feature enhancements, to enable them to make the necessary releases to the market.
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