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Release Management vs Project Management: What You Need To Know 7 min read
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There’s a lot to think about when it comes to delivering great software, including release schedules, bug fixes, user testing, development methodologies — the list goes on. For large, complex projects with ongoing feature releases, teams need processes in place to help ensure the efficiency and quality that creates business value. This is where release management comes in.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at release management, its process, and how it helps dev teams consistently deliver better products. We’ll also show you how can help improve both release management and project management across the board. But first, let’s see how the two compare to each other.

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What is release management? How does it differ from project management?

Release management refers to managing the planning, scheduling, testing, and deployment of software releases. It helps development teams deliver software, both whole projects and upgrades, more efficiently and with higher quality. In short, release management is all about managing the flow of development in preproduction environments with the goal of successful deployment in a production environment.

Project management and release management are two distinct processes that work hand-in-hand to help teams deliver outcomes with the highest chances of success.

From a wider perspective, project management focuses on the success of a given project based on a predefined scope. It includes the planning of time frames, schedules, budgets, and communication. While a project may or may not include the release of a product, every product release or update is a part of a project.

Although the processes themselves are different, release management also shares project management’s structural characteristics, broken down by stages.

Stages of release management

The release management process is often organized in stages that follow the natural lifecycle of software development. They may differ from team to team, but they generally include the following steps.


The planning stage is often the most important part of any software development effort. In this stage, the team structures the entire release from beginning to end. The more effort your team puts into the release plan, the more likely they’ll stay on schedule and produce great results.

Whether it’s an added feature to an existing solution or a fully-fledged application, it should go through the release planning stage before any development starts. This includes defining the scope of the release and identifying any roadblocks that might delay things.

Another key aspect of planning is configuration management, which establishes consistency for product metrics, such as functionality, performance, and design. While this is much more involved during the initial stages of product creation, it also serves to maintain consistency across new product features and future releases.

Finally, the release planning stage should elucidate the final release’s features and functionality. It should also account for any related dependencies and serve as a tool for risk management. If it’s an iterative release, it should outline how those features will interact with other elements in the product or application.

Development and testing

The build stage is where the development takes place, all of which is guided by the release plan. Developers need access to both the dependencies and the risks identified in the plan. This helps them test their development efforts during their day-to-day operations and guides efforts in identifying additional pitfalls.

While the testing stage is technically a separate phase, it and the development stage are circuitous processes driven by user feedback. As the team develops features, they’re delivered to users for testing and feedback. Any bugs or usability issues the testing team identifies are sent back to development until the product is ready for the final stages.


Finally, after thorough planning, deep development work, plenty of testing, and a bevy of finishing touches, the release is ready to go. The deployment stage is all about putting your release into a live production environment with real users. But it’s a bit more complicated than flipping a switch.

For example, if you’re releasing a new application, you’ll want to provide adequate instructions and other documents to help educate new users on its usage.

Lastly, development teams are usually on-hand during planned releases to gauge the performance of the release and determine how the process goes. If any issues spring up, they should be addressed by the team during the next iteration.

Get started for release and project management

One crucial ingredient to effective release management is having effective release management software in place for planning, development, testing, and deployment. With a highly flexible Work OS, such as, teams can release better products more quickly, all without sacrificing quality.

With, you can manage releases, products, and projects, in the way that works best for you. Start from the ground up with ready-made templates, such as a features and releases roadmap, which you can customize to fit your workflow. You can also shape your own workflows in minutes to fit your team’s unique needs.

The same approach to task boards is invaluable during the planning stages, where the ability to track every dependency, every pitfall, and every task is critical to the final release. And those same intuitive task boards stay with your team during the entire release management lifecycle, letting release managers see the exact status and progress of features and every bug report.

The best part about is that you tell it how to work — not the other way around. Flexibility is the name of the game, meaning any specific development workflow you need, whether it’s an Agile or waterfall approach, is easily configurable with a few clicks. And with countless integrations to popular development platforms, such as Jira, GitHub, and Slack, release managers and project managers can cover the entire spectrum of their scopes.

If you’re eager to learn a little more about release management, we’ve answered a few of the most commonly asked questions.

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Is release management part of ITSM?

ITSM stands for IT service management, which encapsulates various processes and responsibilities for service-oriented technology teams. In short, release management and IT service management are quite different. While some teams take an ITSM approach to project and product releases, others are leaning into the release management process, which allows for more agility and flexibility.

What is Release Management in ITIL?

ITIL, shorthand for IT Infrastructure Library, is a service management framework used in the aforementioned ITSM. While still separate from change management, ITIL does offer a prescriptive approach to product releases by focusing on high-quality deliverables, great customer experiences, and cost-effective business practices.

What is release management in DevOps? 

DevOps is an extension of Agile principles in software development that describes management tools, practices, and principles used in a collaboration between development and operations teams. Because of its Agile roots, DevOps principles seek to increase release frequencies while narrowing the scope of each release. As such, in a DevOps environment, release management favors rapid iterations across release stages.

Make every release a success with release management

Managing software releases is an evolving process, with each release presenting opportunities to refine and polish both the processes and the product. If you want to capitalize on those opportunities, you have to be both fast and flexible. And considering most developers feel that release schedules could use a little more speed, it might be time to integrate release management.

The best part about release management is that it’s a mindset more than a prescription. It enables teams to create workflows that work for them while improving both quality and development efficiency. Just remember to pair your new release management workflows with an equally flexible WorkOS.

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