Enterprise release management does not sound like a concept that you would find in the startup ecosystem and you would not.
Put simply, it is a practice through which some of the world’s largest companies handle their internal software development. For instance, a company like eBay utilizes dozens of different types of internally-developed software that both enables their customers to do business and allows the company to run smoothly.
Through enterprise release management, companies like eBay ensure that all of these pieces of software are developed cost-effectively and quickly, while maintaining continuity and not disrupting the everyday functioning of the company.
Obviously, no startup will have the need for something like this. However, this does not mean that some of the principles of enterprise release management cannot be applied to even the leanest and most chaotic of startups. Especially startups that develop software.
Efficiency above Everything
At the core of enterprise release management is for large companies to get new updates and versions of their internal software in as short a time and with as little waste as possible. In order to do this, the teams are in constant communication with their immediate superiors, other teams and the enterprise release manager who oversees the whole thing. Through enterprise release management, teams also use up company resources (such as testing environments) more efficiently and without waste.
This is definitely something that every startup can and should adopt – this insistence on efficiency and reduction of everything that could even remotely be considered wasteful. This can be somewhat complicated to accomplish in startups that feature more than a few employees due to the fact that most startup founders have very little experience in resource management, or any other type of management for that matter.
In order to achieve peak efficiency, it is crucial to decide what the absolute essentials are and then work from there. You will want to think long and hard about the cost-efficiency of every single task and its overall impact on the final result.
It may feel somewhat constraining, but it can actually be quite liberating operating under these uber-efficient guidelines.
Importance of Communication
In order for the enterprise release management to yield results, stellar communication is simply a must. In fact, the vast majority of ERM revolves around good communication and coordinating various teams across various stages of the software release process and ensuring no one clashes or competes for resources.
In startups, communication can often become an afterthought, especially in those moments when everyone is focused on their own tasks and are merely looking for a way to survive completing the task. In such situations, startup founders and employees can get somewhat self-isolated and this can lead to a whole slew of problems.
This is why the original Agile Manifesto principles clearly state that meetings are important and that startups should always feature open channels of communication at every stage.
Without proper communication, a startup can never hope to be truly efficient and waste-restrictive. Good communication will also ensure that interpersonal relationships remain positive.
Another crucial concept in enterprise release management is continuity. Namely, continuity simply has to be maintained in order for large companies to stay operational when they roll out new software updates. eBay cannot afford to be offline for six hours because a piece of code that enables secure money transactions is not compatible with the earlier version or some other piece of code that runs underneath eBay’s digital hood.
It may seem that this is not a big issue for startups, but in reality, many a startup has failed because they did not consider continuity as one of their priorities.
This is often seen in startups that go chasing new features and changing up their product until it is unrecognizable from what they started with. Not only does insisting on new features rarely cause any significant uptick in customer base, but it also alienates the existing one.
A big part of why McDonald’s has been so spectacularly successful all these years is the sense of continuity that you get across their brand. In a way, it is the same old McDonald’s that your grandparents ate in fifty years ago.
A very obvious trait of the enterprise release management setup within any company is that it is very clearly defined and structured. There are no signs of the flat structure there and people know who is in charge, who calls the shots and who bears responsibility for what.
This may sound so very non-startup, but maybe it is time that startups start rethinking the whole flat revolution. This is not saying that flat structure does not work or that it does not have its merits, but it may still be a good idea to incorporate some hierarchy to your startup, especially if it is bigger than just two or three people.
A clearly defined hierarchy helps streamline any process, making it more efficient and quicker.
Sometimes that is exactly what a startup needs.
At least think about it.