New releases of software are a fact of life for any Source to Pay solution and are likely to bring benefits to organisations, but careful management of the process of applying a new release is essential.
What is Release Management and why do it?Release Management is the process of assessing the contents of a new software release, planning the upgrade, maximising the benefits of new features, whilst minimising any negative impacts. As a subscriber to a Source to Pay cloud solution, you will almost certainly be required to install new releases supplied by your software provider. New releases may contain new features or bug fixes and may provide opportunities to improve business processes or remove the need for workarounds you may have implemented. 1. Release Note Review To manage the implementation of releases, successfully identification of the impacts, both positive and potentially negative of each new release is needed. The first step is a detailed review of the release notes to understand the implications of the changes contained in the release. Release notes should be reviewed by someone who is familiar with the business processes and can assess whether a new feature will benefit the organisation, while identifying any negative impacts of the changes.
2. Selection of New FeaturesReleases usually contain features that are either switched on or require actions to activate them. Both will require some action to implement the release to leverage the maximum benefits. This may involve changes to business processes or system configuration. 2.1. Activated features. The release note review will have identified which changes are desirable for the business, but it may be the case that some enhancements or new functionalities in the release cannot be disabled, and the impact of these changes should be assessed. For significant changes training may be required. Some testing should be planned before the release is moved to production. 2.2 Deactivated Features. Releases usually contain changes that are deactivated by default, and if these are required to be switched on the necessary configuration updates should be planned. Changes may be necessary for business processes to take advantage of the new functionality. Testing, communication and, if appropriate, training should also be provided.
3. Integration ImpactsSoftware providers usually try to minimise impact to their client’s integrations but this is not always possible, and a technical expert should closely review all the new functionalities to see if any changes are required to existing integrations. A ‘mini business case’ should be prepared for any changes to integrations, as these are likely to be more costly and time consuming than routine configuration or process changes. Where the effort is justified or unavoidable, a test plan should be prepared to confirm that the changed integrations operate correctly in the test environment before applying the upgrade to production.
4. Change Management – Communications & TrainingIntroducing change to an organisation is never without some level of risk and the impact of each release on the organisation should be managed. Enhancements delivered in the release may improve usability or bring other benefits, and effective communication to the user community will increase the likelihood that these benefits will be realised. Any relevant documentation, such as user guides, training manuals, design and support documentation needs to be updated to reflect any new functionality.
5. Regression TestingYou will have planned to test any new features being activated in the release, but you should also consider a level of regression testing to prove that areas of the system that appear to be unaffected continue to function as before. The level of this testing will depend on the organisation’s appetite for risk and may vary from running through some end-to-end business processes, to fully scripted testing. By following the structured process outlined above you will make better use of your Source to Pay system, ensure business continuity, and release management will be a successful part of your continuous improvement programme. Xoomworks can help you with regular release management, providing a release note review process, with recommendations for implementation, and management of your regression testing. Download our eBook to learn more about how release management can be a successful part of your continuous improvement programme. This eBook is the nineth chapter of “The Ultimate Guide on Source to Pay Implementation”. The guide is a 12-part series developed by Xoomworks Procurement experts to help companies on their procurement transformation journey. Click here to view our 12-part guide.