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Michael is a founder of TargetProcess (agile project management software). His Mission is to provide solutions to real problems in agile projects. He wrote several books about web development and many articles related to almost all aspects of software development. Michael is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 48 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Product Development: Frequent Releases vs. Major Releases

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Yesterday we had quite a hot discussion about releases schedule in TargetProcess. There are two main options how you can release functionality:

  • Release as soon as something is ready (even a single feature).
  • Release periodically, let’s say 4 releases per year.


Which approach is better? Everyone in agile movement will vote for the first approach. It is clearly a waste to hold a done feature in the backpack without making it public. Every marketer says that release should be a significant event with solid preparation to explain why this release is cool and how it helps to solve real life problems.

In general, it seems  there’s a Development vs. Marketing opposition.

Development wants something quick, off we go, collect feedback and improve.
Marketing wants something big enough and predictable, to prepare all materials and promotion.

I must confess, there is no clear answer to this question. As a developer I want to release feature asap. As a product owner I want to release feature asap, but understand that without major releases customers/leads may have a feeling that there were no significant changes in product over a long period of time. Is this a real problem? I don’t know.

I believe that Marketing should adopt somehow to frequent releases and change strategy to use this as an advantage. How?  This is something we should find out.

Published at DZone with permission of Michael Dubakov, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



dennis sellinger replied on Thu, 2011/01/20 - 4:26pm

To release software in many releases seems to me to be a real problem (and not just a marketing ploy). I am in the process of planning software releases for a new product and I assure you that this is not as easy as it seems.
1. Most companies plan software installations. Very few just download the latest version and let er' rip in production.
2. You have to plan which versions of your software you support. One customer may not be ready to go upgrade to a new version, but needs a bug fix for the version he has. So you have to be able to apply bug fixes across a number of versions for your software.
3. Your support and training have to be in place for the new features you deliver or your support staff will be going crazy trying to come to grips with customer calls.
Perhaps these issues are less evident for server products this is less of a problem, but my experience is that version roll outs for commercial software is a very controlled process - even for server software. Throwing out a new release every week will only drive your support staff crazy and in the end only "bleeding edge" users will be trying out the latest and the greatest.
In addition, product roll out and versioning have very little to do with agile development. This agile process tells you how to develop your software, but offers very little help in version management. You have to plan this. Just letting your product version unfold basically means that your product support will suffer.

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