Why You Need a Predictable Release Cycle
Sep 26, 2023
You know that feeling when you're waiting on something important but have no idea when it's actually going to arrive? The anticipation builds as the days drag on, and your productivity starts to suffer as you constantly check for updates. Your customers feel the same way when you're working on new features or products but stay silent for months. A predictable release cycle is the solution to keep everyone in the loop and moving forward.
Benefits of a Consistent Release Cycle
A release cadence refers to the frequency and consistency with which a company communicates updates, new features, and releases of their product. Having a predictable release cycle, whether weekly, biweekly or monthly, provides many benefits.
A predictable release cycle has some major benefits for your company and customers.
Internally, it creates urgency and accountability. Teams know a release is coming up fast, so they're focused on what needs to get done. It also ensures important features don't get pushed off indefinitely. If something doesn't make it into this month's release, it has to be prioritized for next month. This continuous cycle forces ongoing discussions about what will provide the most value to customers.
Externally, a steady release cadence shows momentum and progress. Customers can anticipate new updates, features or fixes on a regular schedule. They see you're actively improving the product and not just sitting idle. This builds confidence in the product's future and your company's vision.
Staying on Schedule
To keep a consistent release cycle, strict planning and discipline are required. Map out key dates in advance and work backwards to set deadlines for tasks and milestones. Hold regular meetings to check progress and make sure everything is on track. If delays come up, be willing to cut scope or push other less critical items to a future release. The key is avoiding slippage, even if it means releasing a scaled-back version. Your customers and company will thank you for the predictability.
In the end, a steady release cadence leads to a virtuous cycle of productivity, accountability and customer satisfaction. Once you establish the rhythm, the benefits to your team and users will be clear. The urgency it creates can be demanding, but also motivating. And there's no better feeling than delivering on your promises, release after release.
How to Create an Effective Release Cadence
A predictable release cadence refers to sticking to a regular schedule for updating your customers on new product releases, features, and updates. For many companies, a monthly or weekly release cycle works well. Why is this important?
It builds urgency and accountability.
Internally, a consistent release schedule forces your team to plan well and work efficiently to meet deadlines. Externally, it shows your customers and the market that you're actively improving your product and committed to progress.
It sets the right expectations.
Your customers and stakeholders will come to expect updates on a regular basis and be anticipating new announcements. Surprise releases or long delays can damage trust and satisfaction. Meet their expectations by delivering on your promised schedule.
It keeps momentum going.
Releasing on a predictable schedule, whether weekly, biweekly or monthly, demonstrates that your company has energy, drive and forward progress. Your product is continuously improving, and you have a steady stream of new value to provide to your customers.
To implement an effective release cadence:
Choose a cadence that works for your team and product. This could be weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly. Start conservatively and you can always increase the frequency.
Plan updates and features well in advance. Don’t wait until the week of the release to decide what’s going to be included. Map out themes for each release on a roadmap. Leave buffer room for unexpected issues.
Draft comprehensive release notes. Explain the changes, additions and fixes in detail for your users. Capture screenshots when relevant. Be transparent about any known issues.
Test thoroughly before releasing. Make sure all new features are working as intended and no new bugs were introduced. Get feedback from beta users if possible.
Monitor reactions and make adjustments. Pay attention to user feedback on the latest release. Be prepared to make quick fixes or changes based on issues that come up. Learn from each release cycle and improve the process for next time.
Market and promote the release. Build excitement by announcing the news via your product, blog, newsletter, social media and other channels. Engage your users and encourage them to explore the new content.
Stay consistent. Don’t skip or delay releases unless absolutely necessary. Your users and team will come to rely on the predictable schedule. Make it a habit and part of your product culture.
A consistent release cadence is a key ingredient for building a product culture focused on continuous improvement, customer experience and marketplace momentum. Implement it well, and you'll gain a real competitive advantage.
Examples of companies doing it well
If you want to build trust and loyalty with your customers, implementing a predictable release cycle is key. Several companies are excelling at this, providing great examples to follow.
GitLab releases updates to their product on the 22nd of each month, like clockwork. They call it their “22nd of the month” strategy. This predictability allows their users to plan ahead for new features and updates. It also creates a sense of momentum for GitLab, as their users know to expect continued progress and improvements each month.
Released is a Jira app that helps you generate release notes from your Jira tickets. Every Thursday they announce product updates via their changelog and in-app widget. Their weekly cadence and consistency has gained them a loyal following. Users know they can expect a roundup of the latest updates every week.
Even huge companies like Apple benefit from a predictable release schedule. Apple’s annual iPhone announcement event and updates to iOS, watchOS, and macOS provide anticipation and excitement for customers. The yearly refresh cycle also gives customers confidence that Apple is consistently improving their products.
Establishing your own regular release schedule, whether monthly, quarterly or annually, builds trust in your brand and products. Your customers come to rely on and look forward to the latest updates and announcements. Internally, it also provides deadlines to work towards and a sense of urgency.
While a predictable release cycle may not work for every company, when utilized well, it can be a win-win for both organizations and their customers. The key is picking a cadence that matches your company's pace of progress and sticking to it consistently.
Tools to Help Manage Your Release Communications
Once you have a predictable release cycle in place, leverage tools to help manage the process. These tools ensure your communications are consistent, thorough and on-schedule.
A shared team calendar is essential for planning your release communications. Map out key dates for drafting content, reviews, approvals and publication. Set deadlines for each step to keep everyone accountable.
Released for example has a weekly go/no-go meeting where the team determines what features will make the release and which ones might be pushed to next week.
Create templates for your different release communications like blog posts, newsletters or social media updates. Templates make it easy to replicate a consistent format and voice. They also minimize the effort required each cycle by pre-filling relevant but repeatable content. Just update the details specific to that release.
Review and approval workflow
Establish a clear workflow for drafting, reviewing and approving your release communications. Publish to Confluence, Slack or other collaboration tools for early feedback and to share what's coming up. Set deadlines for each step of the workflow. Enabling commenting on drafts facilitates giving and receiving feedback. Once approved, content can be published automatically.
Review key metrics on how your release communications are performing. Measure factors like views, clicks, shares and comments. Look at what content is resonating most with your audience. Apply these learnings to make improvements to future communications. Analytics help demonstrate the impact of your efforts to stakeholders and identify opportunities for optimization.
Using tools to organize your release management leads to a well-oiled communications machine. A shared calendar keeps everyone on the same page, content templates minimize effort, an approval workflow moves drafts efficiently to publication. These tools transform your predictable release cycle into a competitive advantage.
When you establish a consistent cadence of updates, you create urgency and accountability. Teams work hard to meet deadlines and customers come to expect the steady stream of improvements.
Externally, you build momentum and show progress to keep your audience engaged. People want to see companies actively developing and enhancing products, not sitting idle. A predictable release cycle demonstrates you're constantly innovating and committed to regular upgrades.
The benefits of a predictable release cycle are clear. Implementing one may require process changes and extra effort upfront, but the payoff in the long run is well worth it. Give your teams a deadline to work toward and your customers a reason to keep coming back. Start today by picking a frequency that works for your business and stick to it. You'll quickly transform the culture, exceed customer expectations, and build unstoppable momentum. Pretty soon, you'll wonder how you ever worked any other way!
Subscribe to our newsletter
Get the top articles of the month, delivered to your inbox.