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Release Notes


A Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a compilation of several complicated as well as simple stages. The process of developing a software initially starts with planning and management, and ends with the user end testing and product release. Once developed and tested completely, a product is ready for its release in the software industry. The last stage of SDLC may seem quite insignificant as the product is finally delivered to the client or the end user, however, product release is as significant and important as any other stage of software development cycle. It is this stage that represents the whole development and testing process of the software and validates its quality, functionality, effectiveness, performance and more. Release note is an essential part of this stage and is used to deliver all the relevant information about the project and the completed software to the client as well as to all the related stakeholders. To understand more about ‘release note’ and its importance, here is a detailed analysis of the same.

What is Release Note?

Documenting the release of the product is as indispensable as the development or testing process. However, this integral part of Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is usually avoided by organisations all over the world. Release note is a necessary document that is prepared before the fully developed and tested product is released for the use of the client and the end user. This document is released as part of the final build and it contains information about the new enhancements that are done as part of that release. Also, it provides details of the known issues that were encountered by the development and testing team, while developing and testing the product.

The importance of these release notes is immense, as they are the communication documents shared with clients. Moreover, these documents are usually written by technical writers in the present tense and they consist of brief as well as detailed information about the project’s development process. A release note is usually a terse summary of recent changes, enhancements, and bug fixes in a particular software release and it provides information that is clear, correct and complete. However, one should not confuse release note with the user guides, as it is not a substitute for the latter.

Release Notes Format:

  • Header: Here the document is introduced as the “Release Note”. It also consists of details like, product name, release number, release date, note date, note version, and more.
  • Project Overview: The technical writer includes an overview of the product, along with the information about the recently made modifications and changes in the software version.
  • Purpose of the Note: The purpose of the release note is described briefly, with a listing of what is new in this release. This also includes bug fixes and new features.
  • Summary of Issues Encountered:Includes a short description of all the bugs encountered while testing the software as well as the enhancement in the release.
  • Steps to Reproduce: These steps are followed when bug is encountered.
  • Resolution:A small description about the modifications or enhancements done in order to fix a bug.
  • End-User Impact: Here the different actions that are needed by the end-users of the application are mentioned. Moreover, this should include whether other functionality is impacted by the initiated changes.
  • Contact: The support contact information is provided here.

Things to Consider While Creating Release Note

As release note is an integral part of software development process, it should be prepared with great care and evaluation. While preparing a release note, the team of technical writers should take care of some vital points, to ensure that no unnecessary information or data is included in the note. Moreover, they should make a point of all the things that needs more attention and those that are not as important as others. Some of the things that should be considered while preparing a product release note are:

  1. Audience: The most important factor that needs attention while preparing a release note is the audience it is addressed to. Who will be reading this product release note is extremely important and therefore, technical writers should construct this note with great care and by keeping the audience in mind.
  2. Understanding the Current State of Release Management: Before initiating the preparation of release note, one should understand the condition of the development and testing environment, as well as ensure that every detail about the project is well maintained and abreast with latest changes and modifications.
  3. Timing of the Release Note: Timing is another important element that needs attention of the technical writer, while preparing product release note. Details like, when the release note is required; the day of release; and more, should be used to schedule release note around the deployment of the product, to allow time for review among other things.
  4. Editing the Release Note: Before the product and the release note are delivered to the client or the end user, the release note should be properly edited to ensure that all the unnecessary details about the project are omitted carefully.
  5. Establishing a Regular Release Cycle: Once the current state of the release is established, a regular release cycle should be arranged. Through this, one gets an opportunity to meaningfully discuss non-functional testing that the software may need and other important aspects related to the project.

Information Included in a Release Note:

A release note consists of vast amount of important information about the software development and testing process. Therefore, to ensure that preparation of this document is hassle free and is completed without missing any important detail, here is a list of things that should be included in a release note. This list will further assist the technical writer in creating a simple, concise and standard quality release note with all the required information.

  • A Build Identifier helps in keeping track of what changes occurred in all the released products.
  • Instructions for installation should be included in the note if they are short and are required for the product being release. If they are long and detailed, they should be linked to the release note.
  • Updated Instructions should be provided when a full installation is not required. Identify the changes for this release.
  • Advice for testers, which allows them to improve their testing efforts.
  • New and Removed Functionality should also be included.
  • Implementation Notes, Fixes and Issues.

Advantages of Creating a Release Note:

Release notes are a pivotal piece of project documentation that aren’t often created. They can increase the project’s efficiency by establishing expectations. By including a list of recognized complications, one enable Quality Control (QC) to centre their testing efforts on relevant features that were related to testing. Additionally, they can refrain from wasting valuable QC hours investigating and reporting problems that were already identified. Other benefits of creating a release note are as follows:

  1. Release note becomes a mode of communication between the software developers and the client, which further ensures transparency between all the stakeholders.
  2. It provides simplified and detailed information about the process of software development.
  3. Information regarding detected issues and ways of resolving them is provided in the release note.
  4. Efforts put in by the team of developers and testers is also described, which represents their dedication towards work and the project.
  5. It also plays the role of end user document, user guide and training material.
  6. Allows clients and stakeholders to understand the development and testing process.
  7. Release notes can also contain test results and information about the test procedure.

Conclusion

In this day and age, people need minutest information about each and every thing that they use or purchase. Similarly, when a user uses a software, they want to know everything about it, such as, its features, functionality, performance and more. Release note is a document that is delivered to the client or the end user along with the completed software product. Its main aim is to provide correct, complete and clear information related to the software development and testing process as well as its release. This document, though is considered insignificant by the majority of people is immensely important, as it plays the role of end-user documentation, user guide and training materials. Furthermore, these notes also contain test results and information about the test procedure, which gives readers of the release note more confidence in the fix/change done and enables implementer of the change to conduct rudimentary acceptance tests easily. Therefore, if one wants to build a transparent and trustworthy business relationship with clients and end users, they should always prepare a release note of the released product.