Several years ago at a conference I saw a presentation on “continuous delivery.” This cloud based software provider had no releases, they just continually rolled out changes. While I don’t think we nor our customers are ready for something like that, I have been quite interested in seeing if there are elements of our system where we could try this out if it benefited our end users. With Jennifer Escamilla assuming her new role this past year as Escape Online 5 Product Manager, one of her tasks was to see how we could take advantage of the concept.
BOB: So Jennifer, today we launched a new release process. Can you tell us a little about it?
JENNIFER: It’s for reports, and for those reports and changes to them that basically “stand alone,” i.e. they aren’t dependent on other system changes.
BOB: How often will we make the new report releases available?
JENNIFER: We are beginning with report releases twice per month on the second and fourth Wednesday.
BOB: What’s the real benefit to our users?
JENNIFER: Our quarterly releases are huge – often 150+ fixes and enhancements. When someone submits a nice enhancement to a report, it may take two release cycles to see the enhanced report, which is over six months. There’s really no reason for this other than that is how we have done it until now. Our system has over 500 reports and our end users run them millions of times per year. So you can imagine how important ongoing enhancements are to them.
BOB: But we don’t always take that long to get critical report fixes out, right?
JENNIFER: Right. If a report has a bug, or any significant error, we usually fix these immediately, and distribute to customers through a process called a “patch.” These will basically go away since report releases will be happening twice a month now.
BOB: Will the QA process for reports change?
JENNIFER: Not at all, reports are QA’d just like every fix and enhancement in a release. The difference is in how soon we get the updated/new report into users’ hands.
BOB: Is this going to be a lot of work for system managers?
JENNIFER: We have made the process quite simple. We are sure they will be excited to get new and enhanced reports to all their users with just a few clicks. And like we just mentioned, report patches will be eliminated or greatly reduced. We are also going to conduct a webinar for our system managers to brief them on the new report release process and answer all questions they may have.
BOB: What about report changes that go along with major changes, like the recent ACA enhancements we did?
JENNIFER: Those types of report additions/enhancements will continue to go along with regular general releases.
BOB: How are users going to know about the bi-monthly report releases, i.e. which reports are new or have been affected?
JENNIFER: Just like the general releases you will be receiving an email from Escape letting you know the report release is available. Users know they'll find updated and important information in the Online Resources area of our system. We have a new activity there - Report Release Information - which will be updated with each report release.
“I really like the look of this new ReqPay90 report. I especially like the fact that it's a simple to read listing, and I love the way it includes checks cancelled after the end date of the report. Thanks to you and everyone else at Escape who worked to get this new report developed.” ~ Administrative Clerk, COE Business Office
BOB: Will we see other types of more frequent releases from Escape in the future?
JENNIFER: Some elements of our system don’t “break away” as easily from the structured release process like reports do. Nevertheless, the sooner we can get enhancements that have been properly QA’d into our users’ hands, the happier we all are. So we are using this as our first foray. Working with our customers, we will see where we can go from there.
BOB: Great job Jen, both Escape and our customers are benefitting from your new role as Product Manager.
JENNIFER: Thanks Bob, I’m looking forward to working with our customers on this new process. We will adjust as necessary and make great progress like we always do.