Enterprise Mobility Bytes #6 : Balancing the release cycles

How frequently should you release your Mobile/Tablet App? and How frequent should be the bug fix releases?. Of course, the clear answer is, it depends. In this post we will see couple of factors that influence the frequency and what is unpleasant for end users. To start with a baseline on the number of releases, below is the list of companies that focus a lot on the Mobile users*. The number shows the releases made in 2013.

  • Youtube [6]
  • Google+ [7]
  • Pandora [7]
  • ebay [9]
  • Amazon [10]
  • Etsy [11]
  • Flipboard [13]
  • LlinkedIn [14]
  • Facebook [19]
  • Foursquare [20]
  • Uber [25]

You will see that the range of 6 to 25 is huge and average comes to about one release a month. This does not in anyway endorse or suggest that we need to have one release per month. Without revealing the company names, the App release frequency of enterprise side is about 1 release per every 2 months or 6 releases per year. It is not a surprise that the consumer side of the mobile Apps has a greater frequency than the enterprise side.

Recently i heard couple of Product Managers talk about 3 weeks release cycle for their enterprise Apps. They said, they know that this is the only way they make progress on this specific enterprise App. Even without knowing the business context, I said “I would never do a 3 week release cycle for an enterprise App”. While I have no magic number for this company, I know that 3 weeks is definitely not the magic number 🙂 If at all you need to have a frequent release cycle, I would highly suggest 6 weeks cycles for the main releases and probably some bug fix releases in between.

Here’s why?

  • iOS and Android are very common platforms that many enterprises support and this means that you need good time to develop and test both the Apps at the same time.
  • You do want to release iOS and Android Apps at the same time rather than making the users angry about some getting a newer version than others.
  • Release management has some overhead with builds, creating release notes and org. communications, etc…
  • Sales/Pre-sales/Consulting folks need to be updated with “What’s New” in the release. This communication and training takes time.
  • For the base productivity we know that we need to incorporate some slack time in the development process. However, with the shorter release cycles, the slack gets effected and this the team’s morale is effected.
  • The greater the release frequency, greater the number of times the users need to update the App.
  • There is a considerable overhead on the end user to learn the new App features.
  • How much revenue (potential revenue) does the Mobile App generate? If it is significant, then we may increase the frequency to meet the increasing demand. If not, the overheads may far exceed the benefits.

In summary, there is no magic number to know about the frequency of App releases in a year. However, the above factors will help yo determine the frequency. I view “6 weeks” to be the baseline for a healthy system (Dev, QA, Mkt., Sales, Users).

* Note: The number of releases is taken from the revision history of the iTunes per each App as of November 18th 2013.

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