Five reasons why you must talk about off-cycle releases

16 Jun 2021

In the previous article, you learned how to talk to the business teams about software releases and release schedules. There is one type of release that section did not include – how to talk about off-cycle releases. The off-cycle release is so significant that it deserves a section of its own. This topic is split between two blog posts. This article explains why we should talk about off-cycle releases. The next post will show how to talk about this topic clearly.

What are off-cycle releases?

Off-cycle releases are the release of software into a production environment before the next scheduled release date.

Why do off-cycle releases happen?

The vast majority of off-cycle releases are requested by business stakeholders. The reasons for a request usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • An issue needs fixing and it can’t wait for the next scheduled release
  • An update to meet a time-critical change in the market. (e.g. to support a new opportunity or to correct/avoid a negative situation)
  • A requirement was missed/added to a project and the business wants it finished ASAP
  • Legal or compliance issues
  • The business users are unaware of the formal release processes and schedules

Some off-cycle releases are requested by IT. Usually after the discovery of a critical issue that cannot wait. These are much less common than business requested off-cycle releases.

Why do IT teams need to talk about off-cycle releases with the business teams?

1. To help the business make informed decisions

The main reason to talk to the business teams about off-cycle releases is to help them make informed decisions. Most business decisions are based on getting more value from the result than the sum of time and money expended. No one can make an informed decision about an unscheduled release if they don’t know the details of the time and cost involved.

2. To reduce the number of off-cycle release requests in the future

People don’t usually ask for things they know will cause unnecessary extra work. They also don’t deliberately impact people’s lives or create unnecessary risks for their company. People ask for things when they need them, and they don’t believe there are negative consequences.

If the business teams know about the extra work and risks involved with off-cycle releases, they will ask for them less often.

3. To remove a cause of frustration between Business and IT teams

Off-cycle release requests often end with escalations because the IT teams say no.

The trouble with escalations is that they are lose-lose. There isn’t a result where both IT and business teams are happy:

  • If the off-cycle release is approved, the business team is happy but the IT team is frustrated
  • If the off-cycle release is denied, the IT team is happy but the business team is frustrated

In either case, someone goes home unhappy. This is not a recipe for good relationships between teams.

If IT teams proactively talk about off-cycle releases, the business teams will learn why releasing outside the formal release schedule isn’t a good idea. With this knowledge, the business teams are more informed. They are less likely to request off-cycle releases for low priority items in the future. Fewer requests mean fewer causes of frustration.

4. To improve productivity

Off-cycle releases take hours of work from IT teams and managers. That work is not part of the planned activities and means other development work won’t be done until a later date.

Proactive communication about the impacts of off-cycle releases reduces the number of requests. This, in turn, reduces the impact on planned work. The result is fewer productivity impacts. Which is the same result as having improved productivity.

5. To get back the evenings and weekends spent managing the extra releases

If there was ever a personal reason to proactively communicate with the business about off-cycle releases it is this.

Proactive communication about off-cycle releases helps reduce the frequency of requests. IT teams can help the business make fewer requests. As a result, the IT teams will not have to work extra evenings and weekends to prepare for and manage the releases.

Talking about off-cycle releases isn’t high on many people’s priority lists. Usually, the topic comes up when someone asks for the unscheduled release.


Now you’ve seen some reasons why it helps to be proactive. It is good to talk about the off-cycle releases before someone asks for one.