The IBM SOCIAL PROGRAM MANAGEMENT product development team always strives to improve our customer and user experience with all of our endeavors. We keep our customers front and center of everything we do, from modernizing our UI design in version 6, to using human centered design for our latest citizen facing Universal Access portal, to our regular outreach to customers so that we understand and can address their pain points. As part of our ongoing work to make the upgrade process easier for our customers we are looking at all aspects of the process. So, along with continually improving the quality of our product using design research, caseworker shadowing, user testing, etc., we also looked at our release notes and worked with our customers to understand how they are consumed during a product release.
For a commercial off the shelf (COTS) product like IBM SOCIAL PROGRAM MANAGEMENT, with its flexible configuration and customization options, it is crucial that our release notes are not only easy to understand and clear, but also provide enough information to help users understand the impact of product changes on their configurations and customizations when they are planning to upgrade. Our release notes included problem statement and brief summary of the technical solution.
We wanted to ensure that our customers were getting the level of information that they needed in the Release Notes. To that end, we gathered feedback from our lab services colleagues who are involved in customer upgrades and implementation, and in 2018, we updated our release notes template to significantly improve the experience for our customers taking on a release. The insights gleaned from the feedback led us to structure the release notes better and introduce steps to reproduce a given problem so the implementation teams could speed up a release by following them while going through regular test cycle. We also made conscious effort to outline any functional or UI impacts to the customers, so that the customers could more quickly and easily see how a release would impact their current customizations and how they could use new features.
Following are the various sections in the new template with brief descriptions about them:
- Short summary of the problem in simple business language so the reader clearly understands what was fixed.
- Highlights the area of the product affected and impact on the user.
User Interface Impact
- A simple Yes or No to indicate if the fix has changed the user interface.
- Some of customers might have training materials & job aids for their users. So if we are changing anything in the user interface such as font, button, colours, position of a UI element, etc., they may need to update their materials as well.
- This field may also guide an upgrade team member to understand if the change needs to be assessed and the user be made aware.
Steps to Reproduce
- These are numbered steps on how to recreate the scenario in the out-of-the-box product.
- Any prerequisite steps such as administration configuration, browser setting, or an environment setup that need to be completed before the actual scenario steps can be performed are listed in the ‘Prerequisite’ section.
- If multiple defects (usually in the same product area) are resolved by the same fix, multiple steps to reproduce may be listed.
- The final step of the steps to reproduce starts with the text “Issue:” to easily identify what the issue being fixed is. It also helps spot the issues easily when there are multiple steps to reproduce.
- Simple description of how the application behaves after the fix.
- An optional section where the more context and details about the resolution can be added. It includes technical details about the fix such as the methods/classes that are updated, source files impacted, and code snippets to help customers.
- Assesses the upgrade impact by keeping any potential customisations by the customers in mind.
- Further upgrade guidance may be provided.
A typical IBM SOCIAL PROGRAM MANAGEMENT release note
We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the IBM SOCIAL PROGRAM MANAGEMENT customers currently consuming the release notes in the new format. For reference, please look at our recently released IBM Social Program Management 126.96.36.199 Refresh Pack release notes.
We also improved our internal guidance for writing the release notes and processes around reviewing them. The guidance in general includes elements of the release notes such as the language used, writing style, use of acronyms, release note classification, etc.
The various levels of release note reviews with updated tooling.
Additional internal guidance is provided for writing and reviewing content for the IBM SOCIAL PROGRAM MANAGEMENT “What’s new guide” which is another artefact that helps a customer in their release upgrade journey, or in some cases helps them understand the value in upgrading to a specific version of the product. It contains a short summary of the new product features introduced in a given release and links to their full documentation. Have a look at our recently released IBM Social Program Management 188.8.131.52 what’s new guide.
Special care is taken every release to also improve the readability of the IBM SOCIAL PROGRAM MANAGEMENT release notes through appropriate HTML mark-up formatting.
We recently reached out to some of our customers to understand their key upgrade pain points and continue to engage with them and our IBM SOCIAL PROGRAM MANAGEMENT lab services colleagues to further improve not only our release notes but also their overall upgrade experience.
Some of the recent feedback such as request for clearer release note classification categories, constitute key elements of our ongoing efforts to improve the upgrade process. So, if you are an existing or prospective IBM SOCIAL PROGRAM MANAGEMENT customer or an implementation engineer that consumes these release notes and have any comments or suggestions with regards to its content, current template, or release upgrades in general, please feel free to contact us. Help us help you!