So you’ve spent a ton of time designing and developing improvements or a new feature. It’s finally ready for primetime and you deploy the code. Someone (hopefully) published some release notes, or maybe that didn’t happen at all. After all, who owns the release notes? Marketing? Support? Product?
Release notes are often neglected, or simply fail to exist. Defining an owner of the release notes is a critical part of delivering a good customer experience. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of different roles owning the release notes.
When product managers own the release notes
Product managers should have a fresh understanding of the feature or release being deployed. By release day, they’re intimately familiar with the changes at hand. They’re often technical, strong communicators, and great writers. This makes them excellent candidates for writing release notes. Many product managers maintain this responsibility and do it well.
Product managers are busy people. As the team grows, they’re faced with competing priorities, meetings, and making sure deadlines are met and hurdles are overcome. They don’t always have release notes on their mind. Release notes need to be timely. Delivering the right information at the right time is what makes release notes so valuable. If the product manager is dropping the ball when it comes to release notes, it might be time for someone else to take them over.
When marketing owns the release notes
Product marketing managers are usually great writers, and solid communicators. They understand the need for timely communication, and they hopefully have a good understanding of the customers. They understand the value of quality content and can write in a way that resonates with the audience. This is why it’s not uncommon for product marketing teams to own the release notes. After all, release notes are a form of marketing.
Marketing teams don’t always have the strongest understanding of the product. They likely know how things work at a high level, but they might not be acquainted with things at a level where they can truly nail the details required for top-notch release notes. For more technical products, marketing teams might need assistance nailing the language in the release notes.
When customer support or success own the release notes
Customer-facing teams have a lot of empathy for the customers, and they’re usually great writers and communicators too. They understand the impact of surprising customers with jarring changes, so they’re typically honed into the idea of proactively communicating about product changes. Customer-facing teams are also very familiar with the product, making them good candidates for writing the release notes.
Customer support and success teams are pretty busy talking to customers, answering tickets, handling live chat requests, and troubleshooting bugs. This type of work never really ends, there’s always something to be done. The busy, non-stop nature of their day-to-day means release notes might not be the top priority, they could be an afterthought.
So, who should it be?
As you can see, there are pros and cons of each role writing the release notes. Release notes are a team effort. Marketing and support might need a hand-off or a demo of the change before they can successfully write the release notes. Product managers might need a nudge from the support or marketing teams to make sure they’re written on time.
Figure out who should be responsible for making sure the release notes are written, but keep in mind, building software takes a team, and that remains true up through the process of writing the release notes.