What does it mean to "release" the project deliverables?

What does it mean to "release" the project deliverables, when does this happen, and why does this concept matter?
The term release is used to define when a project deliverable is complete and ready for delivery to the project customer, either internally (to manufacturing or operations, for example) or to an external company or individual. This is one of the final decisions of the project leadership—to determine whether the deliverable meets its original requirements and supported the objectives the project was tasked to achieve. Way too many project deliverables get released before they're truly ready. The customer always needs it now! Or we have to release it now to make our revenue goals, or to save money in IT, or to release the building to its owner, or to begin that new promotional campaign to start raking in new revenue.

But if a project's main deliverables are released before they are truly ready, everyone will pay. The customer will have to live with a buggy product or system. The building may not be ready in every detail for occupancy. All groups may not be ready and willing to use the new business process. The team may not be truly ready to support the new marketing campaign. Whatever type of project you are on and whatever its deliverable, the team has the responsibility to make sure that it is truly ready for release to its ultimate customers.

Using a process for making official releases near the end of the project helps ensure that teams make a thorough evaluation and responsible release of the project's deliverables, based on a thorough understanding of the their true state and readiness to go to customers. Our Release Decision Process Guidelines to help define the methodology you will use to evaluate the readiness of your project deliverables for release. Consider getting the customer to evaluate the deliverables—would they accept the deliverable in its current form, and be glad to "take delivery"? Our example Customer Acceptance Checklist illustrates an example template and process for having the customer involved.

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