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We're about to go live with a new version of our system. It's getting really close to Christmas. I work in a very small company. Everyone will be on leave or sporadically available over the next week or so.

I've argued with my boss that this is very risky and that we should go live in the new year when everyone is back and when we can provide full support.

He is unflinching - he argues that we need to go live sooner - so that we can get new users and more revenue which we need. The number of new users will be minor amount over the next week or so.

There has been a decent amount of system testing performed on the system. However a new live system, in my experience, needs a lot of care and attention in the first few days.

Am I being pessimistic or realistic?

Update - January: The system did not go live over Christmas. Ongoing system testing revealed various problems. So no support issues to deal with. Still preparing for release...

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closed as too broad by gnat, GlenH7, MichaelT, Robert Harvey, Bart van Ingen Schenau Dec 24 '13 at 9:35

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It depends, how do you feeling about doing support on Christmas day if it fails? –  Jon Hopkins Dec 23 '10 at 12:10
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Is your boss going to go into the office when this fails and the programmers have to go in?? –  Walter Dec 23 '10 at 12:57
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I would be concerned with the lack of stirring creatures especially mice. With everyone nestled all snug in their beds who will be using your software? –  ChaosPandion Dec 23 '10 at 14:22
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It's always a bad idea to release on a(ny) Friday. –  talonx Dec 23 '10 at 14:41
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Bad idea. Unless you've been doing Santa's route planner. –  Kramii Dec 23 '10 at 14:46

11 Answers 11

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Yes, it's bad idea to release software before Christmas. I would hope it's been through some testing so the tires have been kicked a bit, but QA will still suffer due to the timing of the release. Speaking from experience, I've been forced into that position many times and it has never turned out well.

Depending how many customers are impact by it will largely determine how bad it'll really be. Worst case scenario (mine), it impacts a lot of people and you get a call at 3AM Christmas Day (relayed many times by someone overseas [who doesn't celebrate Christmas, this will most likely go through your manager]) to fix it.

I do understand business decisions sometimes and they're not very rational at times. But management (lower levels) are usually cornered and have to make hasty decisions; so when faced with the question, "Do you want it done right or fast?" -- they'll usually choose the latter.

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I used to tell clients that it's an old web developer's superstition that going live on a Friday dooms the project to financial failure. Nobody buys from a site that went live on a Friday.

A surprising number of them believed me.

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good one :) –  Matthieu M. Jan 4 '11 at 20:07

Depends on the target market and what your software does.

For eg: If your software is retailing products that could potentially be sold as christmas / new year gifts, then waiting till the new year could result in a major lost opportunity.

The holiday season (Oct end - Dec) is one of the most productive times of the year for retailers atleast in the US. The amount of revenues earned by retailers on some days (usually known internally as black days - atleast by the IT) sometimes outstrips revenues of other months by comparision

In such a case, the risk (of loss of rep / system not working as expected etc etc) COULD ALL still possibly be worth the potential gains to be had for the business.

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+1, target market is critical; obviously if this were business software it would make no sense to release since all your potential users would be on vacation. On the other hand, if it targets consumers directly... –  Justin Ethier Dec 23 '10 at 14:23
    
I am surprised that the first answer to mention the tradeoff risk/income is so low. Sometimes risks are worth taking. –  Matthieu M. Jan 4 '11 at 20:08

Yes, a new system does require a bit more care and attentions in order to flush out the last few bugs that may not have been caught during testing.

If your business is really needing the new users then the answer is a business decision. If the system breaks, or performs less than optimally, how much will the reputation damage the company over the additional revenue from new customers. If the potential damage is higher than the income from potential customers then I'd say wait until after when you do have the time to nurse the system if need be.

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It's risky, so it's mostly a matter of whether you want to take the risk.

Sometimes it works just fine, but if it doesn't, and there is noone there who can fix the problems or even roll back to the previous version, you will be worse off than not doing the release.

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Did you think about Support ? What if your released Product is buggy and it brings down the customers infrastructure down, will their be sufficient people to give support to your customers. Many companies actually defer from a release just before the holiday season.

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You are being realistic--it is a big risk. However, you can deal with an manage risk. Risk and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. If you avoid something risky, you are giving up an opportunity. The reverse is also true.

You don't have to be super formal with this, but the process is pretty straight forward.

  • List the things that can go wrong
  • List the things that can go right (i.e. potential for more revenue)
  • Do a quick assessment to see what you can do to make things less wrong (the big word is risk mitigation)
  • Do a quick assessment to see what you can do to make things more right (the big word is risk avoidance)
  • Do a quick assessment to identify what has to happen if things do go wrong (i.e. the cost of recovery)
  • Put the plan in action

Essentially the big process folks (like IEEE, CMMI, etc.) will have you convert all these things to money. Basically if the cost of things going wrong outweigh the payoff if things go right, it may or may not be worth it.

It sounds like the manager is willing to accept the risk. Remember that it is his hide on the line, even more than yours. I can appreciate a manager that is willing to make a decision and abide by it. However, you might be able to do some things to make it a little less risky.

I know nothing of your company's business. There may be a strategic reason you are not aware of for the strict go-live date. In contracting, meeting a date with a less than perfect system may be critical to releasing more money from the client to finish things correctly and get follow on work. There are business implications going on here. In short, the business risk of not releasing by Christmas may outweigh the risk of things going wrong with the release.

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I think nobody can stress enough how unrealistic is this.

On Christmas people are on vacations, support will be on minimum, even if everyone on your company is there, other people that you depend on, like your network provider will not.

Remind your boss the Murphy law: "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" There is a reason that this law exists :D

Even though you don't say what type of system is this, if it should be live on Christmas then it is already too late and if it doesn't matter consider that the people that will use it are already on vacations so they probably won't mind if you delay it one more week.

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I think you meant to say "unrealistic" (based on the context of the rest of your answer). And Murphy was an optimist. –  Berin Loritsch Dec 23 '10 at 13:21
    
Good programmers should be pessimistic by default because you always have to code with the idea that "if it can go wrong it will go wrong". –  Dan Diplo Dec 23 '10 at 14:55

Realistic. Every client my company has goes into code freeze at least a week before Christmas.

The only balancing factor I can offer you is that over the christmas period your load will probably be low and the system could survive.

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Surprisingly, this is the strategy, some people accept. The reason is no one will be there to test the software or to accept it. You will look good on paper saying that "Release before christmas." If bugs will found out, it will be after the Christmas. Your customer can also be happy because they can work straight directly after the Christmas. I am not saying this is a good strategy. But I have heard of this strategy from a colleague who was handling our third-party softwares. Not sure if this was about the major release or beta release.

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For some people/companies a release of software is never advisable!! The level of "risk" should be no different regardless of time of year. If you are worried that it will crash and burn then it indicates a lack of confidence in the testing process. Testing is not only there to find issues but to reduce the risk of them happening.

If anyone releases software without a robust recovery plan (or being able to implement that plan) or satisfactory testing then it is a management issue. It is this that is most likely to cause grief at this time of year

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