Comparison of release engineering practices in a large mature company and a startup

Eero Laukkanen*, Maria Paasivaara, Juha Itkonen, Casper Lassenius

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
261 Downloads (Pure)


Modern release engineering practices provide multiple benefits for software companies, but organizations have struggled when trying to adopt the most advanced practices, such as continuous delivery. It is not known in which contexts the most advanced practices are applicable and what can be achieved by adopting them. In this study, we discuss the effect of the organizational context on adopted release engineering practices and what outcomes are achieved with the practices. We study two organizational contexts: the startup and the large mature company context. The effect of the product context is mitigated by studying two case organizations with similar products, a rare research opportunity. We performed 18 interviews with various roles in the case organizations. The number of production environments, the number of customers, the control over the production environment, the available resources, the organization size and the distribution of the organization affected the release engineering practices and the ability to release frequently. Having less internal verification and more customer verification enabled fast feedback and customer experimentation in the startup context, but increased the number of production defects. However, having more internal verification in the large mature company context surprisingly did not prevent production defects. The organizational context had a large effect on how achievable modern release engineering practices, such as continuous delivery, were. In the startup context, the lack of resources was the main factor hindering the improvement of release engineering practices, while in the large mature company context, the number of stakeholders and products were the main factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3535-3577
Number of pages43
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Case study
  • Continuous delivery
  • Continuous integration
  • Release engineering
  • Startup


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  • N4S: Need for Speed

    Lassenius, C., Itkonen, J., Paasivaara, M., Laukkanen, E., Heikkilä, V. & Lehtinen, T.


    Project: Business Finland: Strategic centres for science, technology and innovation (SHOK)

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