Why are release notes/change logs important?

I got involved in a Twitter/X conversation about whether release notes/change logs are important. It started with this post:

I can understand this sentiment from a consumer perspective. But after having spent 14 years delivering enterprise sales software, I believe release notes are undervalued at most software companies.

(Note: I’m using “release notes” and “change logs” interchangeably here.)

Release notes are important in enterprise software to the admin in charge of the software that you’ve sold to them. Because eventually, someone important above them (think: a VP or higher, often not directly in their reporting chain) will ask, “WTF! This software was working and now it isn’t. Admin, did the vendor change something?”

Admin then has to go figure it out. This is outside of their normal workday and set of responsibilities. Best case for the admin, they look at the change log, see that something did indeed change (and ideally for the better), and can copy/paste that back to the Important Person. Then they can go back to looking at Tiktok videos in between checking email.

The less good case for the admin is that they don’t find anything in the release notes. They then have to reach out to support/CSM and try to figure out what is going on. This takes time and adds to their work. They don’t like that.

If you can provide thorough, accurate release notes, this can increase the chance that the Admin hits the “best case” described above.

Some additional thoughts:

  • The more critical the software is in a revenue-generating workflow, the more watchful the admins will be to the vendor’s change logs/release notes
  • Many companies don’t bother with detailed App Store change logs, because they publish these directly in their product and away from competitors eyes. You wouldn’t believe how much critical information we gleaned from competitors about their product capabilities and core focus simply by watching what they published to their public change logs
  • Around 20-30% of our client admins overall watched our change logs at Mediafly. In some industries, that number was 100%