To kick-off the series of voted sessions for ProductCamp Sydney 2012, Nick Coster and Adrienne Tan, the co-founders of Brainmates, facilitated a discussion about the Launch Planning stage of the product lifecycle. Product Managers and Product Marketers alike universally agreed that Launch Planning is one of the most important stages of the product lifecycle, yet there appears to be the highest level of uncertainty and risk of failure at this stage in the product lifecycle.
Does Your Organisation Leave Launch Planning to the End?
Through many of our client projects and anecdotal evidence, we find that many organisations leave Launch Planning to the last stages of the product development process when the product is almost ready to be launched. The discussion group was in agreement with our experience. We all agreed that the rush through the Launch Planning process leads to sub-optimal results and potentially disastrous product launch where the nasty surprises could have been mitigated through planning.
What Does Launch Planning Involve?
The Launch Planning stage is defined as the stage that follows the Market Planning Stage, and should start before the Product Design and Development stages in an ideal world. Adrienne opened up the group discussion by sharing her view that there are essentially three distinct phases of ‘Launch’:
1. Launch Planning – includes the preparation of internal guides, training material and collateral for all client facing roles including sales, customer care, as well as operations and other functions such as legal and regulatory teams.
2. Launch Activities – include running test pilots with sample size (s), alpha/beta releases to representatives of various groups of users – all with the intention of minimising potential risk of product and organisational failure.
3. Launch Event – when the product or feature is integrated into the business and available for the target market to interact with and/or consume.
The group debated whether features incrementally introduced to a market in an Agile Development environment are considered to be a ‘Launch Event’ each time, albeit small. The conclusion that we reached was ‘yes’, as long as the product or feature has been integrated, at least nominally by the business and “Launch” ends after the original product objectives have been measured.
Don’t Forget These Other Items on Your Launch Checklist
The group weighed in collectively to come up with the following list of activities that get neglected to be included in the Launch Checklist (in no particular order):
- Developing an Operations Guide
- Creating and updating a ‘Product Backgrounder’ and any collateral to be shared internally
- Creating internal alignment
- Briefing the Call Centre
- Advising partners up/down the value chain of any anticipated changes
- Communicating with Legal, Regulatory and Finance Teams
- Invoicing and Invoice Planning
- Running Product Operations and Sales Training, including Train-the-Trainer activity to kick-off a viral training within an organisation, particularly for a large customer-facing workforce or multiple channels
- ‘Disaster’ & Capacity Planning
- Cleaning up old content and features on digital applications
- Planning the Grandfathering of redundant products and services
- Migration planning for in-market products
- Creating reporting and measurement processes
- Analysing the reporting results post-launch
- Summarising ‘Lessons Learnt’
- Updating your CV with this latest product launch achievement (or to prepare for an quick boot out of your role!)
- Organising the Launch Party!
Final Thoughts – Start Launch Planning ASAP
The key takeaway from this invaluable discussion is for us all to start the Launch Planning process as soon as possible. It’s not too early to carry it out in parallel with the Product Design and Development Stage. A well-coordinated Launch Plan and subsequent Launch Activities, prior to the Launch Event, starting soon after Market Planning, means decreased risk for your organisation. What more could a Product Manager want: guaranteed higher levels of short term and longer term sustainable successful competitive products that rollout without a hitch, and much less stress!
What have you learnt from past experience when launching a new product or feature? Let us know if you have any other thoughts on what tends to be neglected in the Launch Checklist and we’ll add it to the above list.