Product Management 101 [Part 4]: Launching a Product or Feature
"If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late."
- Reid Hoffman
Getting your product or feature into the hands of your users is one of the most rewarding feelings in the profession, and it can also be one of the most stressful parts of the job! But there are a few things you can do as a Product Manager on the lead up to launching your product or feature that can make this process a lot less daunting and way more enjoyable then it already is.
In this fourth and final post on Product Management 101 we're going to dive into the benefits of keeping the Product/Feature scope slim for your initial launch and managing rollout featuring some lessons I'm still learning in setting deadlines on launch.
Thanks for checking out the Product Management 101 series. Appreciate the support!
Keeping Scope Slim for Initial Product Launches
As a product manager, you're often on the ground with customers, understanding problems to clearly define for the teams you work with, analysing your competitors and trying to understand the movements of the industry you're in, so it's no surprise that at times it's easy to fall into a trap of scope creep as you try and juggle the needs of your customers and the objectives of the business.
In my experience you can avoid this scope creep most of the time by clearly defining your initiatives from the outset, and ensuring you refer back to the intended outcomes of your initiative constantly throughout the development process. By maintaining a sharp focus on the problem you want to solve and keeping scope as slim as possible often means a less complex feature release which should bring less risk.
And when you deliver a less complex feature your customers can start using you and your teams amazing work sooner, providing you with valuable feedback that can guide your product to even greater success.
Like a lot of the tips I've provided, when it comes to actually rolling the product out to customers there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible, but the number one thing is preparation.
Outlining a rollout plan during the initiative planning stage is something (embarrassingly) only just started to experiment with, and the more I dive into it the more I think it's a crucial step in ensuring your product or feature is reaching your customer as seamlessly as possible. A well-defined rollout plan allows you to manage the launch process effectively, anticipate potential challenges, and mitigate risks along the way.
And depending on the size of the feature it may make sense to release your product in phases, starting with a small group of users and gradually expanding to larger sets of customers. This approach allows you to gather feedback early in the development cycle, giving you opportunity to make adjustments and improvements before a full launch.
But I think what ties these points all together is something a lot of teams struggle with - establishing clear timelines for rollout. By setting realistic but optimistic deadlines for each stage of the rollout process, you can create accountability and ensure that the launch stays on track and actually gets out there. I still haven't nailed this point for every feature I work on, but I'm getting better! A lesson I keep on needing to remind myself of is that with an ambiguous deadline you're likely not going to get too far along in your rollout. So set hard deadlines and stick to them. And when they're missed ensure you spend the time in doing a retrospective of the rollout so you can learn even more lessons for future rollouts!
Successful product rollout relies on preparation, which includes outlining a rollout plan during the initiative planning stage, considering a phased approach for releasing complex products, and setting clear and realistic deadlines.
Ultimately, the aim of the game is all about staying focused, nimble, and dedicated to delivering the best possible experience for your customers. And in doing so you're going to be rewarded with the lifeblood of all product teams...feedback. Which ultimately leads to iterations and more opportunities to provide even more value to your customers.
Resources & References
- "In defence of cutting scope" - Faster Times
- "Defining initiatives with an outcome mindset" - Faster Times
- "Why Phased Rollouts Are The Key To Better Product Launches" - Dev Cycle
- "How to create a timeline for a successful product launch in 24 steps- even if you don’t have a product yet" - ConvertKit
- "12 Product Launch Success Strategies" - The Product Manager
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