Launch a Product – Step 4: Hard Choices
This is the fourth in a series called “What does it takes to launch a Product?” and this entry focuses on the hard choices that need to be made between Product Management (Product Owner) and other stakeholders. There is never enough time, resources or money to deliver everything that is desired in a product. But in order to actually launch something – to get the product out the door – difficult choices need to be made. Here are three rules to help with the process:
Don’t build for the 1% (or 10% or maybe 20%)
This is one of the most difficult rules to adopt and live by because it is in our human nature to solve problems. But in order to get the product out of the design phase and into the marketplace, you have to be willing to say “yes, that might happen, but the odds are low so we will handle them manually or not at all.” Here is an example – what if a customer places an order for a product they already have. Will we issue an immediate refund? Will we notify them via e-mail? Will we convert them to another product? Before you build a complex, automated solution consider how often this will happen. If it is an ‘edge case’ or something that will not be a common occurrence, put a manual process in place and move on. Some in your company will probably fight you on this saying that it will be it harder for operations or customer service and that is true. The trade-off should be worth it because new products should equal new revenue and revenue solves most problems. Honestly, if a manual work-around really becomes cumbersome, it can always be automated post-launch. (Lean Product Development calls this the Minimum Viable Product or MVP.)
Do build for the sure-thing
If you have an existing customer that expresses an interest in the new product, but they need one new feature to seal the deal, it is probably wise to build it. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Now, if that feature won’t be used by any other prospects, or it is difficult and time-consuming or if the customer is questionable in their profitability or willingness to pay, then obviously, all of those factors need to be considered. If adding the feature is relatively simple and will ensure an early sale, then go for it. You can even negotiate with the customer that if you add their desired feature, then they will provide a quote, testimonial or case study. It could turn out to be a win-win.
The death of many product launches isn’t bad decisions, it is no decisions. Product Management is not for the faint of heart and there will be many times when PMs are faced with limited information and limited time for the necessary decision. Make it anyway. Be as educated and deliberate as possible, but press forward. We have all heard of ‘paralysis by analysis’ and that can absolutely kill a product. If you find yourself getting stymied with a pending decision, the best way to overcome it is to set a date to make the call. Gather all of the intelligence and data that you can before the stated date and then gather the appropriate decision makers and do not leave the room until you have a decision.
What does it take to launch a product? It takes a willingness to make hard choices, to build wisely and to be decisive. With discipline and desire, that product that is making you crazy can get out the door and start generating revenue.
Originally posted on a now defunct site on 4/9/13
Image Source: iStockPhoto