Launch is critical
Once a tech business reaches a certain trajectory, product launch becomes something more than a rare occurrence. It becomes a yearly or quarterly one. Perhaps even a monthly occurrence.
At this point, if you aren’t doing launches well, you’re headed for trouble. That’s obvious.
But even if you’re doing them well (in terms of results), if they’re causing excessive effort and churn, that’s not great either. It will catch up to you and your organization.
Product launch is like an engine – if not running well, everything suffers.
The launch strategy above all the others
So how do you make your product launches run at a high – even world-class – level?
Most think it starts with strategy. They are correct. But most think of strategy in terms of what will be done for launch promotion, awareness and PR. That’s needed and is super important for any particular launch.
But what gets missed is that there’s an even higher level strategy. It’s about establishing a launch program that codifies your launch philosophy and operating principles at the company level. This means putting in place the right processes and best practices that are thought-out, documented and revisited.
Without a launch program, every launch will require more effort and churn – and will deliver weaker results over time. But if you have one in place, you free teams to focus on being creative and bold for any launch – rather than reinventing the wheel by thinking through fundamentals each time.
If a product launch program is that ultimate strategy, what are the best practices to get one in place?
Here’s 5 essential steps based on our experience:
1. Engage stakeholders to build it. When you build your launch program, you must do so with your stakeholders in development, sales and marketing. Best is to show up with a starting framework – if you have it – but use it to engage stakeholders for their partnership in shaping, validating and building it out. That gets buy-in and skin in the game. And makes for a better program.
2. Develop launch principles. This is very important. Launch principles cover the operating fundamentals that form a contract between stakeholders and will allow decentralized decision making – all critical factors for an effective and adaptable program. The key is keeping the principles tight (think no more than 3 or 4) and important (which means, hard thinking needed).
3. Document it. Unless you document your program, you lose it if key people move on. Also, to get everyone on board you need it documented. Consider multiple formats – presentation, FAQ, a training video – based on different audiences.
4. Communicate it. You got stakeholders on board and you’ve documented it. But you can’t stop there. Make one person accountable for communicating the program internally. And once done, don’t think you won’t need to communicate it again. Turnover and employee growth means you must frequently on-board new people with the program.
5. Revisit it. This doesn’t mean a complete bottoms-up rethink of your program after each launch. But each launch should have a de-brief. This allows you to build in tweaks and will often mean you don’t need a big program restructure at a future date. Never think the program is frozen – it should get better over time by adjusting for changes and what you learn.
Yes, there’s more that you will have to do and consider for a truly robust program that repeatedly delivers world-class product launches.
But even if you just take these 5 steps seriously and act on them, you’ll be further along than the majority of tech companies – and your results will prove it.