In the typical product life-cycle, the product manager has to adapt to the different phases of the product, from definition to development to production to maintenance. this post will suggest actions on one of the most critical points in the life-cycle – the sprints before going live to production with a new product. Fortunately I had the opportunity to accompany products in the last phase of development, both in a small startup and in a big company. The road to production can be very long, it’s up to the PM to make sure the road is as short as possible, here are my notes.
- Velocity is the key – Like in any sprint, velocity is a key ingredient is the success of the product launch, it is really important to manage it, in a startup it’s the way to manage burn-rate and investors expectations, in a big company, the date you will set for the launch will stick to you more than your name, if the product will fail to launch you can lose your credibility with your business partners and that’s a hard thing to recover from. my tip here is to increase velocity check ups in the last sprint to once a day, rondeau with the R&D chief and QA unofficially by the end of each day to make sure you know what and how to prioritize in the daily meeting the next day. Know all the bugs and make sure that only mission critical bugs are taken care of, leave the rest for post launch.
- Requirements – Although you reviewed the business logic with the team a number of times, and it’s all written down in the PRD and explained perfectly with flowcharts and scenarios, Do it again. The previous times you reviewed the business logic with the dev-team was probably before they coded, it’s amazing to see how things can be lost in translation in the development cycle and lose touch with the main reason why we are developing the product – its revenue source. My tip here is to go over the logic at least two times, make sure everybody is onboard and understand the revenue stream, especially the QA whose main responsibility is to limit to none the surprises in production – He is a key person to help you deliver the product as expected.
- Bugs – QA is one of the most important stakeholder to the delivery process, one of the problems is that most QA people I worked with tend to seek perfection, in the launch day the product is not perfect, we will find hiccups in production probably and that’s ok, as long as we can fix it in time, it is really important to make sure that only show-stoppers, mission critical bugs are in the sprint and all the rest – from minor to major, are put aside for later, the time will come and if it’s not critical just let it be.
- Team Spirit – The team has been working very hard to get the product on time and in most cases did overtime and put their all in this product. Although it’s not your direct role to keep them happy, make sure the feel your appreciation, keep telling them the importance of going live and making revenues, it will help, trust me.
- Integrations – in some cases, your product will need to integrate in an existing product or service from another part of the company, this can be a problem, even a big one if not planned right, my tip here is to plan the integrations as soon as possible, make sure you have a physical design that both sides agree on, and Gantt your way into the critical points knowing that every setback will be a huge risk.
- What’s next? – even if the roadmap is not neatly planned, It is more important to have the product out than to work on next iterations. In most cases the first post-launch sprint will be mainly around making the system more stable and fixing bugs, you will have time to work on the next version soon enough, focus on the real important thing – going live.
- Risks – the list above is basically a list of risks and my tips on how to mitigate it. The last tip and probably the most important one is to identify the risks in your road to production and make sure you know how to mitigate them, even if, god forbid, the launch will delay, you will know how and what needs to be done to get on route as soon as possible.
To conclude, the Road to Production can be long and painful, but it can be fun and joyful, If you want to be fully prepare my best tip is to do this list of tasks along the way. Don’t wait for the last sprint to get closure, get it done along the way and you will see that the last sprint will be as joyful as the rest, just make sure you pack well and enjoy the ride.