‘How to Launch a Product’ Blog Series: Determining the Type of Release

Here at ReadyTalk, we use two methods in development – Agile and Lean, and depending on the type of development methodology used, we treat launches a little bit differently.

For Agile, we do a typical launch plan and work closely with Product Management and Marketing to execute on key deliverables. For Lean, our Product Strategists generally handle these launches as we are more likely to be in an Alpha or Beta phase, being sure to test products as we move along. With Lean, our cycle is to test and get feedback, which will tell us to either stay the course or pivot quickly– more quickly than Product Marketing and Marketing can support today. Once a product idea has been validated, it then moves into Product Management and gets into the regular product launch cycle.Update

The following series outlines launching products and services from our Agile development teams using the Pragmatic Marketing Framework, which provides definitions when it comes to roles and responsibilities.

The Type of Release

First, I work with Product Management to determine if it is a Major or Minor release. A Major release (usually indicated by a change from 16.2 to 17.0) is a major change in the software and may not be backwards compatible with previous versions.

A Minor release (usually indicated by a change from 16.2 to 16.3) indicates minor additions, enhancements and bug fixes and is backwards compatible.

Product Management will indicate if it is Alpha, Beta or Generally Available (GA). Alpha usually indicates that it is a first version of the software: it’s incomplete, buggy and will change significantly before it’s released in its final form. Goals for an Alpha are to get feedback from users and give partners early access. A Beta is much closer to what you expect to ship- it’s fairly complete and should have relatively few problems. It’s a confirmation by Beta customers that it really is ready for GA. It’s also a chance to get it out to partners as well. GA is a product that is ready to be released or sold to customers.

Product Marketing then works with Marketing on the timing of the launch. We look at what other items we are communicating/launchingto which audiences, and determine the best time for the launch.

I usually plan for about 8-12 weeks for Major releases and about 4 weeks for Minor releases. I set up a kickoff meeting with key stakeholders and determine what tactics we want to include. Westart with a template that highlights typical launch items for both Major and Minor releases, and walk through the plan to determine what will be needed to support the launch. Not all tactics are used every time. Working back from the launch date, we assign dates and resources to the tactics. Then I set up a weekly or bi-weekly meeting so we can be accountable for the deliverables outlined in the launch plan. A launch plan includes goals, objectives, sales enablement tools that sales will need, marketing activities (such as advertising, tradeshows, PR), communications, training, etc. I will go into further detail about each of these in future blogs. My next blog will focus on how to set launch objectives and goals and tell you what goes in a Messaging Strategy Document (MSD).

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