In a competitive market, you’ll always be asked to bring better quality products to market faster than your competitors can. The only way to achieve this is through efficient product launches – with the product team at the helm of the strategy.
In this blog post, we’ll break down – from a product team perspective – how to streamline your launch process, how to streamline your workflows for faster time-to-market, and why alignment across teams is crucial for faster time-to-market (plus how to achieve that, too).
With the product team at the helm, the entire organization will be laser-focused on meeting the challenges necessary to stay ahead of the competition. This perspective is crucial to helping teams let go of systems and processes that no longer serve them.
A streamlined product launch process gives you a faster time-to-market and a lasting edge.
To get to market faster, the product team first needs to sit down and analyze their current launch process - from initial concept development to minimum viable product (MVP) and beyond - to find areas that can be automated and otherwise streamlined. That assessment could find anything from needing a few key tweaks implemented to undertaking a complete overhaul, but either way, knowledge is power.
It's a challenging process, but one that's entirely worth it. Here's how to unlock a smooth and successful launch with your team.
Here you’ll want to be as comprehensive as possible: map out the entire launch process step-by-step, including who is responsible for each piece of it, what tech or other communications systems are involved, and any other key pieces connected to it. (The latter will include your product development process.)
This will help the product team as a whole see where there are obvious bottlenecks and areas of inefficiency. The team may have amazing documentation around roadmaps, for example, but the breakdown comes in communicating those plans outside of the product team to other key stakeholders.
You should also bring any key collaborators and other stakeholders into the process, getting feedback on how they experience it, and how it affects the workflows they have set up within their teams. You may have a communications system in place that works well for the product team – weekly product office hours, for example – but other teams aren’t getting the full value of it because it’s scheduled at a time that doesn’t work for them, or the cadence isn't helpful.
Once you’ve identified areas of inefficiency, determine which of those areas can be improved by automation. Do the research into available options and choose tools that cater specifically to your team’s needs, including available resources other than budget. You might find a great tool that’s within your budget, for example, but it would take so many personnel hours to implement that it’s ultimately not worth it. If your team needs to spend that time working on your product and you can’t afford to outsource implementation, that’s not the right choice for you.
Once you find automation tools that are a good fit, be sure you thoroughly train the team on how to use them most effectively. It’s frustrating to be a part of a product team when you know customers aren’t getting the full value of a product or feature you’ve built for them because they weren’t properly onboarded. Don’t make the same mistake internally with onboarding and training.
You’ll also want to establish training for key collaborators and stakeholders outside of your team so the product team doesn’t have to hold their hand through every single progress update. (DevOps automation for your product development process should be part of this.)
Automation often has a large upfront cost that gets returned weeks, months, or even years later. While that might sound daunting, think of what years of compounded time saved can add up to in creativity and innovation! Be sure you have realistic expectations in place for improvement timeframes and that you’re measuring to track results.
Effective measurement starts with establishing baselines before you ever implement automation, and then comparing performance at regular intervals down the line.
If you don’t schedule regular review sessions to assess how your streamlined launch process – including those automation – is going, they won’t happen. You might start with weekly assessments when you’ve first implemented a new system, tweaking things as you go. Once everything is more established, consider a monthly cadence inside of the product team and quarterly outside of the team.
Continuing education is vital for any product team; be sure team members are empowered with time and budget (saved through automation and overall streamlined processes) to pursue professional development. They can then bring what they learn back to the team to further refine and improve the product launch process as new technologies and methodologies emerge.
This approach will also help foster an environment of openness, trust, and innovation. That kind of environment allows teams to be more creative and innovative, further spurring ideas to enable a smooth and successful launch process and reduce time-to-market.
Once the launch process is streamlined and you have a successful product launch under your belt, it’s time to take the same approach to streamline other workflows. Some of these will affect key stakeholders that often work with the product team, but sit outside of it. Remember that organization-wide buy-in is crucial for any new process to succeed.
Once the launch process itself has been streamlined, you need to dive deeper into the workflows around it – particularly any areas concerning cross-functional product development. Start with the workflows inside your team and then those that involve key collaborators and stakeholders outside your team.
You’ve probably done some of this while assessing and refining your product launch process, but you want to make sure you’re addressing every area for maximum improvement. Concentrate on the most critical workflows for your product development and remember you can always iterate going forward.
You also want to prioritize workflows based on the impact they have on your time-to-market. Implement changes to those areas before addressing other less critical areas. (Eventually, you want organization-wide buy-in, but start with your product team and most important collaborators first.)
Every person involved in a specific workflow needs to be clear on the sequence and importance of each step. If the team thinks of decisions as arbitrary rather than necessary to reduce overall time-to-market, they’ll be less likely to follow through with changes. Make them part of the change, communicating the importance of their specific role in creating workflows that save time and help beat the competition to the punch.
There are different methodologies you can adopt for your team to streamline workflows for faster time-to-market; Agile is just one of them. The power of agile is in its shorter, more iterative development cycles.
In agile software development, development cycles are broken into “sprints” that are carefully planned so each person on the team knows their responsibilities. After each sprint, teams sit down for a retrospective to assess what went well, what didn’t, and how everyone involved can do better on the next one. This approach fosters collaboration and cross-functional team involvement.
The same principles can be applied to product team workflows. With market research, for example, teams can break tasks into sprints, gathering continuous feedback to maximize adaptability. Regular updates and shorter feedback loops are beneficial approaches to competitive analysis and positioning. Target audience identification and persona development can more easily adjust to evolving customer needs when a constant feedback loop is applied – and more.
Bringing key contributors outside of the product team in regularly also helps unlock issues earlier so they can be solved before they compound and become more difficult to solve. Having those team members feel more involved in the entire process also increases their commitment to realizing product team goals (like a smooth and successful launch).
An agile approach embraces change and enables flexibility while emphasizing collaboration and infusing customer-centricity throughout the process. Shorter, iterative workflows naturally become streamlined along with the product launch process, ultimately setting teams up for a faster time-to-market.
When it comes to agile methodologies, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; you should choose the one that works the best for your team and gets everyone on the same page. There might be one that works the best now and another that makes more sense as your team grows and scales. Some teams combine methodologies for even better results.
Consider what will facilitate workflow management while fitting your team's needs and budget. Examples include:
The overall goal is to eliminate redundant or unnecessary steps in your team workflows, especially those that touch collaborators outside of your team. Concepts like "minimum viable product" (or MVP) have come out of agile methodologies, giving customers just enough features to provide feedback and shape the future of the product development process.
You also want to optimize efficiency when it comes to communication practices; teams need to share and access information as smoothly and quickly as possible to do their best work with minimal interruptions and reduce waiting time.
Here’s where the organization-wide buy-in for new processes comes into play: you need cross-team alignment for the streamlined launch and workflow processes to actually result in faster time-to-market.
We’ll cover the why in this section and the how.
Communication bottlenecks are some of the biggest obstacles teams face. Not knowing who to talk to or how to talk to the right person as seamlessly as possible slows down workflows, lengthening development and launch cycles.
Based on the workflows you’ve streamlined for your team both for day-to-day activities and launch processes you’ll need to decide on organization-wide communication best practices and the right tools and platforms to support them. That could be a combination of paid and free tools with regular assessments of what’s working and what’s not, especially after a launch and as your team scales.
It is crucial to have a single “source of truth” for the team to access what they need. This should be the place where everyone can find the latest updates around product roadmaps, any approved language and assets for products and features, plus everything else vital to a streamlined launch process and general workflows. It should be able to support automation so product teams can be proactive about pushing information out, rather than reactively sharing it when asked.
Teams that are on the same page, knowing where to find what they need and not having to deal with constant interruptions are more relaxed, collaborative, and productive. That helps foster a culture of open feedback and transparent reporting – which in turn helps further refine your processes and reduce time-to-market.
There’s a sweet spot in collaborative decision-making where enough stakeholders are brought in that no one feels like decisions were made without them while also avoiding “too many cooks in the kitchen”. Every team needs to feel like a valued part of the process without being so involved that they slow everything down.
Decide on a cadence for your teams to report their progress to one another, especially as it relates to launch processes. The streamlined workflows you’ve already put into place should help with reducing actual meeting time, emphasizing using designated time together to talk through the biggest challenges your organization is facing instead of minutia. If you're automatically pushing out updates around the latest collateral, for example, marketing doesn't have to spend the meeting time asking about it. Everyone can instead collaborate on what will have the biggest impact when your product hits the market.
Documenting these processes and decisions is also crucial to highlight where communication, collaboration, and decision-making are thriving and where they're still struggling. Choose a system or tool that automates as much as possible so your team doesn't have to document and analyze everything by hand.
Product launches don’t exist just to put something new out in the world for the sake of it; they should be aligned with broader company goals, helping to further key business objectives.
The measurements you choose to put in place for your team to track progress and success (or failure!) should reflect organization-wide efforts toward product launches. While the product team might be the ones who “own” launches, they can’t happen without other key collaborators and stakeholders. They’ll be more motivated to learn new processes and stick to them if their efforts are also held accountable and celebrated alongside the product team’s efforts.
It's the product team's job to articulate and guide that vision and strategy, but also to share ownership of the entire process so everyone is working together toward the same business goals.
Streamlined launch processes and workflows enhance team alignment and ultimately reduce time-to-market. That gives your team an edge over the competition in a competitive market.
Markets and technologies also continuously evolve, producing new challenges for teams to meet and overcome. An iterative process approach to streamlining your internal operations means you’ll have a built-in framework for reassessing and adjusting as you go.
That helps keep you focused on your ultimate goal of capturing the market – by bringing the most value to your customers as quickly as possible.
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