The 5 Challenges That Slow Down Feature Release Cycles (and How You Can Avoid Them)
I've seen my fair share of product launches fall flat. Here's how you can avoid that fate.
Product and feature releases rarely go as planned. But when Apple unveils a new iPhone, or Google releases a new feature in Gmail, those launches appear to be seamless and to generate peak excitement and interest.
So, what are these powerhouse companies doing that you’re not?
As the owner of multiple companies, I’ve seen my fair share of product launches fall flat. But each time we’ve made mistakes, we’ve learned from them. And that has made our next product release much stronger.
If you’re still struggling to right some of your feature-release wrongs, don’t worry. I’ve been there and am here to help you get back on track. Here are the top five issues that I’ve run into during feature releases and how my team members, working together, solved them.
1. You’re not laying the groundwork.
Every product and feature release needs to be built on a solid foundation. That’s why you need to start from the very beginning and ensure the project is strong enough to land on its own two feet.
Start by setting the right goals for the project. What are you trying to do with your new feature? What problem will it solve? You need to make sure your priorities and requirements are clear so that the rest of the team knows exactly what to focus on.
Tip: At this stage, define the team that will be working on the project and what these individuals' roles will be. Then, build a detailed road map of what the feature release process will look like.
2. You don’t have the customer in mind.
Whenever I’m writing new content or launching a new marketing campaign, the first thing I need to know is who my audience is. The same thing goes for product and feature releases. Your product could be perfectly designed and developed, but it’s not going to work if it’s not targeted.
So, make sure you’re aren’t just targeting any customer, but the right customer. Don’t make any decisions based on assumptions. For example, if you’re releasing a new feature for a video game, you may assume that the demographic of males between the ages of 18 and 34 makes sense. However, according to Think with Google, only 31 percent of mobile users searching for video games fit that criteria.
Tip: Before you even starting mapping out your product release, do extensive market and audience research. Really dig deep and understand your customer. What are his or her pain points and how can your product or feature solve them?
3. You aren’t communicating well.
How many times has a project run off the rails because someone didn’t know his or her responsibilities? Or, because a deadline wasn’t conveyed? Or, because someone didn’t have all the information needed?
These issues can all be traced back to a lack of communication. In today’s digitally focused world, with teams spread out across the globe and working together remotely (as mine are), communication is crucial. And for a feature release, it’s critical.
Everyone needs to be on the same page and understand what you’re building, and why, how long it’s expected to take and what his or her specific role is.
To ensure good communication, identify one central person accountable for the entire project. Given a clear "owner" to consult, team members will know exactly whom to turn to with questions; and the project owner will be able to keep lines of communication open and running smoothly.
4. You aren’t organized.
Organization goes hand in hand with communication. If you aren’t practicing good communication, you probably aren’t very organized, either. Here are some signs of a lack of organization:
- Your team is wasting time searching for information.
- You’re using disconnected documents and spreadsheets.
- You’re holding constant status meetings.
Tip: Have all the information for the feature release in one centralized location. Instead of 50 different documents in 50 different places, make sure everything is in the same place so that it’s easy to find. That way, your team will also always be updated on the status of the project, necessitating fewer meetings.
5. You haven’t properly prepared.
While you can’t predict everything that will happen on the day of your feature release, you should have some idea of what the potential issues will be. A “we’ll see how it goes” attitude isn’t going to benefit you.
Tip: Identify and address those risks in advance. Make sure you’ve planned and prepared for every possible contingency and failure you can think of. And then, test, test and test some more. With enough preparation, you can rest easier, knowing you’ve done everything you could to ensure success.
What issues have you run into during product or feature releases? How did you address them? Share your thoughts in the comments:
In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.