Planning Product Launches Like A Pro
Learn how product managers can improve their cycle and launch amazing products with feedback.
Whether you’re launching digital products or awesome features that your customers always wanted, the risk that the launch might fail is always high. While most product teams test and improve their products/features in multiple environments, they tend to lose the essence of what their customers truly want.
In this session, we’re discussing how product and IT teams can improve their product cycle and launch amazing products with regular customer feedback.
Utkarsh: Let’s talk about product launches! A day full of mixed emotions. Where the marketing team tries to paint the world green in terms of you know going blah blah about what this product does and you know how it’ll help you, how it’ll make your life easier and things like that.
Utkarsh: And on the other side, the engineering team or the product team has their fingers crossed, ensuring that you know nothing goes wrong at the time of launch. So how do you think this day plans out for different kinds of businesses?
Aman: – So, when we talk about product launches, there’re a different set of challenges that different sizes of organizations face.
Aman: But first, I would like to discuss some of the challenges faced by different startups.
Aman: So, one major challenge that normally a startup face.. is that in an agile working environment normally a product manager wants to create a minimum viable product, an MVP. And they want to gather feedback from the customer on the basis of that they want to do further product development.
Aman: No product manager wants to build an end product! And they end up learning that this is something which has been built which is not useful for the end customer.
Aman: Well, That’s a bad thing that can happen for any product manager. So, this is one of the major challenges that the product manager face.
Aman: Another thing is normally product manager wants to have control where they do not want to depend on any engineer every time they have to roll-out a feature or product for a set of customers during early access or beta phase.
Utkarsh: – Alright! So, have you ever got the chance to experience all of that first-hand?
Aman: – Yes. So, while building widgets in the visual editor. So, widgets are something through which you can create pop-ups, banners, forms in your test variations.
Aman: So, while building that, there was a major challenge that I faced that I wasn’t sure what was the right end-product that might be useful for the customers.
Utkarsh: – What were the different things which happened there?
Aman: – So, initially while building up the product, we rollout the incomplete functionality in the testing environment so that the QA (quality assurance) team can simultaneously test on the functionality.
Aman: During this, as the process went along and the developers were working on their development, we received feedback from that QA team. They were able to test the functionality and at the same time, we made sure that we kept it off on the production environment.
Aman: So, our end customers were not able to see the incomplete functionality. So, through this, we were able to do that testing simultaneously and at the same time, we were able to incorporate the feedback from the internal stakeholders.
Aman: So once the development was done and everything was tested finally we do rolled-out this feature to a few of our customers.
Aman: So, from them, we got very good feedback. So, they told us that they would like to have form modal widget which could be very useful for them. So, this was a very good point for us. So, we incorporated that feedback right into our product. And after that, we rolled it out amongst a few more customers. We got a very good response and then we made it an iterative process and then we gradually rolled it out among the rest of our customers.
Aman: So, through this, we were able to create the right product for the end customers in a very short time product.
Utkarsh: – So, what I understand in the brief you provided is that you know first we launched things for our customers. We basically make sure that you know they are enrolling in an early access program and in the early access program while they were using it they were providing you feedback in terms of subjective feedback and CSAT and ratings and you were kind of ensuring and monitoring all of that and making sure that in parallel you’re working on the product and improving it with whatever feedback you’re getting it from the customers and then you took it to market and made it live to be 100% already so that there are zero glitches.
Utkarsh: OK. So, now I know how product teams and engineering team manages all you know the emotional aspect of product launches.
Utkarsh: So, that’s pretty much what we do at VWO. So, do you think that even enterprise-level companies also follow this mechanism or is it a different thing?
Aman: – Oh no! So, when I talk about enterprise companies, right. So, they have a totally different set of challenges on their own. So when I talk about a large enterprise. So, they have multiple teams working on different projects.
Aman: So, typically in an enterprise company a tech release happens in a week or two weeks time. Right. So whenever that release happens a lot of things goes life because multiple people are working on different products.
Aman: Now, let’s assume that if a single feature goes wrong in production that can have a huge impact. That can cause a lot of damage to the company.
Aman: Now, it takes a lot of time to identify the feature which has caused that issue. And it can take a lot of time to get resolved and can be very bad for the company.
Aman: For example, it can have a huge revenue impact! Let’s assume that during the Amazon Prime Day sale before that they released a set of features but because of releasing that features there was a downtime of one hour during the time they say.
Aman: So, you can imagine the impact of how much the loss the company would have to suffer. So, this is one of the major challenges that a large enterprise would face.
Aman: Another major challenge would be when a company is working on a big feature. So, it takes a lot of time from their developer’s point of view to develop that feature. Also, from the developer’s perspective what they want is they want to test the incomplete functionality as they go along.
Aman: They don’t want to develop the whole functionality and after that, they get to realize that there was a very basic error in their development in the initial phases.
Aman: So, they want to deploy that incomplete functionality in the testing environment at the same time. They also want to make sure that this is not deployed to the end customers on production.
Aman: Because they don’t want the end customers to see the incomplete get functionality. So, using this they want the QA team to test that on the staging environment and at the same time, their customers are not able to see that on production. Similarly, product managers want to take any feature to the customers as soon as possible once their development is done.
Utkarsh: – Yeah. Because you know we as product marketers are always behind the product guys in terms of ensuring that there are new and new features and new enhancements are coming to the customer side of things as soon as possible. So, how do you manage that expectation?
Aman: – So yeah! I would like to talk about GRAB over here. So GRAB is a cab booking aggregator platform. So, they were building a new core booking algorithm. So. that change was very big in nature by very big in nature. I mean it took a lot of time on their developers to basically build that feature.
Aman: So during building that developers wanted that incomplete functionality to be deployed on the staging environment so that the QA team can start testing it same thing as me.
Aman: And at the same time they kept that functionality off under production so that that incomplete functionality is not seen by the customers. Right. So to this, once the product and development were complete they were able to take that feature to market very quickly.
Aman: So, using this they were able to solve both the challenges – One the challenge faced by their developer. And two – the challenge faced by the project manager where they want to take the feature to the market as soon as development work is done.
Utkarsh: – And once we have all these things in place and say like you know the product team and the product marketing team work together in terms of making a product launch successful. So, while you are testing things you are getting feedback in there. Are there any things that you like a product guy need to be cautious about while going through this entire process?
Aman: – Yeah. So there are two main things that I would like to talk about here. So, as a product manager, we dream to wear something which is loved by our customers right.
Aman: We want to build something which is loved by our customers and which they want to use. So, sometimes it can go pretty wrong as well. For example, as a product manager, someone builds something which ends up being not that useful for the customer.
Aman: That can be the worst thing for their product manager. So every product manager needs to make sure that whatever has been made the customer feedback has been incorporated and it needs to be a collaborative process with the customer.
Aman: Another thing is as soon as our development work is done in an Agile environment you don’t want to take a lot of time to take it to your customers. You don’t want after the development has been done after that.
Aman: Spending a lot of time on testing and other activities you want as soon as our development and testing process is complete simultaneously you want to take it to your customers, as soon as possible.
Utkarsh: – There’s a great thing that you mentioned that you know feedback is at the epitome of whatever you do in terms of building products and you mentioned that you know it’s very important that whatever you are building your customer needs to love that.
Utkarsh: And how do you ensure that this feedback component of you know getting regular customer feedback ensuring that is always what they would be building is in harmony with the feedback.
Utkarsh: How do we bind that feedback or how do we ensure that this is at the center of what every stage of product development. And are there any tools for that. Are there any things which you as a product manager follow there. And how do we go about it?
Aman: – So I would like to answer this in different stages. Right. So as a product manager when I look at the software development cycle rate I basically divide everything into three stages right. First of all, then I’m building a new product. Right. It is in their development phase. So what I will do is while building up a product I will also deploy that incomplete functionality on those staging environments so my QA team can simultaneously test it.
Aman: So once we gather the feedback from its internal stakeholders, such as QA and other important stakeholders. We incorporate that into the product.
Aman: And once we get the final go-ahead of developers and internal stakeholders, we deployed for the initial few customers right then we want to gather their feedback their response are dissatisfied with what is their feedback. We want to incorporate any sort of feedback that we get from them in the product. Once we do that we do all day it featured out among a few more customers gather their feedback and then Ideally we make it in an iterative process, where we roll it out to the hundred percent of our customers. So this was the stage that I talked about when the product is getting built.
Aman: Now, I will be talking about the next stage where the feature is ready. Now, how to take it to the customer.
Utkarsh: – So I think it will great for people who are just starting up in product management roles and how they can kind of understand whatever is being built and how to take it forward.
Aman: – So as soon as the feature is ready, I don’t want to deploy that featured among the hundred percent of our customers because I don’t know what will be the response. And if anything goes wrong, it will impact on my customer base which is not the ideal situation for the product manager.
Aman: So what I want to do is initially I want to gather feedback. I want to measure that response. So what I can do is I will roll out that feature for initial very few customers. I want to get the validation from their site. I want to gather their feedback on the basis of that. If we have any valuable input from them we want to incorporate that into the product, we want to build that feature.
Aman: Once we have done that we want to do all this feature out amongst few more customers again gather their feedback and we want to make it an iterative process will be rolled out to a hundred percent of our customers right.
Aman: So, one very typical example of this is Atlassian. So Atlassian is a software company that develops a product for software engineers and product managers.
Aman: So what they do is they make the product development as a collaborative process with the customers. So they release a feature in an incremental manner where they release it for a few customers initially, gather their feedback and on the basis of that they keep on reiterating the process. So through this, they ensure that they are able to ship that featured in a faster manner with less risk.
Utkarsh: – So I think there is a lot of discussions which we did like in terms of uniform for its product managers who haven’t built the product yet and you know how to go about that cycle and then there was another conversation where for the manager who has built the product and how to take that off the ground in terms of bringing it to the customer.
Utkarsh: So, when you have been anything you have been on both side of the story is right. So what are those pro-tips which you can kind of you know to pass on to other product guys in terms of ensuring that both these journeys be seamless?
Aman: – Yeah. So till now, we have discussed how to deploy a feature right. How to do product launches is the correct way but till now we haven’t talked about what is the right way to define a feature.
Aman: And to be honest with you there’s no right way to define a feature. In a lot of scenarios what you must be thinking is the right way it might not work for the customers right. Or there might be a scenario of what is right for one customer might not be the right way for another customer.
Utkarsh: – Yeah that’s a pickle!
Aman: – Yeah. So the ideal ways to create different variations of a feature – test that! Roll that out amongst few for your customers. Identify which one is the best variation that has legs where most of the customers and then ideally roll it out amongst the rest of the customers.
Utkarsh: – And how can you do that using VWO?
Aman: – Yeah. So when I talk about VWO we can definitely use feature rollout, using which we can deploy a feature, amongst a certain set of audiences.
Aman: To whom we want to show this feature after that on the basis of their feedback we can do for the product development and eventually we can keep on increasing our customer base to whom we are showing this feature. And eventually, we can take that percentage 100 percent.
Utkarsh: – Well that’s brilliant. And with that, I would need to end the session.
Utkarsh: Guys you can check out more about server-side testing the, product launches and how you can use feature rollouts for launching your own products and features in the description below. We’ll be talking more about it in the sessions to come. Thank you.