How do you launch a product?

When I’m talking to companies, one of the questions I get asked is “how do you launch a product?” There are so many variables that go in to launching products that the real answer is “it depends.”

It depends on a lot of things: the size of the product, the company I’m working for, who I’m working with. One of the most successful products I launched went from whiteboarding with a smart engineer to launch in about 4 weeks. On the other hand, I’ve spent more than a year on a rigorously analyzed, well documented product that never launched because of changes in business priorities.

I start by asking a lot of questions:

  • What are the objectives? Is it about generating revenue for this quarter? Shipping something before Christmas? Responding to a competitor’s product?
  • Who is this intended for? If the target audience is one that I’m not familiar with, I need to add in extra time for primary and secondary research.
  • How much effort is this? If it’s a small effort, I might just go ahead and do it. If it’s an 18 month effort, I’ll look for ways to break it up into smaller phases, releasing and testing along the way.
  • Does this impact existing revenue? If launching this product is going to affect $500 million in revenue, I’ll want to do some 1% testing early on.
  • Is this user facing? If so, I’ll need time for design reviews and possibly usability testing.
  • What other areas of the company does this affect? If the effort spans departments, I need to plan on selling it throughout the company. (Especially if it requires other teams to do work.)
  • Does this require external partnerships? I’ll need to identify partners and work with business development to negotiate the deals.
  • Do I have to capitalize this? If you don’t know what this means, consider yourself lucky. If I have to capitalize a product, much of the process is dictated for me.

In part two, I’ll talk about the next steps.

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. His personal blog is at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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One Response to How do you launch a product?

  1. David says:

    Just blew 15 minutes of my weekend on that puzzle. Thanks Rocky

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