Let It Go? Tough Decisions In Product Development

When you are going through the product and market development steps that need to be taken to ensure that a product is on track to hit its expected revenue goal there is a strong possibility that if you’re doing this well and critically listening to the feedback you receive from the market at some point you will hear that one of the products in development is not ready. It’s not meeting market needs as it is. It’s not getting the kind of positive reviews that give you the confidence to continue the investment. Something is off. You have a choice to make; a hard-to-make yet extremely important one – do you continue to develop or do you let it go?

To do this, you need to ask yourself (and your team) some important questions:

Do you know why it is not resonating with your market?

Ask each other again as getting this right is critical; do you really know what’s not resonating? Getting to the root of this requires commitment to figuring out. It requires much more than reading reviews. This is the time for the whole team to roll up sleeves, get comfortable making a lot of calls to reviewers and live visits if possible. It’s not the time to sell your market on why your product is great; it needs to be able to stand on its own. It’s a time to be completely open and curious so you can listen critically to their responses and ask the next level of questions, and then next level of questions, and then continue doing that some more. If it’s not ready, and your market is telling you this, you need to know why. Only when you know what’s holding your potential customers back can you move on to the next question…

Can you fix it?

So perhaps you and your team are confident you know there is just one small thing that’s holding back your market from being ready to adopt your product, and it’s an easy fix. Congratulations, you’ve overcome your small speed bump and you’re back to the races and on track to hitting your publication/live date.That’s not been my ‘typical’ experience, though. When my team has done the first step well (agreeing with what was holding the market back), we would have to come together to discuss what we could fix, and who could fix it in the timeframe we needed to hit our live date. At times it required adding more people to the team to make the necessary changes on a tight schedule. Other projects required discussions about optimal live date vs. the time it would take to implement the changes the market requested and tough decisions about moving forward or delaying to address these. So, you need to be able to quickly determine…

How long will it take?

It’s critical here to be realistic. I cannot overstate this. Simply willing it to be done at a certain time isn’t enough. Working backwards from live date, with buy-in from all stakeholders who have pieces of the development they’re responsible for to hit this date, you need to be able to say with high degree of certainty that what you need changed is realistic. It can be tight. It always is. We never have the luxury of time, but it has to be doable. How much time do the product developers need to work with the author/subject matter experts to fix the content? How much time do you need to test this with the market to ensure it’s meeting the requirements after the SMEs/authors have re-written? How much time is needed to re-create the media content with this new material once it has been reviewed? Do the assessment pieces need to be altered? If so, how much time will that take? What else is a priority for the engineering team and where does this project fit? Does this factor in QA time? Be aggressive, but also be realistic and ensure that this question is answered with all parties that are included in the development. So you need to be clear …

Who else needs to be involved in making this decision?

The “Go/No Go” decision options are: moving forward with expected live date as is, delaying live date to make changes or canceling the product. As I posted in a previous article, your team needs to have clarity on who is Responsible for making this decision, who is Accountable, who needs to be Consulted and who needs to be Informed. If you believe that the market requested changes cannot be made in time for your optimal live-date then this team of stakeholders has to determine which option is the most appropriate given all the factors at stake. If you cancel it, what impact does that have on your portfolio revenue for the year? The next? What does it do to your pipeline? Are there other projects that can be green-lighted and quickly launched to fill this hole in the portfolio? If you decide to move forward what revenue exposure do you think you’ll have as you know a certain segment of the market may not use it as is? Is it worth the risk? If you move forward as is can you continue to make necessary changes in an evergreen fashion so you can hit the launch date and continue to develop? There are a lot of factors to weigh, and you need to ensure the whole team is on board in making this decision. One of the factors, of course, is cost…

What is the cost to make the market-requested changes?

None of us live in a world with unlimited budgets for our product development and market development activities. If you hit the point in your development where you are not getting the types of reviews that give you confidence that your product is ready to go live, but you know what needs to be changed, and you have the buy-in from key stakeholders that the work can be done in the timeframe you need, you have to then ask yourself what it will cost to get there. All companies have different approaches to how they finance their projects, and have different expected revenue margins, but ultimately when you include the new investment required to make the appropriate changes you have to see how the expected ROI is impacted and if the new P&L makes financial sense. And ultimately, you then just need to know – with the efforts to make the changes, the timing to make them, and the cost involved….

Is it worth it?

If you go through the questions above with your team and have confidence that you know what needs to be changed, can fix it in the timeframe necessary for your live date at a cost where the amended P&L still meets expected margins your answer may be easy. When the root cause of market concern isn’t clear, when the changes that need to be made are more significant and will take much more time and budget then there are many other factors that have to be taken into account.

Importance of Go/No-Go Meetings

The Go/No-Go meetings are critical touch-points in the market and product development process. I’ve held these for every project my team has developed. We’ve unanimously agreed to move forward with some projects in the planned timeframe, we’ve delayed projects to make necessary changes (and brought out other products to fit the hole in the portfolio; more on this in a later post), and we have had to make the decision to cancel other products.

This is an area where we specialize, and we can be brought into your product and market development process at any point to give an experienced perspective on readiness for launch.

Contact us for more information.

(image: maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com).

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