An Extensive Product Launch checklist

My name is Mariia, and I have been creating software products for over six years. I started my career in a startup, then it was a product company and after that outsource (or engineering services consultancy) company. There were numerous launches products from scratch, as well as launching some separate modules in already working solutions. My experience has shown that each launch is not like the previous one and there is no silver bullet to solve (seemingly from the first sight) the same problems. During these launches I’ve been carefully collecting my fuckups and decided to put them together to make a checklist, which I am happy to share with you. I can bet it will help to avoid many mistakes.

Itʼs always a difference

The product which I will refer to in this article is a web application in the e-learning (or edtech) domain with the target audience of women from the former Soviet Union countries and expats.

I had the experience of launching a web application in the same, edtech, domain at the very beginning of my career. But the target audience was radically different, and I came to the conclusion that one launch (even in the similar domain) differs from another launch significantly. You will never find the perfect scenario of your colleague that will work in your particular usecase for 100%. No matter how similar your products may seem, they are different by definition. You must have your own criteria of the successful launch and your own unique attributes for each step of the process.

Even the definition of a product will and should vary depending on the business domain, the stage of development of the company and the existing elements of the ecosystem: in one case we will consider as a product the web application in addition to the existing mobile one, in another case the only mobile app will be called so.

Coming back to my example — our company was approached by a customer who shared the general description of the idea, and we picked up all product and project work: problem framing, target audience definition, positioning and visual style, monetization logic, UI / UX, testing key hypotheses, building the community of early adopters, development, MVP implementation and soft launch, user support and many other activities.

Why do we need a checklist

I am an advocate of minimizing risks in all possible ways, so if you can work out the future scenario at least on paper — you should do it. And here it’s important to consider the product management style you personally have.

I always try to keep the “big picture” in my mind, drilling down to the details from time to time and working on them with my dev team or stakeholders. The product launch checklist helps you to remember what really matters; it helps to keep only important things in mind and free up your own RAM. Another important plus of any checklist is that it can and should be shared with the team, so even if you forget something, you are backuped by the colleagues.

Step 1. Criteria, roles, planning

So you are a member of the team planning to launch the product or you are responsible for this launch. It is perfect time to answer such questions:

What exactly does “product launch” mean?

You may be surprised, but if you think the answer is obvious, don’t rush with such a conclusion. Product launch can be understood in many different ways: for example, it may be publishing an app in the AppStore/Google Play Market, or on the Product Hunt or simply going live on your production environment. In my case we decided that the launch would be considered as a publication of information on the official Facebook page of the product with an invitation to go to the website.

How will you know the launch was successful? By what criteria?

You can use various marker(s) of the success: 200 free users on the website or 300 conversions to registration / purchase, or a specific DAU in some concrete period of time (week\month etc). There may be a million options, but it is important to understand each criteria for a successful launch (what exactly is it) and the reason why it is (why exactly we’ve chosen this criteria). The overall scope of work and multiple “checkpoints” during this process will depend on this. In our case we defined our success as one week after launch without critical bugs on production. This type of criteria also works well.

What are the roles within your team during the launch?

Divide your tasks into areas: technical, support, marketing etc. Discuss with your stakeholders \ clients \ management what they expect from you and what is important for you to receive from them. In my case there was a customer who was actually the budget owner. It was important to talk to her about all the details of the product, to hear her fears and expectations, to get her prepared for possible problems and to tell her how we plan to cope with them.

What components of the Complete Product Experience will be needed in this launch and have you missed any?

It may happen that not all elements are relevant, and this is totally fine. Do not invent unnecessary hassle.

Do you have the launch schedule?

Create one and plan at least a week for it. The best time to make launches is Tuesday or Wednesday morning — you will have enough time to fix everything that will go wrong (you can be sure that something will definitely go wrong) till the end of the working week. The time and day of the launch are highly dependent on marketing campaign of your product, your stakeholder and user’s arrangements, and on many other variables. Please consider all of them.

Have you planned enough meetings with the team?

If you usually have two meetings per week, then meet daily the week before and after day X. If you are outsourcing the product development activities, schedule separate meetings with the client before the launch (more often than usual) and after the launch (to discuss the results, expectations and feedback directly from users).

Is your documentation set up?

Create the [ProductName] Launch Documents folder in your docs repository, share it with all stakeholders and update it in a timely manner.

What happens if to skip this step?

  • Misunderstanding among the team members about what a launch is and when it should happen
  • Separated team actions — as a result, some tasks may be covered by two people, and some will not be covered at all.
  • Lack of focus within all participants of the process.
  • Different perceptions of the success and completeness (you will think you have already started some things to be done, and your stakeholders won’t think the same way).

Step 2. The Product

It is important to avoid so-called Edge Case Trap — you will not be able to take into account all the small details and problems before the launch, do not try to cover absolutely all corner cases. Moreover (surprise-surprise) — the launch is needed to increase their number.

Make sure that:

  1. Your release is planned correctly, and there are no technical timing issues.
  2. All testing activities were successful (each one should have its own definition of “successl”), the production environment is ready for release, and the server is ready for the expected number of users.
  3. You have prepared everything from analytics perspective, set up all the tags / events, made sure that the data comes and is read correctly.
  4. All necessary integrations are tested and work without failures (payment system / email-service / authorization, etc.).
  5. There are no huge problems with User Flows that would interfere with delivering the key value of the product (read about Edge Case Trap again).
  6. Soft launch have been successful, you have eliminated critical errors and inaccuracies.
  7. The product roadmap for the next 3–6 months is at your fingertips — stakeholders, partners and users will ask you about further plans.
  8. You have agreed with the client (in case it is an outsourcing product development model), which mailboxes will be used for creating accounts for all necessary services, also you have created a separate document with all passwords / logins.

What happens if to skip this step?

The core product part will not be implemented technically or will be implemented incorrectly — and as a result, you will not deliver the expected value to your user.

Step 3. Legal Issues

Make sure you are ready with such things:

  1. You already have the specific section in your product (usually it is footer) where all the documents and certifications related to the work in the given business domain (if required) will “live”. Their preparation and approvements may take longer than planned, so take care of them in advance.
  2. Privacy policy and public offer — a must-have for any digital product. The text can be written by a lawyer or by yourself — it depends on your background and resources.
  3. GDPR compliance is required if you work with users’ personal data in the EU.
  4. All documents proving your intellectual property rights to a trademark, slogan or other elements of your brand are not critical, but very desirable to have at the time of the launch.

What happens if to skip this step?

Reputational risks, unnecessary problems with regulatory authorities and double / triple costs to solve them. This is exactly the case when the miser pays twice (even three times).

Step 4. Marketing

Make sure that:

  1. The launch date and time have been chosen and announced to everyone who is at least somehow involved in marketing activities. You should do the research of the announcements of competitors and / or events in your domain — it is important not to get lost on their background.
  2. The go-to-market strategy is ready (it is assumed that you have previously worked on competitor analysis / SWOT analysis / positioning / personas / value proposition / brand book and other components of the GTM strategy).
  3. The communication strategy is also ready and already in the process of implementation — users are waiting for the big launch, and the team understands when it will happen. Do not repeat my mistake here and make two versions of such a communication plan: one for external use (users and partners) and another for internal (customer, stakeholders, team) ones.
  4. The content plan for various communication channels is ready, as well as the content itself (it is desirable to have material in stock for the week+ ahead — texts, visuals, videos).

In my case, there were also closed beta communities of two user segments. We worked separately with them before, during the soft launch and the product launch.

It is important to understand it is totally ok to postpone the product launch. It is better to reschedule than to make it at a super inappropriate moment and\or without the core value to be delivered to the user. It is equally important to announce it correctly and in a timely manner to all stakeholders and to the market.

What happens if to skip this step?

Your product will not be presented in time, not for the correct audience and you will not be able to convey what you really want.

Step 5. Support

Make sure you’ve prepared a FAQ for users based on beta users group feedback after a soft launch. Please use simple language without technical terms.

If possible, create some how-to videos from demo key usage scenarios. There is no need to spend a lot of time and financial resources on this, because the product will change soon and you will have to change everything again.

Make sure users have a place to send their feedback to. The easiest way is to add an email like support@yourproductdomain.com and select a person from your team who will be responsible for it. There are many 3rd party solutions on the market that are easily integrated and help to optimize the collection and processing of feedback (Intercom, Crisp Chat, Tidio, etc.).

What happens if to skip this step?

All previous efforts will be wasted if there is no one to handle user requests or the support does not know how to solve the problem.

Step 6. The Launch Roadmap

Considering all mentioned above, create your product launch roadmap and determine what stage you are at now. This will make it much easier to plan your own and the team’s workloads, as well as to set priorities. I’m sharing with you one of the first versions of my template, which you can (even should) customize for your own needs and take into account your own specifics.

Ready, steady, go!

If everything of the mentioned above is done, you are ready to go. My checklist is not exhaustive and can (even should) be supplemented by other activities depending on the kind of product you are launching, for what purpose, in which domain and market (I mean business segment and geolocation), who is involved in the process and what the expectations from the key stakeholders are.

It is impossible to get ready for all failures, but for sure they can be minimized. I will mention two of the most remarkable failures during my product launch phase: I forgot to add the NPS collection form and ignored the importance of properly prepared release notes. It added me some grey hair and was done in rush on the go, but the moment was lost.

Use the fail fast strategy (of course if you can do so with your product) and remember that your failures are your treasure.

Good luck!

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Product Manager since 2016. Road cycling lover. Co host in @rotorandglitter podcast.

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Maria Shevchenko

Maria Shevchenko

Product Manager since 2016. Road cycling lover. Co host in @rotorandglitter podcast.

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