How to Avoid Black Swans With Drop Dead Deadlines For Product Launches

Blog 6-30-14While a “drop dead” deadline to launch a new product makes for a good team rallying cry, it often leads to cutting costly corners to reach the intended goal. Often external forces, like a regulatory change, client commitment, or infrastructure dependency, can force leaders to declare a certain date on the calendar as D-Day. When I read a recent insurance industry article discussing “black swans,” or unexpected project overruns, I thought of a few more takeaways that may be helpful for teams in the midst of planning a new launch of a technology-related solution.

Testing needsĀ  to be a team effort. I have often seen people pass the buck when it comes to testing. Faced with a pressing deadline, your team should have all hands on deck if you want to avoid your customers discovering defects before you do. Depending on the culture of your company, giving a decree for everyone to “play with it” may be enough. Otherwise, I recommend developing a specific list of functionality for at least 3 people to test before you go live. It is often easier and cheaper to fix defects before the development team has moved on to other priorities.

Warn any impacted internal stakeholders who are critical to a successful customer experience. What if your technical support department gets overwhelmed with new questions? Or if your accounting department does not have the correct infrastructure ready to recognize revenue? Expect these groups to start eyeing your department’s piggy bank to make last minute adjustments. In my experience, these issues are much easily handled before rather than after the launch date.

Get a clear understanding of how clients expect to use your solution. Ultimately, your team has to make some trade-offs in the march toward the launch date. Your project budget is your project budget. However, overlooking an integration with a mission critical customer application or restricting your solution output to a single format may just delay the inevitableā€”an increase in your project budget. Coming in “on budget” with a half-baked product is not a win for the customer or you. It is a black swan waiting to make some noise.

(Note: For those curious of the origin of black swan theory, this is what I found).