Are you breeding Monsters? - Planning Software Releases (Based on a talk by Saeed Khan)

Every product is meant to be released and every release is meant to bring value to the customer. However, not all releases are equal : some go well and others are painful experiences that Saeed Khan of Transformation Labs call krakens.

To start, we first have to understand what is meant by a great release. Saeed defines a major functional release as:

A set of new capabilities and improvements requiring large effort and providing significant value to the company and the market

While all product managers go through the process of making their products go live, release planning is not always a clear, well defined process.

In order to bring harmony and clarity to product release planning, Saeed shared a few tips (and an awesome Release Planning Canvas) with the ProductTankTO community.

Focus on the “Why”

Every step of the product development cycle should be driven by purpose. The first thing that should be done when planning a release is defining its objective. What are you trying to validate? What is the problem that you aim to solve for your users? Stating unambiguous answers to these questions will guide you for the rest of the release.

Share the Game Plan

Major releases impact companies in multiple aspects. There is a new product to market, sell and provide support for. Understand the needs of your stakeholders. Communicate the release plan early on. This will save you the trouble of having to adjust your strategy to fit the demands of someone else in the organization.

Spot the Potential Fires

Few product processes are perfect and problem-free, but assessing risks and potential obstacles during the planning phase will significantly improve your chances of success.  

Define the Win

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”, beyond helping you assess performance, having meaningful metrics for your release process is the key to improvement over time. 

Saeed left the audience with a Release Planning Canvas, encapsulating the major questions every product person should ask themselves when releasing. Ultimately, kraken product releases are born from poor planning, politics and exertion of power and, at times, will require heroics to be stopped in their tracks. However, as Saeed pointed out, if you need to be a hero, it means the system has failed somewhere.

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