The Product Checklist

How to launch consumer products the right way

Software development is messy. Ideas are aplenty and everyone has an opinion. Too many moving parts and last minute changes are inevitable. Decisions are made in realtime. Stakeholders want updates in realtime. Systems need to be scaled to accommodate expected load. Customer education and communication need to be created. A go-to-market plan needs to be laid out.

Building consumer products requires an array of processes, people and systems to align at the right time and in the right order.

No single human being can possibly retain all of that in a cognitive capacity for long. Thinking through, planning and launching great software is a huge undertaking. If not managed properly, mistakes will happen.

That’s where checklists come in handy. Below is a concise master checklist that covers the big items most consumer products require to launch successfully. This checklist should be driven and maintained by the product manager. Feel free to copy and make it your own:


IDEATION

(way before the product is created)

[ ] We understand the business rationale
[ ] We understand the problem we’re trying to solve
[ ] We understand the competitive landscape and industry trends
[ ] We have identified a unique competitive advantage in the space
[ ] We understand the financial projections
[ ] We understand the risks associated
[ ] We understand the opportunity cost if NOT done
[ ] We understand the desired time to market
[ ] We have an idea of what the product/market fit is
[ ] We understand impact on key stakeholder groups
[ ] We understand what success looks like (success criteria / KPIs).
[ ] We’ve illustrated the core idea (high-level)


SOLUTIONING

(interested in creating)

[ ] Multiple approaches have been explored
[ ] The winning approach is technically feasible
[ ] End-to-end UX prototype is created
[ ] An architecture diagram is created
[ ] Process/data/sequence diagrams are created
[ ] Impacted teams have been identified
[ ] The size of the effort has been quantified
[ ] Trade-offs have been identified
[ ] The project is properly funded
[ ] The project is approved (and by whom)
[ ] Team to own this product is identified
[ ] Roles and responsibilities are understood and have been communicated


DESIGN & RESEARCH

(being thought through)

[ ] Customer research has been conducted (exploratory & validation)
[ ] We have tested our riskiest assumptions
[ ] We have shown prototypes to customers
[ ] Systems SLAs are set
[ ] Experience SLAs are set
[ ] MVP has been defined
[ ] Mock press release is written
[ ] Preliminary end-to-end UX approved by stakeholders
[ ] Customer education and advocacy strategy has been identified
[ ] Frequent stakeholder communication is ON


DEVELOPMENT

(being created)

[ ] Proper kickoff/inception of the product
[ ] Requirements and acceptance criteria are created
[ ] Proper instrumentation is implemented
[ ] KPI dashboards are set up
[ ] Monitoring and alerting are configured and working to expectations
[ ] Experience degradation strategy is implemented
[ ] SEO best practices are implemented
[ ] Scope changes documented and communicated with stakeholders
[ ] Final UX designs are created
[ ] Continuous stakeholder communication is provided


HARDENING

(wrapping it up)

[ ] A caching strategy is created and communicated
[ ] A scaling strategy is created and communicated
[ ] Choke points have been identified and fixed
[ ] We’re meeting all set SLAs
[ ] No more feature development
[ ] A go-to-market plan is created and communicated
[ ] Continuous stakeholder communication is provided


TESTING

(-30 days before launch)

[ ] Failover strategy is laid out
[ ] Systems SLAs are met
[ ] Experience SLAs are met
[ ] The system has been load tested
[ ] The system has been stress tested
[ ] Metrics dashboards are created
[ ] Contingency plans are identified and planned out
[ ] Stakeholder are updated with test status


PRE-LAUNCH

(-5 days before launch)

[ ] Launch collateral is finalized
[ ] Legal sign-off
[ ] Tech sign-off
[ ] UX sign-off
[ ] QA sign-off
[ ] Marketing sign-off
[ ] SEO sign-off
[ ] Customer/Social Communication sign-off
[ ] Customer Support sign-off
[ ] Client sign-off
[ ] Product final sign-off
[ ] Post-launch team is identified
[ ] Continuous stakeholder communication is provided


LAUNCH

(showtime!)

[ ] Communication is rolled out
[ ] The tech stack is scaled
[ ] Stakeholder are kept abreast of major updates


POST-LAUNCH

(+ several weeks in)

[ ] Gathering feedback from customers
[ ] KPIs are meeting projections
[ ] Test hypotheses are identified
[ ] Reported bugs are prioritized over features
[ ] Continuous stakeholder communication is provided


MATURITY

(+ several months in)

[ ] Adoption is tracked (quantitative & qualitative)
[ ] KPIs are meeting projections
[ ] Roadmap is revised with customer feedback
[ ] Version X.0 of the product is identified
[ ] Budget for ongoing support and development is secured
[ ] Ongoing marketing strategies are identified
[ ] Major updates are communicated with stakeholders


This checklist is not meant to be exhaustive. It is a boilerplate that every product manager should use as a starting point to build out their own. Remember: less is more. Checklists that are too long become useless.