Product Management

Ramping Up a New Product – This is where you really Start to Sweat!

By Rivi Aspler

You have been working like hell for the past few months. You have been gathering requirements, prioritizing, defining, following up, getting everyone aligned, facing constraints and hence re-defining and re-prioritizing, managing trade-offs and hopefully closing down already developed requirements. Your product is ready to go. You are exhausted! But the hard work is just starting – getting the first customers to adopt and use your product.

endurance_1If you are working for a large company, you’re lucky; someone else is responsible for the ramp-up program. If you are working for a start-up or for a mid-size company, take a deep breath because as the saying goes: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

A lot can be written on this topic,  but here are a few important items to remember:

On your side:

  • Create a (virtual) Ramp Up team – Create a committed virtual team specifically assigned to the project for a specific amount of time (e.g. 2 days per week for 4 months) to ramp-up your new product.
  • Specify clear and quantified targets – Have clear goals for the projects. e.g. “our aim is to get 5 customers up and running with the new product, grading it with a 7-8 satisfaction level, all in the next 4 months”. Without specific goals it’s impossible to know how successful the ramp-up is.
  • Remove obstacles from your ramp-up team’s way – Obstacles can be as mundane as  “I have no laptop for a demo” but obstacles can also be as serious as a mid-level manager that doesn’t allow a ramp-up team member that 2 days per week that were authorized by the CEO.
  • Get the ramp-up ‘A-Team’ talking with each other;  at least once a week –  Weekly synch meetings keep the project members aligned. Review last week’s activities and next week’s tasks, set clear goals and plans.
  • Make sure your ramp-up processes are start-up like – Agility in this case isn’t just a buzzword. Make sure your ramp-up team members can move fast, don’t have to write down everything and have only one person to report to.

On the customer side:

  • Include early adopters in you ramp-up program – Don’t waste time on late adopters or on customers that are high maintenance. You will have plenty of time for them after you have gained the required momentum.
  • Be honestMake sure your customers know that they are part of a ramp-up program – Customers expect more of a mature and field-proven product than an immature product. It’s likely  that you will experience problems (i.e. challenges) during the ramp-up program.
  • Get commitment from your customers’ senior management – An implementation of a new and young product requires patience. Having the customer’s CIO committed to the process (for example, opening a training day) increases the mid-level managers and day-to-day end users commitment to the process.
  • Have someone regularly visit the customer’s site, for the entire ramp-up period – Regular visits to the customer’s site are demanding but imperative.  There’s nothing better than observing the customer first-hand, discussing issues and getting to the heart of any problems.  It builds strong relationships and minimizes the chance that something will deteriorate to a level that jeopardises the ramp-up program.

And most important; schedule a vacation (for after the ramp-up period).  You will need it 🙂