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.
If 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 honest. Make 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 🙂