What is a good product launch checklist?
Using a checklist for work is one of the most effective ways to ensure that work is done well and completely. Many high-performing product and project managers use release plans or checklists for managing product launches. This simple technique offers a templated approach to planning and executing upcoming releases in a comprehensive, predictable, and efficient way.
Why product managers need checklists
Product managers own both the big picture (planning product strategy and positioning) and the small details (writing features or user stories) of a product launch (also known as a release). Product managers also manage or coordinate the contributions of a cross-functional product team and often benefit from assistance of trusted project managers on those teams as well.
Product managers who want to deliver on their product vision with the best possible execution need to provide clear criteria for launch readiness. A checklist gives product managers, as well as the cross-functional teams with whom they work, a way to coordinate and track initiatives and dependencies, so that everyone can work together to deliver a successful launch.
Though using a checklist may seem obvious, some may not consider it at first — thinking a checklist is overly prescriptive or too step-oriented. However, even the most agile of teams can benefit from thinking through what needs to be done across the whole team when coordinating a big release. Creating a product launch checklist that captures and tracks the complete set of activities of bringing a product to market is essential for product managers who want to improve that new customer experience.
Elements of a product launch checklist
The goal is to delight customers with a new experience. First, product managers complete the necessary product planning steps, such as researching the market and competition, defining product goals and initiatives, conducting user interviews, and prioritizing customer ideas. Then, they can begin planning their product launch and design a launch checklist that meets their product and team needs.
A good product launch checklist captures all of the necessary activities across participating departments. This includes everything from design, positioning, and development to campaigns, training, and support.
Product and project managers can organize the checklist chronologically, by activity, or by function. Here are some common elements of a complete product launch checklist (grouped by the type of work that is required). They are listed this way to emphasize the cross-functional nature of any meaningful release and the fact that a lot of the work can be done in parallel to avoid risk and delays. The following list is a good start for any checklist, but you should customize it based on your product, company, and customer base.
- Feature definition — Ensure that engineering teams have all the prioritization, sizing, and documentation needed to start building.
- UX / UI design — Provide designers with the UX research, wireframes, and specifications needed to start building.
- Engineering — Build the key features, most likely in a series of sprints.
- QA and Operations — Test and deploy the new functionality in production.
- Launch date — Set a date and time for the launch and communicate to stakeholders.
- Pricing and packaging — Approve the pricing for the new product experience. Design and approve how it will be bundled or presented to customers, including upgrades (if relevant).
- Positioning — Draft a positioning doc or creative brief that covers the key messaging for the launch based on the product vision, the new functionality, and the value it will deliver to end users.
- Communications plan — Decide how the launch will be announced both inside and outside the organization.
- Marketing content — Create new messaging for the product’s website, advertising, and campaigns. Map out all launch emails, blog posts, webinars, and landing pages.
- Social media — Prepare the launch announcement and campaign content to be posted on social channels.
- Media relations — Set up meetings with the media and provide updates on key capabilities that are coming. Leverage customer testimonials if possible.
- Analyst briefings — Reach out to industry analysts or other influential personnel if appropriate to brief them on what is new and why it matters.
- Infrastructure — Make necessary changes to internal monitoring systems, such as analytics or product administration.
- Billing — Update existing billing options and functionality to accommodate the new product experience.
- Finance — Update key systems to track financial metrics associated with the new product or upgrades that generate add-on revenue.
Sales and Support
- Documentation — Complete and approve all product documentation, including release notes, help and troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and technical data sheets.
- Sales strategy and training — Conduct training and enablement for sales reps. Create sales collateral and update existing materials to include what is new.
- Customer success — Train customer success and service teams on the new product functionality and provide them with necessary technical support materials.
- Partners — Update and enable partners and affiliates to help communicate and promote the launch.
- Review — Gather the team to discuss what was learned from the launch and how the process could be improved next time. Add to or tweak the checklist as needed.
- Follow up — Identify and submit bugs for engineering attention. Survey users for their feedback. Solicit testimonials or success stories from customers (if relevant).
There is also one critical phase that is not listed above — Celebrate. It is important to share kudos with the team for their hard effort to deliver a great new customer experience. Take time to celebrate your accomplishments.
A product launch checklist is designed to support cross-functional teams as they bring a new customer experience to market. Team members need to communicate regularly to keep progress on track, share information, and mitigate risks and dependencies. The checklist can support the team in doing this by reminding them what remains to be done and holding them accountable.
For future success, create a checklist template
Once product managers have created a good product launch checklist, it should be saved and reused when relevant. Several tools are available that allow product or project managers to copy and save checklists as templates. A template makes it easier to standardize the launch activities — ensuring a consistent, predictable process every time. Following a template also helps set expectations for the team and keeps everyone in sync.
A good product launch results in happy customers and internal teams. Building a gold standard for what a successful product launch looks like will help teams achieve success again and again.