You've spent the last few months with your team, hard at work iteratively developing an app which is slated to deliver serious value for your company and its clients. A significant amount of effort and budget investment has gone into your work... Following your last development sprint and the subsequent app store approval, you've done it! You've released your app! Cue the balloons and hero's welcome. Your app is now available for use - it's out there! Urm...Now what?
What follows is my personal experience, observations and thoughts on setting a product up for success in the immediate time following release, in this case, in an organizational environment (Although certainly applicable to a majority of other market scenarios.).
A little background:
We've built a system, which is comprised of multiple user interaction points/interfaces, one of those being an app component that is a content viewer and distribution tool for a relatively new service offering. So yeah, there is some complexity here. I tell you this detail to emphasize the point that even for a scenario with few variables, the release of your product is simply STEP 0. A significant amount of observation, feedback, support and general nurturing is necessary if you are to have any success meeting the potential you've promised.
Some elements for a successful post release period:
Testing with users, feedback, more testing: How tested, and I mean with real users in real business scenarios, is your product? Pre-production (release) pilots? Do you have plans and RESOURCES to beta? Both have specific focuses and are critical to a product's success and share the core tenets of getting your fully functional product in front of users early to grab valuable user feedback, incorporate and further determine the product's robustness. Real users are the ultimate term paper editors, the third party, folks that are not intimate with the product and it's nuances. They'll give you a sense of how your product will be received and fare and ultimately how successful it will be if left as is (Hint: You'll need to make adjustments).
We need an Architect!: There are considerations on the technical side of things which are important to address and it's imperative to maintain resources familiar with the technical aspects of the product who can respond and peek 'under the hood' quickly. A couple no-brainers to plan for: First, you've been successful enough to have users, great! Now is when a reality of product development hits: Elements of your product will break. This is expected and we should plan for it. Secondly, as you're in beta, a main goal is to capture feedback, some of this having technical roots. It's the Product Owner's job to determine when and what feedback is incorporated, but there is a good chance your users will uncover needs that have technical roots that will be necessary to address before you leave beta. A consistent technical team should be maintained.
What about the PRODUCT? The last two points are vital to your new release and roll up to the success of the product in general. Someone should be the gatekeeper and orchestrator of those elements and other variables that feed into a product's success - Someone should have a concern from a pure product perspective. As a Product Owner, before a release it's my job (along with the product sponsors) to ask: "What do we need to do to ensure that our product is successful and is it in line to realize its great potential?" Clearly, we ask this question before the release - Just as important, some time after release, we analyze data related to our success criteria. As you are in beta, analyze the raw data, gather insights on OPPORTUNITIES to capitalize on and WEAKNESSES to address and formulate responses...all in the interest of the product you are nurturing for success.
The "real world" Reality of Things
Budgets dry up, teammates move on to other projects - those next things where they will next focus their interests and motivations ...but expectations remain high. This is a very 'real reality' in an organization. It's a huge challenge and product success very well may boil down to one thing: SUPPORT. Support comes in many forms, but let's start with a heavy hitter which has the power to align your other product needs: Product Sponsorship.
Step 1 for ensuring post release success is to maintain sponsor support. Without the backing and support of these "influencers," it will be tough to move forward. As mentioned before, teams disperse and motivations scatter just the same. Folks at the sponsor level can influence resourcing decisions to ensure your product isn't sent into the wild and left unattended to. Some keys here are to have a release plan for a post release sponsor support model which will include but may not be limited to, definitions of success metrics to track, minimal team resources needed to run a successful beta program, defined check-ins (metric and feedback reporting...). Did I mention additional funding? That's something that you'll need to formulate a compelling argument for, but if you have a plan in place as mentioned above, you should be on your way if additional funding is truly needed.