Launch readiness, in my opinion, is a huge contributor to launch success. It’s second only to having the right product for the right audience. Great products can bomb if the product is ready but the organization isn't.
When your CEO asks if the team is ready to launch, she doesn’t want a checklist of deliverables, like a sales presentation, a press releases, or a battle card.
She wants answers to the following questions:
Is the product ready for customers to use?
Can we promote the product effectively to build a sales pipeline?
Can our sales team identify and qualify a sales opportunity?
Can we book a sale?
Can we collect and process payment from customers?
Can we deliver the product to customers in a timely fashion?
Can we onboard customers efficiently?
Can we deliver help to customers when they need it?
The CEO wants to know if the company is capable of doing all those things well enough to contribute to the success of the business. What she doesn’t want is a big list of deliverables with checkmarks next to them.
Don’t get me wrong. There will be activities and deliverables that support the development of all the capabilities listed above, but that’s not the point of launch readiness. There is no obvious relationship between a deliverable, like a sales presentation and the ability for a salesperson to sell.
I’m asking you to reframe how you approach launch readiness, and it’s a big ask. I want you to step away from the deliverables and focus on the capabilities you need for a successful launch.
First, launch readiness capabilities are guided by launch objectives. The launch objectives may necessitate changes in your organization that take it from the readiness state it’s in today, to a readiness state you need for a product launch. The gap between the two states is a readiness gap.
Picking on the sales team a little, we expect them to have essential sales skills. What they may lack is knowledge of how to sell a new, unfamiliar product to an unfamiliar buyer. Identifying the readiness gaps leads to activities and deliverables to close the gaps. It isn’t merely “We have to do sales enablement”. It’s the clarity of the required sales enablement ask that streamlines the process and focuses on what’s most important.
Think of an experience you had delivering a sales presentation for a new product and didn’t consider there was a new buyer involved as part of launch readiness. You also delivered a beautiful set of battle cards.
It’s straight forward, right? Just deliver the slides and if a question comes up about a competitor, tell the sales reps to review the battle card for that competitor.
How did that work out? Not well, I suspect. Do you see the problem in focusing on the deliverables and not capabilities? This problem occurs every day in lots of companies. It’s not a new problem; it’s been with us for a long time.
There is also a distinction between what people in your organization want and what they need to be successful. A proof point is to browse through your sales document cemetery. I’m sure you’ll find deliverables that were requested by the sales team that were used a few times and never touched again. Some, maybe never used at all. That’s a game you want to avoid playing if possible. It wastes time and resources.
To help you make the transition from deliverables to capabilities, I have a Readiness Capabilities Canvas.
At the top of Readiness Capabilities Canvas is high-level information like the readiness owner, the stakeholder, the functional area and so forth. Also note there is a Go/NoGo status boxes and the Ready Date.
Below the high-level information is a table with five rows and three columns. There only five rows to avoid the canvas turning into a checklist of deliverables.
The first column is a needed readiness capability, like “Ability to qualify a sales prospect”. It's a good idea to articulate the readiness gap to add clarity, like "New Product, New Buyer".
Clearly, there is more detail required to ensure the capability which is listed in the second column. This is where a summary of activities and deliverables is listed in support of the capability.
The third column lists how the readiness owner will confirm the readiness capability is achieved.
It seems simple when laid out this way in a worksheet, but it is more challenging than it appears. It’s up to the readiness owner to coordinate with their functional area to determine the content and actions required to close the readiness gaps. It’s also the readiness owner’s responsibility to collaborate with other functional areas.
The simplicity is in tracking readiness progress. The capabilities in each Readiness Capabilities Canvas is transferred to the Launch Readiness Tracker by Functional Area. The focus of launch meetings is on launch readiness capabilities and not on deliverables.
As a parting shot let me offer that deliverables are important as long as they support closing readiness gaps. Challenge the need for activities or deliverables that can’t be tied to a launch readiness capability because you could be wasting valuable time and resource on stuff that doesn't matter.