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What is the Role of the PMO in a Product Launch?

An illustration of a complex machine to draw an analogy with the complexity of a product launch

The mission of a #PMO is to standardize processes throughout an organization to ensure optimum execution and maintain high-quality standards, particularly for cross-functional initiatives. One area where the PMO can have a considerable impact is standardizing the process for launching products.

A pattern I've seen repeated by PMOs when standardizing a product #launch process is to interview every functional area impacted by a product launch. They then use the information gathered to build a product launch project template, a sort of master plan. The master plan is accepted and goes into production, and with the first product launch, it begins to lose traction. Why?

It's a perfectly sane and logical approach. We'll determine what people need in order to support a product launch, document it, and organize the information into a project plan. It should work every time, but it doesn't. Let's look at some reasons why.

Don't be Inflexible When the Unknowns are Many

Product releases - especially in the software world - are reasonably routine. The product release is finished, it's made available to customers, internal and external stakeholders are informed, and all is good. The number of unknowns is limited. Why? It's because it's an existing product sold to a familiar market.

Let's change the scenario slightly. What if the product is an existing product sold to an unfamiliar market? A monolithic plan begins to break down because it's unable to adapt quickly to a new, unknown condition. One common example is having a fixed set of deliverables that don't fit the needs of entering an unfamiliar market. At best, the launch team produces unneeded deliverables. At worst, the process is too inflexible to accommodate new deliverables critical to product launch success in an unfamiliar market.

Let's take the scenario further and make it a new product in an unfamiliar market. The number of unknowns can increase exponentially.

One response to this dilemma is the concept of optional and required deliverables. A new layer of governance is added to adjudicate when it's OK for a required deliverable to be optional and an optional deliverable to be required.

Another response is incorporating every possible edge case, making the product launch project plan increasingly complex.

It boils down to this issue: If all the products you sell serve the same buyers in the same markets, you have less variability and can adopt a monolithic project plan. However, as you add new products and serve new markets, your variability increases, and a monolithic project plan is insufficient.

Successful Product Launches Use a Launch System

I previously mentioned that standard product release project plans make perfect sense because there are few unknowns. It has a wonderful level of predictability that makes it repeatable with limited variability (also known as less risk).

However, a product launch is a complex, cross-functional initiative with a wide range of variability, especially for companies with an extensive portfolio of products (higher risk).

The alternative to a monolithic launch plan is a launch system. A launch system is an end-to-end structured approach to launch a product. It provides direction and a set of integrated methods and tools.

Sales teams use systems to sell products, software developers to build software, and user interface designers to design beautiful products. A launch system provides the structure, direction, and governance to address the need for predictable business outcomes and the ability to anticipate and accommodate unknowns.

The BrainKraft Product Launch System™

The BrainKraft Product Launch System is a turnkey product launch system shaped by decades of real-world experience launching complex technology products. An integral component of the System is the BrainKraft Product Launch Framework, a sequence of 12 steps that take the PMO through a guided tour of launching a product.

This is the graphical image of the BrainKraft Product Launch Framework. It contains a sequence of interconnected circles where each circle represents a distinct step in launch a product.

Each step of the Framework is a process unto itself and focuses on the critical planning and execution steps of a launch. It starts with organizing for a successful launch and ends with a retrospective of learning and improvement.

Vital to any launch system is how easily it can be implemented, adopted, and adapted to each organization. The BrainKraft Product Launch System recognizes the enormous challenge of product launch governance. It delivers a complete set of tools and methods focused on the needs of the PMO.

After all, the PMO's mission is to standardize the product launch process, not to become domain experts on the market.

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