A Concrete Product Planning Process is The Key to Faster Product Releases

5 min read
Frank L.
Frank L.
Published March 4, 2021 Updated March 22, 2021
teammates planning quarterly product goals with sticky notes on a whiteboard

A lot of moving parts need to come together to bring a new product or feature to market. There are individual components to build, schedules to align, marketing campaigns to create — each requiring a considerable amount of work from your team. That’s why it’s no surprise that only 46% of product managers were able to deliver products on time, according to a 2020 survey by Product Focus.

Instead, they spent 50% of their time on “unplanned, ‘fire-fighting activities.’” Cutting down on these unexpected and disruptive activities is what makes the product planning process so powerful.

An effective product planning process guides your team toward the best possible outcome. It’s your crucial first step toward a successful release. When every member of your understands team how to move toward the same goal, it clarifies your objectives, streamlines development, and boosts engagement throughout your organization.

Product Planning Cements Your Understanding of the Market

The product planning process forces you to think strategically about your place in the market. By nailing down your product concept and positioning at this stage, you cut down on how much time it takes to build messaging and marketing campaigns around your product down the line. And it gives you valuable insight into consumers' expectations about your product.

This process starts with market research and competitor analysis, which helps you build a map of the market, your competitors, their products, and what consumers look for in a solution to their problems. With this information in hand, it’s easy to refine the product experience based on your target audience and their expectations of value.

Let's say you're a transactional ecommerce platform that's rolling out a new feature for abandoned-cart emails. The research phase of the product planning process helps identify the specific elements of that feature that currently aren't offered by competitors. By digging into your competitor's products, their marketing campaigns, and messaging, it's easy to see how they position their features for customers.

From there, you can look at popular review sites and forums for those products and see what actual customers think about the product. These review sites show you what people find frustrating about the current experience, which is valuable insight when you're working out your own messaging campaigns.

All this context adds up to a better overall picture of what customers in your marketing genuinely need. It shows you how and when to release your new product or feature and what you need to do to communicate its unique value to potential customers, positioning your upcoming release to stand out and translate that value for your team and company leadership.

Product Planning Clarifies Company Objectives

A well-defined product plan ensures that your team always stays connected to the company’s strategic objectives—and makes it easy for them to reference those objectives at any time. And it forces you to clarify your essential ideas before you start working on them, which creates a better overall direction for your team.

A dedicated planning process connects the new product's customer impact to your company's core objectives. Every release has to make a positive impact on your business. Otherwise, the time and resources you spend developing new products will slowly chip away at your bottom line.

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That’s why having clear and attainable objectives is so important. It gives your team a finish line to work toward and motivates them to push forward at key points along the way. The best way to do this is through the lens of product analytics and customer insight. Companies that use product analytics tools are six times more likely to release new products on a weekly basis, according to Amplitude’s Product Intelligence Report.

infographic showing 3 statistics on user behavior, product-led growth, and product intelligence

So much of the customer experience relies on your ability to provide continual value to customers as they grow and become more comfortable with your tools. A steady release cadence is a big part of how you provide that kind of experience. We’re not saying that you need to release a new feature or a brand-new product every week. But when you continually iterate on the product experience over time, it shows your customers that you’re invested in their success as well as your own.

Having a dedicated product planning process that relies on metrics also helps you create a baseline for evaluating the overall business and customer impact of each release. This makes it easier to refine important workflows for your team and provide a consistently engaging experience across the board.

Product Planning Shortens the Development Life Cycle

Documenting the product planning process helps you define how your team works together. It makes organizing tasks easier and creates a dedicated workflow for your team, which helps you move systematically through the product development life cycle. This cuts down on confusion and provides the direction your team needs to move faster through the development process without sacrificing quality.

When you save time in this way, it also creates a better overall development experience for your team as well. Instead of struggling to complete tasks on time, they’ll be able to move through various workflows with a clear sense of how their work moves the project forward as a whole.

Incorporating a release management plan in the product planning process also helps your team roll out new features more effectively. This document provides clarity into each stage of development, from ideation and documentation to release, user experience, and support. Your release strategy also acts as the go-to resource for scheduling important marketing or advertising campaigns related to an upcoming launch.

Let’s say you’re working on a live chat integration for your transactional ecommerce product. The product planning process connects development milestones with the value customers receive from various features in development—while also communicating these milestones with your team.

timeline showing product planning, design, and development milestones

Visibility into these milestones cuts down on confusion and potential bottlenecks before they become an issue for your team, which can help decrease development time as your team moves through the development process.

The product planning process ensures that every member of your team not only understands their individual tasks and responsibilities but also how those tasks fit into the teams’ overall product road map. Combined with visibility into important project milestones, proper planning keeps everyone accountable for their own work while also creating a culture of shared responsibility for the scope of the entire project.

The Product Planning Process Drives Innovation for Your Team

A concrete product planning process makes developing new and engaging products for your customers that much easier. It cuts down on the time it takes to understand what the market needs and helps you define product or feature requirements quickly. That frees up time for your team to think strategically about what’s truly innovative, decreases burnout, and boosts engagement with the product development process.

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