In recognizing the work that all the departmental teams had contributed to create this novel product, I decided to orchestrate a group presentation to roll out the new offering to the entire company.
I really enjoy our Release Previews. These are monthly get-togethers I created to have the Product team demonstrate, to the entire company, the latest, shippable product updates and enhancements. These meetings are intentionally distinct from the less formal Sprint Review, typically led by and targeted at Engineers.
That is not to say that Engineers are not part of the Release Preview - actually they are often featured as we are showing off their handiwork in most cases. But the broader messages we deliver to the company at the Release Preview are more value-driven, as in what value are these updates going to provide to our customers and to our own business?
We all know it takes a coordinated effort to build and release new products. During the Release Preview, I try to make sure we recognize everyone who contributes to our incremental progress and that goes well beyond Product and Engineering. But this was not our standard release.
This was the official launch of our new Reference App.
What drove this decision
This was a major achievement for our company and I wanted this particular Release Preview to stand out from the rest. After many months of planning, development, testing, and customer validation, we were ready to unveil a unique new offering that would differentiate our company - and it was important to me and the team that everyone in the company appreciate the collective accomplishment.
The decision: Preview the new product in a group setting where each department contributes to the larger story.
More important than getting everyone up to speed on and pumped up about the new product, I wanted them to all to understand and appreciate the work that all of us had done to make it a reality. We had shown prototypes of the product many months ago and despite small, periodic updates, many in the company had all but forgotten about it.
In the reminder email I sent to the company days before the event, I emphasized how this particular Release Preview was going to be an extravaganza. Now it was time to put together a presentation that lived up to the hype.
Plan of attack
The highlight of our Release Previews are most certainly the product demonstrations. But as I mentioned before, we are very prudent about wrapping those demonstrations with stories about the value that is ultimately delivered to the end customer. This presentation would be no different but the story would be larger and all-inclusive.
Recount How we gOt here
To start things off, I asked our head of Research to provide the back story. This app came out of one of the best customer research initiatives we had ever run and I couldn't think of a better way to set the stage. Straight from our customers' mouths, we heard about the struggles they had been having with our platform. Over and over, we were told the same thing - you have to give us more visibility into what's going on.
We listened, we prototyped and we validated. The reason I felt so confident in this presentation - and in this new product - was because it was practically dictated to us by our end users.
Get representatives from each department to contribute their parts of the story
Then, one by one, I had representatives from each department stand up and speak to other facets of the product.
Professional Services described the lengths they would go to just to provide a makeshift remedy to the customer's visibility problem.
Engineering and Ops took turns talking about the speed at which we would be able to deliver updates to the product and how much our entire deployment had improved as a result of launching this app.
UX gushed about how the new app leveraged a recently developed component library and how it help to launch a new UI paradigm for the company.
Sales and Marketing weighed in with the overwhelmingly positive response they were getting from the early previews we had been sharing with prospects and customers.
And so on. By assigning each of them a dedicated speaking role and by giving all the contributions equal weighting, I was able to relate a shared victory for everyone.
GET THE CEO TO WRAP IT ALL UP WITH A ROUSING FINISH
I would have been happy enough with just the departmental contributions, but to end on an even higher note, I asked our CEO to supply his own thoughts on our newest product. In a brief but stirring, unrehearsed speech, he shared his appreciation for all our hard work and for the company-wide commitment to product innovation.
It was well-received by all.
To say the Release Preview went well would be an understatement. We had the largest employee turnout ever for an event like this and I received a great deal of positive feedback afterwards. One of the recurring messages was that we might want to reserve additional, spillover conference rooms in the future to accommodate more of our folks in the office!
I thanked all the speakers individually for their participation and gently reminded them that we still had more work to do to make the official launch a success. At the end of the day, with all the solidarity we generated, I couldn't help but feel that success was, if not inevitable, then certainly more attainable.