The Most Commonly Cited Reasons for a Failed Product Launch

By Greg Geracie, President, Actuation Consulting 

Since 2012 we have been investigating the various aspects that enable product teams to achieve high performance. Each year product launch is consistently cited as a problem area. There are several reasons why this area is so problematic for a wide variety of organizations. For instance, most respondents (63%) say they do not have a single person accountable for managing product launch and go-to-market activities.

When asked which role they feel is responsible for managing the product launch and go-to-market activities in their organization, product management is the most popular choice by far (40%). All of the other choices rank much lower.

Which role do you feel is responsible for managing the product launch and go to market activities in your organization?

Feb 2014 HighPerformance Teams 020314From the 2013 Study of Product Team Performance™ by Actuation Consulting™

A large majority of our respondents feel that their product launch activities are not properly resourced, brought to market effectively and properly staffed; 64% answered “no” when asked this question.

Respondents list a variety of causes for ineffective launches, including:

  • “Poor levels of trust within and across the organization.”
  • “We have a very small team to do everything there is in a product launch. Product management has no support resources and must wear many hats and juggle many balls.”
  • “We govern by committee so there is no one product owner setting direction. We don’t have one person accountable for the direction or for handling conflicting priorities. Instead the committee sets direction and often everyone below them scrambles to get the work done.”
  • “There is no direct ownership of products. Upon launch, it transitions to another department to run with, but there’s a lack of motivation/drive to make sure it’s profitable and communicated effectively to the masses.”
  • “Lack of understanding of that part of the product management process (and product management in general).”

Organizations would do well to take heed of the voice of these product team members. There are several key steps that all product teams should take to heart:

1.    Start with making sure that there is one person singularly responsible for managing the launch. This can be a product manager, product marketer, marketing manager, or some other role. What matters is that someone is ultimately accountable for making sure that the large investments companies are making in product development don’t get derailed during the launch process.

2.   A second area of emphasis should be to ensure that the product launch activities are planned well in advance – as many launches deploy without sufficient planning. Often the launch plan is hastily constructed at the end of the product development process. It is well worth the time and effort to ensure that all key objectives are clearly understood and that the supporting strategies are appropriately aligned to the objectives. This cascade from key objectives to supporting strategies flows into that actual tactics that are chosen to achieve the stated goals. This type of planning can’t be done well at the last minute.

3.    Finally, even well planned launches won’t succeed if they are not properly resourced. While one person should be accountable for the success or failure of the launch, the team needs sufficient resources to not only launch the product but to magnify and sustain the launch in the market. All too often organizations view launch as a point in time event when in fact more thought should have been given to sustaining the launch in order to optimize the investment. 

To ensure that your team is maintaining consistent accountability we have found that high performance teams emphasize:

  • Clearly defined measures of success (KPI’s)
  • A singular point of accountability for the success of the launch
  • Robust planning in advance of the launch
  • Securing appropriate funding – to not only launch the product – but to magnify and sustain the launch over time
  • Weekly cross-functional team meetings to ensure appropriate adjustments can be made in real-time

How well does your team measure up?

Greg is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. He is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management and led the development of The Guide to the Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge as editor-in-chief with MIT professor Steven Eppinger. Greg is an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.