Welcome again to my weekly installment for startups “After the Funding“. Things are going well with your startup. Your dream is about to become reality. You built the prototype, launched the beta and got the funding! Time to sit back and think about the upcoming challenges you must master to unlock the growth of your post-funding startup.
This week I will look at release planning and advocate putting in place an aggressive yet predictable rollout schedule.
Establish a Product Heartbeat – a Continual Rapid-Fire Release Plan
Initially the majority of development resources went into the core product. A lot of time is spent researching, investigating and fine tuning, which keeps the code base small and manageable. There are few external deadlines and commitments and the release schedule is opportunity-driven. A multitude of different versions of the product are released in response to specific requests of a hot prospect or a brilliant idea of the founder.
As the company grows, the customer base expands and matures. It will soon become infeasible to maintain customer specific versions, each with their own features, defects, hot fixes and updates. And an expanding development team will create management challenges to keep everybody productive.
It is time to introduce your product heartbeat, a continual rapid-fire release program that will maximize productivity and flexibility. It will provide customers with new features and fixes at short, predictable intervals. It will shield the development team from disruptions by frequently alternating periods of focused production with periods of re-planning and re-prioritization. And it will stave off the temptation of short-notice customer-specific releases. To support the heartbeat you should invest in a solid development infrastructure early on.
After the Funding
In the first post of the series I explained that decision-making needs to be based on long-term strategy. In a rapidly growing company, the owners need to spend time defining a clear and concise strategy while day-to-day decision making shifts to others based on their roles in the company.
Then I cautioned about the risks of premature expansion of the sales force. Owners must set-up a repeatable sales process first and then expand the sales force.
And last week I talked about the importance of a product roadmap to create alignment between expanding departments. The roadmap will help business defining its target market and will provide guidance to technology in setting priorities and allocating resources.
Next week I will explain how to build a team of professionals that is smart and gets things done.
- Join the Agile Alliance or read the Agile Manifesto
- Participate in the Agile Commons community – blogs, forums and much more on anything agile!
- Download and start using agile web tools such as Basecamp for project collaboration, XPlanner for agile project tracking or JIRA for combined bug, issue and task tracking