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How do you assess organizational readiness ahead of a product launch?

Too often product marketing is seen as a collateral producing engine. But with substantial new launches, we are sometimes the only ones integrating needs, insights, and potential operational bottlenecks across all stakeholders, internal or external. I’m curious both of how you think of org readiness and how you incorporate this dimension into your launch motion.
5 Answers
Andrew Forbes
Andrew Forbes
Figma Director, Product MarketingJune 29

This is an awesome question. 

The way we've gotten ahead of it when I was at Zendesk - which has worked well - is by creating an "Operations Council" who is responsible for reviewing the operational components of a launch. This includes reviews of things like billing readiness, pricing & packaging, and making sure that we have reporting systems ready for us to track the success of a launch. 

These meetings are staffed by stakeholders in each department as well as their respective leadership. It's a great way of ensuring that as a business we are ready to operationalize a new product line or revenue stream and for us to surface up potential issues that we need to address before a launch. 

Additionally, we have a number of syncs with different launch stakeholders on a number of cadences; from campaigns to sales enablement to the sales leadership teams. We spend a lot of time with them pre-launch, gathering their needs, refining plans together, and ensuring that launches will be successful. 

At the end of the day, launching something new is a massive team effort and as a PMM we sit in a great spot where we can bring teams together, share insights, and make sure a launch goes smoothly. 

Stephen Baloglu
Stephen Baloglu
Adobe Director of Product MarketingMarch 30

Organization readiness can be measured at different altitudes…e.g. Super high level and broad: does the business have the right strategy to win? vs. tactical: are we set up for a successful product launch and meet near-term goals? And points in-between.

Let’s assume the big strategy pieces are figured out and set up for success and we’re focusing on the more near-term tactical pieces of a successful launch.

There are a few areas that I focus on to assess launch readiness. For all of these, the key is to gain partnership and commitment with your x-functional leaders on the priority and measures of success.

1. Product readiness

  • Customer voice - Talk to your beta customers. What do they think? What is their behavior, look at the data. Don’t have a set of beta customers? Well, you need to find a way to get real-world insights from your target customers to inform the launch.
  • Launch metrics - is the product meeting established criteria that have been set to signal product-market fit. This can include things like CSAT or NPS, high-intensity use, performance & stability metrics, etc..
  • Scalability - are the product and systems ready to handle the volume and scale of the launch…and then some. You are going to crush the launch, right!

2. Customer Experience

  • Discovery and customer journeys - do you have the right funnels with a cohesive story/message across the journey that drive customers to whatever you’re launching? At Adobe we do end-to-end experience mapping by a partner team (unbiased 3rd party) to uncover risks and gaps to fill prior to launch.
  • Product led growth engine- Are you delivering value fast enough, with low barriers to entry as a part of a loop to get customers more deeply engaged? Map this all out and figure out what's critical at launch to keep customers engaged and what you can build post-launch as you iterate on the experience.
  • Customer support - this includes status content as well as live people helping people in whatever channels you have; phones, chat, community forums, social channels, etc…Do these teams have all the right info to help customers when and if they need it?
  • Globalization and Culturalization - If this is a global launch, are you serving an experience that is not only localized for language but culturalized to connect with your customers in their local context? Partner with your geo teams to get this right and make the right investments where you can have the most impact.

3. Sales & Channel readiness

  • Sales enablement content - Have you armed the team with great content? Make sure you have some strong relationships with the sales team and be open to iterating on this content to make it work for the field teams.
  • Awareness and motivation - You can send your 1-sheeter to the sales team…but that doesn’t mean they’ll use it. Find the opportunities to get in front of the team and hit home why this is important for them and their goals.

4. Data

  • Analytics - I’ve had too many launches where we’re close to launching and haven’t built the dashboards and fully defined what we’re measuring beyond the KPIs. You’ll want diagnostics to come along with the high-level metrics so you can tell what’s working, and what’s not. Data…do it early and often.
  • Feedback loops - Do you have the right listening posts pre and post-launch to get well-rounded insights from the market. This can be product telemetry data as well as qual feedback and quant customer surveys. Use this to determine success as well as informing the next iteration and roadmap.

5. Team

  • Big launches need professional biz ops/program management - Don’t ask the pastry chef to make the soup. Leverage what people are best at…A great biz ops partner will ask the tough questions in an unbiased way, shake out the overly optimistic/unrealistic parts of the plan, and get the right people in the room to solve problems.
  • Don’t be afraid to get real - Let’s talk Status - The launch is either green or red (all product launches are yellow and come down to the wire…the question is, are you going to make it or not? Is the team blocked? Do they need more resources? If you need leaders to unlock something or make a decision, it’s red. If not, it’s green and you’ll figure it out) Debate this with the team…Candor…ask the team what’s not being said that should?
  • Team health - Along the way, be sure to check-in with the team on the personal and emotional aspects. Big product launches are most successful when a team is collaborating effectively, with clear responsibilities, committed to the vision, and trimming the boat in the same direction.
Eve Alexander
Eve Alexander
Seismic Vice President, Product MarketingMay 18

One thing that has been wonderful at Seismic is we have someone on the product marketing team that is in a program management role and who is responsible for driving and faciliating organizational readiness for launches (shout out to my colleague, Steve!). He pulls together "tiger teams" for our major launches with representatives from around the company, leads weekly meetings, and manages our project plan. This takes some of that organizational readiness weight off the PMM. The PMM lead may still have to help triage bottlenecks and risks, but frees her up to spend more time on her core work of buyer insights, GTM strategy, messaging and positioning, enablement, launch, etc. 

Chase Wilson
Chase Wilson
Atlassian Fmr Head of Product Marketing, Jira Work ManagementMay 26

Great question! For the Jira Work Management launch I was actually the first team hire. This was really important for the dynamic of our team and we eshewed the common "triad" for a "quad". That is to say that I helped design the product and no large decisions were made without my input, whether that was for design, engineering, or product. The same existed in the reverse, where everyone knew what the marketing gameplan was and was able to give their suggestions and thoughts.

I would say that every new product team should be evaluating the market, competitors, differentiators, packaging, and positioning before designing the product. This could be done by a product marketer or not, but these areas are key.

You're absolutely right that product marketers are often relegated to "translation duty", or to take whatever the triad created and find a way to present that to customers. Org readiness was a huge task for my most recent launch and I essentially managed:

  • All cross-team enablement
  • Distribution strategy and coordinating with relevant teams to make those channels succeed
  • Asset creation, development, and testing

I found that a few things were key to making this successful. 

  • Deep knowledge of the product itself. If you don't know how and why the product is engineered the way it is you'll almost always be creating superficial enablement materials. Additionally, I believe that you want to get to the point where stakeholders will come to you with technical questions and that you should be able to answer ~70-80% of those questions. The rest (such as why the GraphQL endpoint was configured the way it was, etc) should be handed over to product or engineering.
  • Organizational buy-in. I found this allowed for less last-minute stress as I was able to ask favors for quick turnarounds. Also, other people in the organization would come to me with their ideas for how to make the launch better.
  • Trusting relationships with your core team. You really should aim to be a foundational pillar of why, when, and how a product is launched. But even before that, you should hope to be a pillar for why the product is necessary at all. Once you have this foundational knowledge you'll be better set up for success with organizing the work surrounding a launch.
Dave Daniels
Dave Daniels
BrainKraft FounderMay 25

I start with the objectives of the launch and work from there. I look for advantages that can be leveraged and obstacles that need to be removed. I assign functional areas (e.g. Sales, Finance, Legal) to each launch member of my launch team. One of their primary responsibilities is to identify readiness gaps that can prevent us from achieving our launch objectives (OKRs).

A Launch Readiness Plan is created for each functional area to document the readiness gaps, prioritize the gaps based on severity, and have a plan of action to close each readiness gap. Granted there is some degree of subjectivity here but the big readiness gaps always rise to the surface (we've never sold this type of product, we've never sold into this market, etc.)

My goal is to plan with my eyes wide open. I encourage launch team members not to take what they hear from functional area leads at face value. How many times have you heard a sales VP tell you that can sell anything to anyone? How did that turn out? Be annoyingly curious and use critical thinking to find the truth. 

The point is to identify readiness gaps across the organization, understand how each readiness gap impacts launch performance, develop plans to close the gaps, and verify the gaps are closed. 

Here's a link to an article with more detail - 

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