Determining the First Release

Jessica Hall

BY Jessica Hall

VP, Product Strategy & Design

The first thing you release needs to put the solution to your customer’s most important problem in their hands. Deciding what the most important problem is and what the smallest solution to that problem is should be the main focus of any first release.


Less is More

You don’t need to release as much as you may believe. Instead, focus on the part of the process centered around the biggest opportunity to react to pain, start building and testing around that, and then expand outward. Starting with this core assures that the focus is on solving for the biggest pain and therefore guarantees that the release will give the customer what they need and will make it easier to differentiate.


Risk Factor

If you stuff too much into your first release you risk:

  • Limited adoption: if less care and attention is paid to differentiators or core value propositions, or if the product is doing a mediocre job of solving a lot of problems instead of an incredible job of solving one problem, then the consumer base will be limited
  • Losing time: if the company spends too much time building means you get beaten to market by competitor
  • Increased expense: building software is expensive the longer it takes to get out, the longer it takes to get a return on your investment

One of the biggest barriers to moving quickly is reputation risk. Companies fall into the mindset that if they don’t release something, then they can’t get bad reviews. They’d rather release something and have it fall flat in terms of customer reaction than release a product and receive negative reviews. Creating a big, expensive product no one wants or uses is a much bigger risk than a product with a few bad reviews. It’s also possible to mitigate reputation risk by releasing the product under a different brand name or releasing to a small group of friendly customers.

GrowingOutwardKeep Focused

The central focus of every single release should always be servicing the customer and their needs. Customer interviews and surveys, as well as testing, can give a comprehensive overview of the customer’s problem and help to define a solution to be created. Not only will this develop and maintain a successful consumer base, but it will also prevent companies from wasting valuable time and resources on ineffective product releases. In this way, companies can always ensure that their first releases, and any subsequent ones, will be as successful as possible.

About The Author

Jessica Hall is the VP of Product Strategy and Design at 3Pillar Global. She is the co-author of ‘The Product Mindset: Succeed in the Digital Economy By Changing the Way Your Organization Thinks.’ Her teams help startup, midsize and enterprise clients invest in products that customers want and drive business forward. Jessica has done everything from user experience design, strategy, product management, video production, to multi-channel marketing. Previously, she built the UX team at CEB and led the creation of the Newseum’s interactive exhibits and websites. Her work has been recognized by the Web Marketing Association, American Association of Museums, The Webby Awards, Time, Graphic Design USA, Forbes, and The Washington Post. She holds a Masters in Design and Digital Media from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Journalism from American University.

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