The ‘Red-zone’ of Software Product Management

In football, it’s more challenging for teams to move the ball inside their opponent’s 20 yard line. The field is compressed, the defense has less territory to protect, and the pressures are higher. They call it the red-zone because it renders teams less productive.

I’ve come to understand that software product development also has a red-zone.

After features have been declared, the user interface designed, the solution architected, and tests put in place, the product still must released (aka the endzone).

Release may involve migrating data or users, integrating payment or communications, fixing bugs, or a litany of other required steps. Often (if not always), launch prohibiting setbacks are uncovered and outcomes are overlooked each step of the way.

I’ve found to get in the endzone you must first define exactly what that means, and then detail the necessary stages to get there as milestones. Lastly eliminate everything accept that absolutely necessary for completion of the very next step. Next steps could be internal demos, migrated users or data, self-serve customer signup, payment passed, etc.

The point is, each milestone should be clearly delineated and communicated throughout the team so everyone has a goal to strive towards.

Being my first product management role, I’m looking to swiftly improve in this area. What did I leave out or overlook? What are some best practices and resources to improve at getting in your software product in the endzone?

  1. You’re in the 20% part of the 80/20 rule. Sometimes that last 20% of the work seems to take 80% of the time!

    This is a giant topic you’re writing about, but getting familiar over time with the engineering / execution requirements will help you predict what you’ll encounter in future releases. You might want to consider how ongoing feature releases differ from the initial rollout of a new product. Does your team have enough bandwidth to fix bugs without derailing your strategic initiatives?

    Having said all that, the engineering details can distract you from the market if you let it. Once you reach a certain size, you’ll want to consider having someone with more of an execution focus partner with you as you’re out doing customer development and understanding market problems. Otherwise, you’re at risk of delivering a “successful” on-time release that doesn’t solve your prospects’ or customers’ problems.

  2. Red zone is where champions are won and chumps gets sent home! Strap on your helmet, get in the huddle and do these 3 things to ensure touchdown:
    1. Dedicate a sprint to the release – allow you and your team to just focus on what it will take to get the release “done” and then put your shoulder into it and drive!
    2. Know your positions – ensure people know their roles, if you call on someone to respond to adversity will they answer the call or curl up under the pressure of potential success.
    3. Don’t let good be the enemy of perfect – get better each release by being disciplined about the release– the game will slow which will increase your decision making accuracy for an audible play.

Submit a Comment