You’ve made it! You’ve launched your online platform or mobile app and you hopefully have a steady stream of new users and customers. Now what?! This article will give you an overview of life after launch.
If you’ve read my previous article on product development and product management, you’ll know that your launch is just the beginning of your journey. Your platform or app has to be managed through its lifecycle. There’s a constant cycle of updates and improvements that you need to make on your product and you’ve got to be actively involved in what these should be. You also need to manage the day-to-day running of your product. There are three main areas to look at:
- Operations and Fixes
- Maintenance and Compliance
- New Features
Operations and Fixes
A platform or app is a 24 x 7 x 365 day product. That means that you’ve got to make sure that your product is available to your users all of the time. If it’s a mobile app that resides solely on a user’s phone, then you may have a bit of leeway, but if you’re an online SaaS (software as a service) platform or if your app links to a database somewhere, you need to make sure your users can access it whenever they want. Areas to think about here include customer support (how do they contact you when something goes wrong?), backup and recovery (how do you get your platform working again if it falls apart?), and issue management (how do you track and fix problems that arise through the everyday use of your product?)
Maintenance and Compliance
If you’ve got a mobile app, then maintaining your app is going to be a regular and potentially costly activity. Since your app resides on a mobile phone, you’ve got to keep it up-to-date with the latest phone operating system. Otherwise, it might stop working! Every time Apple or Google releases new major or incremental software updates for their phones, you’ve got to determine what changes might be required for your app.
On the web side, maintenance updates will depend on how your platform was built. If it’s using WordPress, then you need to stay current with new WordPress and plugin updates. If you’re using a framework, and this changes, then you have to decide whether to adopt the new change – and so on.
There’s also something called “compliance” and this is stuff that you’ve got to address. If you don’t, there’s a risk that you’ll get fined from a government or regulatory body. Examples of compliance may include privacy rules (e.g. GDPR) or the way in which you accept payments on your site.
This is the fun one! These are the changes that you make to your platform or app to make it better. However, you shouldn’t just whack in any new feature that comes to mind. Go through the product development process again and evaluate all of the new ideas that you’ve got for our product. A proper review of your ideas will allow you to identify which features you should spend money on and which ones you shouldn’t. Think about the tangible and justifiable benefits that the change will have on your platform or app. Things such as return on investment (the profit you make on any money that you spend) and the payback period (how long it takes to cover the cost of the investment) are important to consider. Don’t just add it because you think it’ll be cool! Research shows that 80% of features in applications have low or no value based on how often they’re used. So, think about whether you really need to make the investment or not.
Key reasons for adding new features might include:
- Aligning with your company vision and mission
- Improving an existing user experience
- Matching functionality in a competitor product
- Addressing a new market that aligns with your strategic goals
- Generating new revenue via a new opportunity
What does this mean to you?
If you have set up suitable processes for managing your day-to-day operations and issue management, I would start there. You want to keep any disruptions to users to a minimum, so having these processes in place will give you some piece of mind and will stop the panic when things go wrong (because they will!)
There are a lot of ongoing costs for running and maintaining your platform or app, so you need to do is set aside a budget for it. Generally, you’re going to spend about 15-20% of your original development costs on maintenance and updates. Some industries may be higher than others due to ongoing compliance changes, and you may spend more on improvements in the early years as your user base grows.
Make sure your developers stay on top of your maintenance updates. Depending on the updates required, you might need to tell them what changes to make. For example, if there’s new legislation around privacy, you have to figure out what that means from a business point of view, and then work with the developer to determine what updates need to be made to your platform or app.
When it comes to adding new features, you should think about how often you want to launch them. If you’ve got a few things on the list, you might consider grouping them together and launching them at the same time. Having a plan and a process for how you identify and validate new features will ensure that you’re choosing the right things to build.
Launching your platform or app is actually the beginning of an ongoing exercise in operations, maintenance and enhancement. Make sure your platform or app is looking at all of these things to ensure that your business can grow.
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