Your application has launched. Now what?

It is exciting to see the first users log into your freshly launched application or digital product. Not test accounts of co-workers or beta testers, but actual users. Users expecting to extract value by engaging with your digital product.

Raising children while also working in the software development space, I have noticed parallels between the two seemingly different areas. These parallels start prior to launch/birth and continue through the various stages of maturity. Now that your product has launched, your baby born, what should you expect next? Following are a few key items to consider.

1. Have a support plan in place

With the hospital staff no longer hovering to help, you are now fully responsible for your baby once it is home. However, just as you must choose your pediatrician before leaving the hospital, you need to clearly establish your post-launch support application team prior to launch. Inevitably there will be a hiccups, and these can occur at any time. Having expertise “on call” is essential.

Application Support Plans

Depending on the criticality of the application and the potential business impact of errors/downtime, different levels of support may be required. Furthermore, it is best to have this support team assembled and conducting failure injection testing prior to launch. Run through real-life scenarios of infrastructure failures in fire drill fashion. Know areas which are more prone to having issues and learn how to quickly address them.

Most importantly, don’t be caught off-guard.

Time and budget

Expect to budget 3-10% of the platform cost annually for critical support, ongoing bug fixes and minor improvements, depending on the required resolution time.

2. Use analytics and data to make decisions

Your child may appear to be doing wonderfully, however, seeing data to substantiate this is most reassuring. Is he or she tracking on the growth charts appropriately? Are they hitting development milestones?

Software Development and Analytics

In much the same way, product data/analytics should be continuously monitored and analyzed. Are there usability concerns within certain areas? Are specific errors occurring on a consistent basis? Are certain features of the application used more than others? Is the application up-time where you expect it to be?

A sound approach to analytics can help identify where users may be getting stuck, which features are providing the most value to users, and ultimately help define where future investments should be made. While a stakeholder may believe the next release should focus on building out Feature A, analytics data may indicate Feature B is where those refinement dollars should be spent.

Time and budget

Plan to allocate several hours per month to review analytics data in detail—more time if the application is larger or complex.

3. Get an outside opinion

Everyone is biased, especially parents. The first parent-teacher conference is often a good illustration of this. Though much of the feedback about your son or daughter is anticipated, certain elements may come as a surprise. Receiving feedback resulting from an (unbiased) observation by a teacher or caregiver often provides unique insight into your child.

Product owners, product managers, and developers are not without bias. Positive illusion bias, in this case an unrealistically positive perception of the product because of our personal involvement in making it, is one that is commonly seen. To continually improve products we need opinions outside of ourselves and our like-minded spheres.

Time and budget

Plan to budget 3-7% of the platform cost for user testing between releases, depending on the type of application.

4. Keep ahead of technical debt

Eating healthy, brushing teeth, and staying active helps avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor and dentist. Establishing this behavior early in life helps form good, proactive habits.

Software Development Technical Debt

Similarly, addressing technical debt early and regularly helps avoid painful refactoring efforts later. Improving efficiencies within the codebase and adopting new framework releases not only helps ensure a good user experience, it also lays the groundwork to more easily make changes and add new features when the time arrives.

Time and budget

Plan to budget 5-10% of the initial platform cost annually to address technical debt.

5. Plan where the product is going next

As children grow and accomplish new milestones, parents look ahead to achieving the next milestone. For example, after learning to crawl, parents encourage their children to walk. After learning numbers, it is time to work on simple math.

Product Development Milestones

In a similar fashion, users’ expectations are constantly growing and evolving. As they become accustomed to a product’s feature set, satisfaction will slowly wane. Competition will make advancements. Popular user interface patterns will change. Content and/or visuals will require a refresh.

A roadmap that details future releases is needed. Frequent improvements and feature releases signals to users that your organization is invested in building great products and can help keep users engaged.

Time and budget

While this varies by application type, keep in mind that most web and mobile applications require a major overhaul if not a complete rebuild approximately every five years.

Final thoughts

Much like a child, a digital product is a living, evolving, and even slightly fragile creation. Effort and investment in the platform cannot cease after the initial release if the product is to be successful. In total plan to spend between 15-25% of total initial development costs annually to maintain a market leading digital product.

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