Published here April, 2007.  

Introduction | What Constitutes "Success"? 
Product Success | Hazards | The Lesson

The Lesson

What is the lesson in all of this? It is that project managers, and their supporting management must be "marketing savvy" and apply that to the rollout of the product upon completion of the project. That means public relations, advocating, training, advertising, and, yes, even "selling".

As a postscript to these thoughts, we recently received an anonymous letter quoting from an author writing under a pseudonym by the name of Eugene Farmer.[9] The dissertation in this letter describes how to kill a software tool in ten easy steps, in other words, how not to launch such a product. We have carefully paraphrased the content and applied it to "How not to roll out the product of a project!" Here they are for your edification.

1. Keep the new product isolated
People find new things threatening, especially if they have not chosen them themselves. So keep the new product separate, preferable in splendid isolation and away from any attempt to value its worth relative to products currently in use. This way it will eventually be discarded on the grounds that it has no value.

2. Never try out the new product on a project
This might easily demonstrate the new product's usefulness. Besides, anything new involves an extra learning curve and that is to the detriment of the project's budget and schedule. This will allow people to scorn the new product without knowing anything about it.

3. Use the new product only occasionally
Regular use of a product leads to familiarity, even makes it become essential. That's bad because it could obviate the need for equally occasional training. It's bad because it could make the training people redundant. Moreover, the less the product is used, the more repetitive is the learning curve and the consequent perception that the product is hard to use.

4. Make the use of the product optional
Be conciliatory. Introduce the product to potential users with the invitation: "Try it to see if you like it?" This encourages anyone with the temerity to try the product to offer helpful suggestions recounting all the things that they think should be fixed or improved. In other words, everything that they don't like based on all the things that they have been used to. That is, anything that is the slightest bit different is unacceptable. Also, be very careful not to judge their performance on the basis of the new product. That will put them under extreme stress and people don't like stress.

5. Take advantage of existing problems in the use of existing products
Carefully point out that the new product will fix all the problems that are caused by existing products. Be equally careful not to point out any of the new problems caused by the new product. This way, the new problems will come as a surprise and a shock, causing the users to reject the new product out-of-hand. Further, if you've also made it clear that the new product and its trial runs have been conducted at great expense to the management, people will realize the money they are saving the company by not using it - and feel well satisfied that they are doing the right thing.

6. Benefit from fear, uncertainty and inertia
Understand that people naturally resist change, so you can hint that the new product will save a lot of time. In people's minds, this is "code" for dispensing with someone's services. This results in consolidating a team spirit amongst the existing group - and they "close ranks". This solidarity is entirely beneficial to the organization.

7. Step lightly
In large organizations, in particular, "small steps for little people" is venerated. Such an approach is appreciated because it avoids threatening middle and upper management. The best way to do this is to keep the budget, expenditure and consequent effort, low. This also has the effect of throttling any attempts at experimenting with the new product to determine its merits and potential. It is also a good way of avoiding any embarrassment in the event of a snafu.

8. Park the new product on someone else's band wagon
A continuous quality improvement initiative is ideal. Make the new product a part of it. Everyone believes in quality and knows instinctively that when it comes to deadlines, it's the first thing to go - and the new product will go with it.

9. Be thrifty with training
To be authorized to attend a training session is a prize indeed. It provides the opportunity to relax a little, chat with friends and temporarily turn one's back on the usual daily drudgery. The coffee, donuts and muffins are an added bonus. So, make training sessions highly competitive. Try to get the vendor or team technologist to speak for free. This will save money and ensure that only the minimum explanation and coaching is exchanged at the session. This approach also encourages discussion to fill time, and such discussion will mostly revolve around what is wrong with the organization and its bosses.

10. Ostracize the product champion
If the product has a champion, this is an ideal situation. Such a person stands out and is easy to spot. People who stand out look like an oddball and are easy to poke fun at. Words like: intellectual, misguided, misfit, come to mind. Only a little surreptitious prodding usually does the trick and the target gets fed up and quits and, more than likely, takes the product with them to apply it within the competition. This results in a double benefit: Saves money on supporting the new product and saves money on salaries.

At that, you are home free - and ready to move on to even more erudite things.

Hazards  Hazards

9. Apparently quoted from IEEE Software magazine, November/December, 2006, pp 12-13. If you happen to be Eugene Farmer, then we offer our sincere apologies.
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