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New Feature Releases: A PM's Guide for Effective Launches

Learn how to execute feature releases that drive revenue growth, including everything from prioritizing features to crafting effective GTM strategies.

“Speed is a feature, reliability is nothing.”

This little gem about product features is a response from the StackOverflow team to the question: is software getting worse? It highlights how the dip in the quality of anticipated product launches and feature releases has everything to do with the fractured development and GTM process

The incentive to get to market first means product-led tech and media companies must constantly release, tweak, and sunset different product features to keep existing customers happy and new ones coming in the pipe. 

But product, marketing, and sales have their own feature release priorities — the process inevitably gets bogged down by silos and a pile of documents.

Today we’ll look at how a holistic approach to the product life cycle helps make this process scalable (and maintains the sanity of your developers, product managers, and PMMs).   

But first, a quick recap on feature releases. 

What is a feature release? (and how does it drive adoption and revenue growth)

A feature release is when a company adds new features or improves existing ones in their product. This is important for keeping the product up-to-date and attractive to customers, which helps the business grow and make more money. 

It’s part of a bigger process where businesses continuously update their products to meet customer needs and stay competitive in your market.

Feature releases are different from launching a new product. They focus on making an existing product better by adding or enhancing features. The better and more relevant the features, the more likely customers are to continue using the product, and the easier it becomes to attract new users.

We use launch tiers to understand how important a feature release is to our business and customers. It’s like a ranking system:

  • Tier one includes the top 10% of launches that are very important for the business and its customers.
  • Tier two covers 60% of launches that are important for the business or the customers.
  • Tier three represents the remaining 30% of launches that have moderate or low importance.

A Go-to-market matrix outlining how product and feature releases have different levels of value to both a business and customers: T1 being highest, T3 being lowest

It seems simple on paper, but actually nailing down which tier a new product or feature falls under is a challenge. If you need help identifying the tier of your next launch or release, check out our free launch tier calculator.

Now let’s look at the 3 stages of a new feature release.

The 3 stages of a new feature release

At surface level, a feature release simply announces your product has new functionality. But making this release successful involves careful messaging, cross-functional collaboration among teams, and precise timing to ensure a smooth rollout. Product managers orchestrate this symphony, ensuring all departments and stakeholders keep time and building to the crescendo. 

You can separate the journey of a feature release into three key phases:

  1. Pre-release: This phase encompasses a number of significant steps —  from ideation and discovery to identifying which features to develop to designing and developing those features. 
  2. Release: This phase marks the actual launch of the new feature, which may include an incremental rollout to gather feedback and make adjustments as needed.
  3. Post-release: This is the analysis and reporting phase where PMs monitor and assess the feature's impact and performance. Insights gathered during this phase inform updates to the product backlog and future development priorities.

While PMs are in the driving seat throughout this process, it’s important to note that stakeholders from product marketing, sales, and leadership work closely to develop the go-to-market strategy and assets supporting a feature release. 

Why are feature releases so important?

The importance of feature releases cannot be overstated, especially in the tech industry, where innovation is relentless. Regular feature updates are essential for a number of reasons, including: 

  • Increasing user satisfaction and retention
  • Addressing and commercializing user problems
  • Keeping pace with competitors

Each of these goals benefits either the customer or your business and ultimately helps drive both feature adoption and revenue growth. 

However, scaling these efforts poses significant challenges for product teams. According to the ProductPlan's 2023 State of Product Management Report, many teams struggle to manage the frequency and scale of feature releases efficiently:

25% of product managers believe planning and prioritizing initiatives is their greatest challenge. And this difficulty with prioritization impacts the bottom line — nearly 20% of PMs believe poor prioritization is the primary cause of product development investments not meeting the expectations set out by senior management. 

Essentially, feature releases are a strategic tool for commercializing user needs so you can drive (and maintain) product adoption and ultimately increase revenue for your company.

How to Plan and Execute the Perfect New Feature Release

The ability to plan and execute a new feature release is now a competitive advantage for any digital company. But as you saw above, product teams struggle with one of the most important aspects: prioritizing which features to release first. 

This happens because many companies still navigate the product life cycle and stakeholder communication through a disjointed, siloed process, especially during go-to-market (GTM) phases. This fractured approach hampers large-scale product launches and impacts smaller-scale feature releases. 

The bottom line: companies need to navigate the commercialization process in a comprehensive and holistic manner. 

Let’s look at how Ignition helps you navigate the 3 phases of a feature release through a central Go-to-Market platform

Pre-release: product management and GTM planning

The pre-release phase is critical, laying the foundation for a successful launch. Product managers and their teams embark on several key tasks during this period.

  • Identifying features and prioritizing the backlog: This involves sifting through the backlog to prioritize features that align with the product strategy and user needs. 
  • Conducting user research: Understanding user needs and preferences is crucial. Ignition’s feature ideas and upvoting function stand out here, enabling a democratic approach to feature selection, where the most requested and impactful ideas are pushed to the forefront. 
  • Establishing feature OKRs and KPIs: Setting clear objectives and key results, along with key performance indicators, helps measure the feature's success post-launch.
  • Liaising between developers and other departments: Maintaining alignment across departments ensures everyone is on the same page regarding the feature’s objectives, timeline, and expected outcomes.
  • Preparing for release/launch with Product Marketing: The PMM plays a pivotal role in crafting the message and strategy for the feature's market introduction, and close collaboration with product management is essential for a cohesive launch plan.

Ignition streamlines the pre-release phase by prioritizing features aligned with strategic goals (more money) and user demands (better product) with the following: 

This functionality makes it easy for product teams to collaborate across departments, maintaining alignment on feature objectives and timelines. At the same time, Ignition makes life easy for Product Marketing Managers, helping them bring features to market in a way that resonates with current and potential users.

Release: feature launch

The release phase is where the rubber meets the road, and the feature is introduced to users. The tasks undertaken during this phase include:

  • Feature testing and environment monitoring: Testing the feature across different environments ensures that it works as intended and provides a smooth user experience.
  • Supporting the PMM and sales team with messaging: Extracting information and insights from your CRM and sales tools to accurately communicate the value of the new feature to users.
  • Tracking consumer sentiment/early responses: Collecting early feedback from alpha and beta releases provides immediate insights into the feature's reception and areas for improvement.

Ignition helps PMs keep the feature release stage on track by connecting directly with product roadmapping tools like Jira, Linear, and Productboard. It also gives PMMs and sales teams detailed messaging guidelines and insights extracted directly from Salesforce, Intercom, and other rich sources of customer information.  

With AI-summaries of early responses, Ignition helps you track consumer sentiment in real-time, providing insights into the feature's reception and areas for improvement. This way, you can quickly pivot messaging based on user feedback to maintain a successful and well-communicated product launch.

Post-release: tracking and analyzing results

After the feature is live, the focus shifts to monitoring its performance and gathering learnings for future releases. Key activities include:

  • Tracking performance across relevant metrics: Metrics such as release frequency, success rate, lead time, rollback rate, and user satisfaction score offer a quantitative look at the feature's impact.
  • Enacting the rollback procedure (if necessary): If the feature doesn’t meet expectations or negatively affects the user experience, having a plan to revert changes quickly is crucial.
  • Conducting cross-team retrospectives: These meetings are invaluable for dissecting what worked and what didn’t, allowing teams to refine their approach for future releases.

The job isn’t done after release. Ignition easily tracks performance across departments, using those same integrations with your CRM, sales, and product roadmap platforms to extract data and determine how well you meet OKRs. 

Ignition’s measurement feature also helps you create launch impact reports and conduct retrospectives, so you can prove the exact impact of your release and identify areas of improvement. 

Drive new feature adoption with Ignition release notes

While most of your feature releases aren’t high-priority resource-heavy tier 1 launches, you still need to get that information out to the right people. Ignition release notes help you announce new products, marketing campaigns, brand updates, and internal changes to team members and customers. 

Instead of working across a number of different documents and fumbling around with your CMS, release notes make it easy to get your information out there. Release notes are how we communicate every new Ignition feature.

Ignition has a release notes function that makes it easy to communicate your upcoming and recent feature releases

Here’s a look at what you get with the release notes feature: 

  • Internal and external announcements: With Ignition, you can choose whether a new feature announcement is for internal communication within the company or public release. Public announcements are supported with an external landing page to easily review all recent releases.

Ignition feature release notes dashboard showing a public "coming soon" announcement for strawberry chocolemonade

  • Customizable landing pages: The external landing page for public announcements can be customized with brand colors and header images and includes features like tagging and searching for organizing posts by product line or audience.

An external release notes landing page for chocolemonade with custom branding included

  • Integration with product roadmapping tools: The release notes page is integrated with Ignition's product roadmapping tools, allowing for a seamless transition from idea management to public announcement. This includes making product and feature ideas public for user voting and feedback, and creating a feedback loop with the audience.

The Ignition dashboard displays a product roadmap for chocolemonade products

  • Setup and customization: Users need to go into settings to configure their release notes and ideas page. They can use a provided website link for the externally branded page or set up a custom domain. Personalization involves adding brand colors and header images. The user controls the page’s visibility, with options to make the page live and publicly accessible.

Ignition release notes page settings with sections to customize the website link, styling, and background image

  • Search engine discoverability: There's an option to make the release notes page discoverable by search engines, spreading the visibility of your feature announcements to a wider audience.

Ignition release notes configuration page displaying instructions for adding the page to a web domain

  • Voting board for feature identification: In addition to release notes, Ignition also includes a section for internal and external stakeholders to add product ideas. People can vote on these ideas, helping you narrow down your most important feature release. 

Ignition product idea section for Chocolemonade shows the top 3 ideas are Arnold Palmer Flavor, a Collab with Hershey's, and a seltzer

Between the release notes and product idea backlog tabs, Ignition gives your product team all the functionality you need for two key components of the feature release cycle: 

  1. Identifying and prioritizing potential products and features
  2. Efficiently and effectively delivering feature release notes 

For a full view of Ignition release notes in action, check out the video below: 

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