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Time to Market: The Definitive Guide for a Digital Era

Discover how to accelerate your product's time to market with agile methods and Ignition's GTM platform in this definitive guide. Watch our demo.

Tech got a lot busier last year, which means time to market is getting a lot shorter. 

According to the State of Continuous Delivery Report 2023, around 33% of respondents deploy at least once a month. At the extreme end, 10% deploy multiple times per day

This increase doesn’t just impact developers — product teams, product marketers, and stakeholders also have to keep pace. 

That’s because a product's success largely depends on time to market. The longer it takes to get to market, the more time and resources are wasted, and the greater the risk of losing customers to competitors. Bottom line: the longer the time to market, the lower the return.  

Today we’ll explore this key metric — including what it is, how it’s impacted, and how companies can measure it.   

Time to market definition 

Time to market (TTM) can be defined in many ways, but the most common definition is the time it takes from the start of the product development process to the product's release. This covers everything from the beginning of product design to when the product is released to the public. 

The time frame varies for different products and industries, but generally, the faster the product is launched, the better. Here’s a look at the average time to market for different industry products: 

  • According to Mckinsey, the average TTM for consumer goods companies is about 13 months (not to mention that 75% of innovations fail within three years). 
  • Simple and average-complexity apps might take 3-6 months, according to Forbes, while one with higher functionality can take well over a year to build and launch

In software, the time to market will also vary depending on whether you need to update or develop a feature or launch an entirely new product. The latter will take much longer and have a more involved GTM process. 

Understanding time to market: product manager perspective

Time to market measures how long a product can go from ideation to launch and is available in the market. This includes the time required for ideation, design, development, testing, and launch. Product managers must be familiar with this metric to ensure they can deliver successful products that meet market and customer needs.

It is important to note that time to market is not just about speed. It is also about delivering a high-quality product that meets customer needs and expectations. Product managers must balance the need for speed with the need for quality to ensure the product’s success in the market.

Importance of Time to Market in Product Development

The decrease in TTM is linked to the rise in agile development methodologies that originated in software and are spreading to other industries. 

The agile approach prioritizes speed and flexibility over processes and documentation on the road to creating the best possible product for customers in the shortest amount of time.

Organizations that can launch products faster than their competitors gain a significant competitive advantage (as long as their product meets customer needs and expectations). Customers want new products that are better and faster, and they want them now. A shorter time to market allows product managers to capitalize on early adopters, generate more revenue, and stay ahead of the competition.

Furthermore, a shorter time to market can also help organizations save money. The longer a product is in development, the more money is spent on resources such as salaries, equipment, and materials. This is especially important considering that many companies actually outsource the development of their products due to labor shortages — around 60% in the case of software development

By launching a product faster, organizations can save money on these resources and allocate them to other areas of the business. That said, there’s some balance involved in time to market decision-making. 

If you push planning, development, and launch processes too quickly, you increase the chance that the final product misses the mark with customers. Given the major challenges product and product marketers face in the commercialization process, it’s important to strike a balance between speed and quality.

Factors Affecting Time to Market

The median time to market for a new digital product is around 18 months, according to Gitnux. Naturally, there are many factors that affect time to market: 

  • The complexity of the product itself 
  • The development process, tools, and skilled labor involved 
  • The value that the launch provides to customers and the business

Cross-department dynamics are also at play here. For instance, poor communication and information silos are a frequent cause of longer time to market. Then, there are various external factors, like changing regulations and cost of labor, that also impact time to market. 

3 factors impacting TTM

Let’s look at three key factors impacting the time it takes to launch a new product. 

Product complexity

The complexity of a product plays a crucial role in determining its time to market, impacting the duration of the design, development, and testing phases. This complexity can vary widely across and even within certain industries, with unique impacts on TTM.

For instance, software products, especially small applications or feature updates, often have a shorter TTM. Digital products don’t have to contend with supply chains and typical manufacturing bottlenecks, so developers and product teams can leverage Agile Methodology. These principles allow for rapid prototyping, testing, and release, enabling quicker market entry.

On the other hand, launching new products in the CPG, consumer tech, or automotive industries means a longer TTM. These products require extensive, costly research and development and more rigorous testing for safety and compliance. Plus, they have to contend with the realities of production line and supply chain issues.

Product complexity also varies within industries. A simple mobile app can be developed and launched in a matter of weeks, while a comprehensive enterprise software solution might take months or even years to come to market. The same is true in CPG. A new snack flavor is easier to launch than a completely new product that requires consumer education and new consumption habits.

Understanding the relationship between product complexity and TTM is crucial — it affects strategic planning, resource allocation, and market competitiveness. Tracking product development metrics across all launches and releases is key. It helps you identify whether your challenges are inherent to your product's complexity or caused by your development process.

Development process

The processes and technology involved in the planning and development of a product also play a role in time to market. Tech stacks now include a number of tools that keep developers on track and help PMs, PMMs, and other stakeholders collaborate to produce the best product possible: 

  • Communication: Slack, Teams and Google Workspace
  • Customer relationship management: Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, and Pipedrive
  • Sales and customer support: Intercom, Gong, and Zendesk
  • Project management: Asana, ClickUp, Monday, and Wrike
  • Product management: Jira, Linear, Productboard, Roadmunk, Shortcut, and Zoho Sprints

Ignition product integrations

These staples, as well as innovative technologies like AI, can help speed up the development process and reduce TTM by keeping everyone in line with north star — the product roadmap.  

Unfortunately, having so many tools can actually lead to delays and longer development times. Why? Because it fragments the commercialization process across departments and point solutions. That’s why bringing these tools together with a unified GTM platform is crucial (more on that later). 

Then you need to consider the skilled talent you have available. A company with access to the right skilled labor — whether its software engineers or manufacturers — can work more efficiently and effectively to produce high-quality producers. This is another key to reducing time to market. 

Launch tier

The time to market (TTM) for a new product is significantly influenced by the launch's tier, which directly correlates with the launch's significance within the overall roadmap and product portfolio. This classification into Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 launches is rooted in the value the product provides to customers and the business. Launch tiers guide the strategic allocation of resources and the depth of cross-functional coordination required.

GTM matrix explaining the three launch tiers

Tier 1 launches represent major milestones, such as new product introductions or full rebrandings. Due to their impact on the market and the company, they need a lengthy preparation period and broad organizational involvement throughout development. Because Tier 1 launches have the biggest chance of attracting new customers and improving company's market position, they also need a large multi-channel GTM strategy.

Tier 2 launches involve the release of minor new products or large feature updates. They provide value for existing users, potential customers, and your business but aren’t a top priority according to your product plan. Tier 2 launches still demand considerable planning and cross-team collaboration, though on a lesser scale and shorter TTM than Tier 1 launches. They focus mainly on owned channels with selective external support.

Tier 3 launches cater to smaller-scale updates like bug fixes or feature improvements, mainly targeting current users. They aim to enhance the user experience without the need for extensive resource investment and GTM planning required for higher-tier launches. Tier 3 launches have the shortest time to market, utilizing primarily owned channels for communication and bundled announcements.

Remember, the launch tier matrix helps you determine how important a new feature or product is to achieving your objectives based on value to the business and value to the customer. Accurately categorizing launch tiers helps you prioritize your backlog, efficiently manage resources, and optimize time to market across launches.

Graph showing launch tier and time to market

Want to check the tier of your upcoming launch or feature release? Use our free launch tier calculator. 

When estimating the time to market for an upcoming launch or release, make sure you consider product complexity, your development process, and the launch tier. This will help you balance the need for speed with the need for quality to ensure the product's success in the market. From there, you can begin to build out specific time to market key performance indicators (KPIs) and look towards improving your overall commercialization strategy. 

5 KPIs for measuring and improving time to market 

Knowing and tracking TTM KPIs is essential for measuring the progress of your development team and identifying areas that need improvement. The faster your product reaches the market, the more revenue it can generate. To get a better grasp on how well your development and launch cycles are moving, you can track the following time to market KPIs:

  • Development cycle time
  • Product launch date accuracy
  • Time to break-even
  • Time to profitability
  • Time to first customer shipment

5 KPIs for tracking time to market

Here are the main KPIs you can use to measure time to market success:

Development cycle time

Development cycle time measures the time it takes to build and test a product or a feature. This KPI covers the end-to-end process from initial ideation to first release. 

Product managers can use development cycle time to track progress and identify potential bottlenecks. By measuring development cycle time, product managers can identify areas where the development process can be optimized, and new features can be added more quickly. 

For our hypothetical CRM company, the development cycle time would account for work that occurs across a number of stages, including: 

  • Outlining requirements, features, and initial product design
  • Planning, tool selection, and development
  • Testing and debugging the software

This KPI is also useful for identifying areas where additional resources may be needed to speed up the development process, similar to the way product managers assess the effectiveness of the entire product lifecycle.

Product launch date accuracy

Product launch date accuracy measures how closely the launch date of a product aligns with its original launch date plan. 

A delay in launching a product can negatively impact customers' perception of the product's quality and damage the organization's reputation. Therefore, measuring product launch date accuracy is essential to ensure that products are launched on time and meet customer expectations. 

Product managers can use this KPI to identify areas where the launch process can be improved and to ensure that products are launched on schedule.

In our hypothetical CRM example, the product manager can compare the accuracy of this launch date to other product or feature releases to see which aspects of the development process need to change. For example, if smaller releases consistently meet the predicted launch date but larger product launches lag behind, there’s an issue with scaling development and GTM processes.   

You can take this KPI to a more granular level using your product launch calendar to see how close the actual date of completion for product milestones aligns with projections. It’s a great way to refine your entire commercialization process. 

Time to break-even

Time to break-even is the amount of time it takes for a product to generate enough revenue to cover the costs of development, marketing, and sales. In order to do this, though, you first need to calculate the break-even point

There are a few different ways to do this, including the following formula: 

  • Break-even point = fixed costs / contribution margin

break-even point calculation

Carrying on with our CRM example, the fixed costs involve the salaries of your developers and the cost of all development tools needed to build the platform. The contribution margin is the amount of money left over from a sale after covering the cost of each unit. In this case, the break-even point outlines how many CRM subscriptions the company needs to sell to recoup the development costs and begin making a profit. 

The time to break-even simply records how long it takes for the company to break-even on that product investment — whether in months, quarters, or years. 

This KPI helps product managers to understand the business implications of launching a product and identify if they need to iterate and improve their product to lower the time to break-even. By measuring time to break-even, product managers can make informed decisions about the profitability of their products and identify areas where they can improve their products to generate revenue more quickly.

Time to profitability

Time to profitability measures the amount of time it takes for a product to become profitable. This KPI is essential for measuring a product's overall financial performance. It helps product managers identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to improve ROI. 

There are a few different product profitability metrics that you can use as a benchmark to identify when you have reached profitability: 

  • Return on Investment (ROI): ROI evaluates the profitability of marketing efforts by comparing the revenue generated from marketing activities to their costs, guiding resource allocation towards higher-yield channels.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): CAC calculates the total cost of acquiring new customers, including advertising and sales efforts, helping to identify cost-reduction and process optimization opportunities.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): CLV estimates the total value a customer contributes to their relationship with a business, highlighting strategies for boosting customer loyalty and profitability.
  • Average Order Value (AOV): AOV tracks the average revenue from each transaction, revealing opportunities for increasing sales through upselling, cross-selling, and promotional strategies.
  • Conversion Rate: This metric shows the percentage of website visitors who make a purchase, vital for assessing website effectiveness and pinpointing areas for usability and content improvement.

Measure the time it takes for a given product or feature release to reach these metrics. This will help you create more accurate benchmarks for future launches and help you identify areas where they need to optimize their products to generate revenue more quickly and improve their financial performance.

Time to first customer shipment

Time to first customer shipment measures the time it takes for the first customer to receive their product after ordering. This KPI helps product managers understand the customer experience and identify areas for improvement in the supply chain and logistics processes. 

By measuring time to first customer shipment, product managers can identify areas where they need to optimize their supply chain and logistics processes to improve the customer experience and ensure that products are delivered on time. Typically, this KPI is more useful for companies in the CPG or retail industries that actually ship physical products to customers. 

In conclusion, measuring KPIs is essential for product managers to track progress, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions. By measuring time to market KPIs such as development cycle time, product launch date accuracy, time to break-even, time to profitability, and time to first customer shipment, product managers can optimize their products and launch them more quickly to generate revenue and stay competitive in the market.

Improving time to market with Ignition 

Launching a product to market can be daunting for product managers. It requires careful planning, execution, and coordination between different teams and stakeholders. With Ignitin’s GTM Ops platform, there are several features that product managers can employ to improve time to market and achieve their KPIs.

Designed for agile product development

Agile product development is an iterative approach to product development that emphasizes continuous improvement and collaboration. This approach enables product managers to quickly adapt to changes and adjust based on customer feedback, reducing development cycles and improving time to market. By breaking down the development process into smaller, more manageable pieces, agile development helps teams stay focused and deliver high-quality products faster.

However, companies often can’t update their intel fast enough to keep their product recommendations current, slowing down the agile development process. 

Ignition brings your customer and competitor intel up to speed so you don’t have to slow down development or lead them astray with out-of-date research. It also eliminates the need for expensive outsourced research. Sales battlecard development, SEO research, and customer review summaries are all built into the platform, powered by AI and automations. 

Ignition's competitive analysis dashboard

With Ignition, PMs and PMMs finally have a system that helps them match the agility of today’s development cycle. 

Easy cross-functional collaboration

Smooth cross-functional collaboration is crucial for reducing the time to market. Different teams and stakeholders can streamline the product development process, reduce miscommunication, and eliminate inefficiencies when working together effectively. 

Ignition is designed specifically to be the single-source-of-truth for everyone involved in the commercialization process. It gives product managers, marketers, sales, and other stakeholders a central space to view roadmaps, track progress towards launch, and pull in key information from other departments. 

Ignition's GTM Mission Control dashboard

For example, you can quickly view the launch readiness and performance modules to ensure everyone is on track. If milestones aren’t met, you can increase the frequency of meetings, send cross-platform updates, or attach additional information that may be missing. 

By encouraging open communication and collaboration, Ignition helps you identify and address issues early on before they become major roadblocks that stretch out TTM. 

Prioritize features based on revenue impact

One of the biggest challenges product managers face is determining what features to prioritize. Effectively prioritizing and managing a product's scope is essential for efficient product development and improved time to market. That’s why you leverage customer feedback, competitive analysis, and prioritization frameworks to make more informed decisions.

However, many companies neglect the most important information source for prioritizing new products and features: CRM and sales data. 

Interactions with customers and leads contain qualitative information about what your target audience likes, dislikes, and doesn’t get from your product. The most common products people are asking about — the ones currently blocking deals — are likely to be the most profitable. You need to prioritize those

Ignition new product ideas dashboard

Ignition connects to your CRM and sales support platforms, such as Salesforce, Intercom, and Gong, and automatically extracts these missing product ideas. It even summarizes them for you and provides an estimate of the potential revenue you earn by unblocking similar deals. 

Continuous integration and deployment

Continuous integration and deployment practices help your product team rapidly deliver new features to customers while minimizing the risk of introducing bugs and errors. They also allow your developer and QA teams to test and deploy changes faster and more frequently, significantly reducing market time.

By integrating with your developer platforms and main comms channels, Ignition makes it easier for product teams to liaise between the teams gathering the latest customer intel and the teams bringing that intel to life in your product.

 For example, you could implement a continuous integration and deployment pipeline that automates the testing and deployment process. This would enable the team to quickly test and deploy new features, reducing the time it takes to get the product to market.

Improving time to market requires careful planning, execution, and coordination between different teams and stakeholders. Ignition takes all of the frustrating manual work out of the way and frees you up to focus on what matters: creating the best product for your customers in the shortest amount of time.

Streamline your commercialization process and improve time to market with Ignition

To say the least, navigating the complexities of product development and the ever-accelerating time to market are a difficult task for product teams. 

Understanding the critical factors that influence time to market — product complexity, development processes, and launch tiers — can help you optimize your product development cycles. Centralizing the entire commercialization process with Ignition's GTM platform is key to reducing development cycles and achieving successful product launches. 

Check out the video below for a better understanding of how Ignition can streamline your commercialization process and significantly improve your time to market.

Try Ignition for free.