Product Management Dictionary

The Product Management Dictionary: cost of delay

In this article, we explore the concept of cost of delay in product management.

Product management is a challenging field that requires you to keep track of countless factors that can impact a product's success. One of the most critical aspects of product management is the cost of delay – a metric that helps you understand the true value of your product, measure its potential benefits, and estimate its possible losses. In this article, we will explore the concept of cost of delay in product management, how you can calculate it, and how you can reduce it to ensure maximum profitability for your product.

Understanding the Cost of Delay in Product Management

The cost of delay in product management refers to the cost that arises from delaying the release of a particular feature or an entire product. This metric helps product managers understand the trade-offs involved in prioritizing certain features over others, and it enables them to make informed decisions about product development. Essentially, the cost of delay estimates the impact a delay can have on the product's revenue, profit, or success.

Defining the Cost of Delay

The cost of delay is calculated by estimating the revenue or profit that a feature can generate if released sooner rather than later. This value is then compared to the revenue or profit that the feature would generate if released later than the desired timeline. The difference between these two figures is known as the cost of delay.

For example, if a new feature is estimated to generate $100,000 in revenue per month and is delayed by three months, the cost of delay would be $300,000. This calculation takes into account the potential revenue that could have been generated during the delay period.

The Importance of Cost of Delay in Decision Making

Cost of delay is a critical metric for decision making, particularly in product management. It helps product managers identify which features and products to prioritize. With data-driven insights from cost of delay, product managers can focus on features that will generate more revenue, profit, and customer engagement. Making informed decisions about the order of product development, based on data and analytics, can improve the likelihood of product success and ensure long-term profitability.

For example, if there are two potential features to develop and one has a lower cost of delay, it would make sense to prioritize the feature with the lower cost of delay. This would result in generating more revenue and profit in a shorter period of time.

Factors Contributing to the Cost of Delay

There are several factors that can affect the cost of delay in product development. These factors include:

  • Market competition: Understanding the competitive landscape and anticipating customer needs in the market is essential to product success.
  • Complexity: Complex features can take time to develop, and delays can have a significant impact on the product's success.
  • Dependencies: Features that depend on other elements of the product can be delayed if other elements are not complete.
  • Customer feedback: Customer feedback can help shape product development, but if not acted upon quickly, it can cause delays.
  • Technology: Changes to technology can result in delays as product teams adapt to new tools and methods.

Market competition is a crucial factor in determining the cost of delay. If a competitor releases a similar feature before your product, it can result in significant revenue loss and decreased market share. Therefore, it is essential to understand the competitive landscape and prioritize features accordingly.

Complexity is another factor that can contribute to the cost of delay. Complex features can take longer to develop, and any delays can have a significant impact on the product's success. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize features based on their complexity and potential impact on the product's success.

Dependencies can also contribute to the cost of delay. If a feature depends on other elements of the product, delays in those elements can cause delays in the feature's release. Therefore, it is essential to identify dependencies and prioritize features accordingly.

Customer feedback is crucial in shaping product development, but delays in acting on that feedback can result in significant revenue loss. Therefore, it is essential to act on customer feedback quickly and prioritize features accordingly.

Finally, changes in technology can result in delays as product teams adapt to new tools and methods. Therefore, it is essential to stay up-to-date with the latest technology and prioritize features accordingly.

Calculating the Cost of Delay

Calculating the cost of delay can be a bit tricky, but it is essential for effective product management. Here are some key steps to consider:

Identifying Key Metrics and Variables

The first step in calculating the cost of delay is identifying the key metrics and variables that will give you the clearest picture of your product. These will vary depending on your specific product, but they might include revenue, profitability, customer retention, and customer engagement. It is important to consider both quantitative and qualitative factors when identifying these metrics and variables. Quantitative factors include hard numbers like revenue and profitability, while qualitative factors include things like customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

For example, if you are managing a software product, your key metrics might include the number of active users, the revenue generated by those users, and the number of customer service requests. Your variables might include the time it takes to develop a new feature, the cost of implementing that feature, and the potential impact on customer satisfaction.

Estimating the Impact on Revenue and Profit

Once you have identified your metrics and variables, the next step is to estimate the impact that delaying a feature or product could have on those measurements. You can do this by projecting how much revenue or profit you would lose if you delay a feature or product by a certain timeframe. You can also estimate how much additional revenue or profit you would gain by speeding up a feature or product release.

It is important to consider both short-term and long-term impacts when estimating the impact on revenue and profit. For example, delaying a feature might have a small short-term impact on revenue, but it could have a larger long-term impact if customers become dissatisfied and switch to a competitor's product.

Incorporating Risk and Uncertainty

No product development process is free from uncertainty, and incorporating risk and uncertainty into your calculations helps create a more accurate understanding of the cost of delay. For example, you can use simulations to help estimate the possible outcomes and risks associated with different strategies. This helps you to make informed decisions and minimize possible losses so that you can avoid delays and maximize product profitability.

It is also important to consider external factors that could impact the cost of delay, such as changes in market conditions or the emergence of new competitors. By incorporating risk and uncertainty into your calculations, you can develop a more robust product management strategy that is better equipped to handle unexpected challenges.

Strategies to Minimize the Cost of Delay

Now that we've established the importance of cost of delay when it comes to product management, let's explore some strategies you can use to minimize delay costs and maximize profitability.

Prioritizing Features and Projects

One of the most effective strategies for reducing cost of delay is prioritizing features and projects up front based on data and market research. Using cost of delay calculations and other data, product managers can identify which features will generate the most value – such as revenue, profitability, and customer engagement – and rank them accordingly.

For example, if a feature is expected to generate a significant amount of revenue, it may be prioritized over a feature that is not expected to generate as much revenue. By prioritizing features and projects in this way, product managers can ensure that the most valuable features are developed first, reducing the overall cost of delay.

Implementing Agile Methodologies

Implementing agile methodologies in product development can also help reduce the cost of delay and accelerate product development. Agile methodologies are an iterative approach to development that breaks down large projects into smaller, more manageable pieces. This approach enables product managers to prioritize effectively, learn from customer feedback and adjust the product strategy accordingly.

Agile methodologies also promote collaboration and communication between team members, which can help identify and address issues that may cause delays. By breaking down large projects into smaller pieces, agile methodologies also allow for more frequent releases, which can help reduce the overall cost of delay.

Enhancing Communication and Collaboration

Finally, effective communication and collaboration between teams and stakeholders also play a crucial role in reducing the cost of delay. By promoting collaboration and keeping stakeholders informed, the entire product team can work together to eliminate roadblocks, streamline product development, and reduce delays.

For example, if a team member is experiencing issues with a particular feature, effective communication and collaboration can help identify the issue and work towards a solution quickly. By keeping stakeholders informed of progress and any potential delays, product managers can also manage expectations and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

In conclusion, minimizing the cost of delay requires a combination of effective prioritization, agile methodologies, and enhanced communication and collaboration. By implementing these strategies, product managers can reduce delays, accelerate product development, and maximize profitability.

Real-World Examples of Cost of Delay

Real-world examples demonstrate how cost of delay has been incorporated into product management to improve product success. Some examples include:

Successful Reduction of Cost of Delay

In a case study by Ericsson, the company managed to reduce the cost of delay in their product development process by 86%. Using a prioritization process based on cost of delay, Ericsson was able to focus their resources and speed up product development while ensuring customer satisfaction.

Another example of successful reduction of cost of delay is the case of Amazon's Prime Day. Amazon used cost of delay metrics to determine the optimal time to launch their Prime Day sale, which generated over $7 billion in sales in 2019. By using cost of delay as a guide, Amazon was able to maximize profits and minimize the risk of losing customers to competitors.

Consequences of Ignoring Cost of Delay

On the other hand, ignoring cost of delay can lead to significant losses. For example, in 2016, Samsung had to halt production of the Galaxy Note 7 after widespread reports of the device exploding. The cost of this delay was in the billions of dollars, damage to the brand reputation, and loss of market share.

Similarly, in 2019, Boeing faced significant consequences when they ignored cost of delay in the development of their 737 Max airplane. After two crashes that killed a total of 346 people, the 737 Max was grounded worldwide, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for Boeing and damage to their reputation.

Overall, these examples demonstrate the importance of considering cost of delay in product management decisions. By prioritizing tasks based on their cost of delay, companies can improve their chances of success and avoid costly mistakes.


The cost of delay is a critical metric that helps product managers make informed decisions and prioritize features and products based on data and analytics. Calculating cost of delay requires an understanding of key metrics, variables, and the impact of delays on revenue, profit, and customer engagement. By prioritizing features, using agile methodologies and promoting effective communication and collaboration, product managers can reduce the cost of delay, mitigate risks, and maximize profitability. Ultimately, incorporating the cost of delay into product development strategies will help product teams create successful products that meet customer needs and generate significant revenue and profit.