How do we ensure that when a product launches and moves into BAU (business as usual) mode it doesn’t become a second class citizen among our work? We all acknowledge that releasing a product isn’t the end of the story—sometimes we say “it’s just the beginning”—because now when we understand really how people use it and how our competitors react. But in reality most of the budget is exhausted, other projects are waiting for their share of the corporate purse, and broadly speaking people prefer to work on sexy new things.
If we’re in an organisation with just one or two products, or if our projects tend to be things we just want to get finished (e.g. a migration or an upgrade), then this may not be a concern. But plenty of large organisations have several products or services they need to develop and maintain, so in those cases this is an issue for the delivery team (who need to feel valued), the product manager (who cares about their product) and, of course, the users (who, y’know, use it and are investing their time in it).
I was thinking about this today when I came across the latest release notes for the ONS website, and realised what a valuable contribution this kind of blog post makes. In today’s release note Rob Chambers writes about some changes they’ve made to viewing and navigating time series data. It’s great to ensure that users of the website understand the things that are happening and that they can see how the organisation is investing its money (which in this case is provided by tax payers).
But publishing regular release notes is also a great way to ensure that the product remains a first class citizen among the organisation’s many other priorities:
- It showcases and celebrates the team and their work on a regular basis.
- It demonstrates to the outside world this is still very much a going concern.
- It demonstrates to the internal budget-holders that things are still happening. It’s not out of sight, so it’s not out of mind.
- It maintains the momentum. If the blog posts dry up then some explanation will be needed, and transparency keeps us all honest.
- It ensures the team continue to focus on user needs, because if they are accountable in public then they need to be accountable in terms that are meaningful to the readers—i.e. the users who matter.
Of course release notes are great for providing notes on releases. But putting regular changes into the spotlight is also a great way of ensuring the product continues to be relevant to all the key stakeholders.