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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Product Development - Actual Kickoff of Development Effort

During every product development cycle, there are 2 distinct stages that you reach in the cycle. There is an initial phase when the planning happens, and there is a later stage when the actual work happens with respect to the actual design and development effort. These are very broad level definitions, with many details and finer points.
- Planning stage: This is the stage where the team defines with broad strokes, the details of what the product will look like in terms of features. The general direction of the product, the features that will make it to the release, the schedule of the release, all of these are decided in this stage. In addition, if the company is structured in such a way that the configuration group, installer and release teams, internationalization teams, and other central technology groups are separate teams, then they will need to be signed up.
- Implementation stage: In this stage, the teams get working on actual implementation of features. By this time, the product team has already decided on the features, their priority, and schedule. The core of the development phase, which can be translated into requirements breakup and detailing, user design, engineering design, test case and test plans, coding, testing, and release all happen in this stage.
In between these 2 distinct phases of the project, there is a need to get an actual kickoff. If the product is such that it needs an approval from executive management, and also to get all the supporting team on the same discussion stage, a typical kickoff meeting is called. In this meeting, the project manager / program manager gets all the stakeholders (including the product team, management, executive sponsors, supporting teams, product management, etc) onto the same room and presents the schedule, final feature list, commitments of support, languages, pre-release plans, issues and risks and so on.
Such a meeting typically takes around a month to plan, since you need to get a meeting time right which is convenient for all the attendees, you need to prepare a presentation to run in the meeting, and so on. A kickoff meeting is the actual time when the sponsors say yes to the product development phase proceeding, at the same time, there is also a chance that the executive management team may need clarifications or may even ask the team to go back and review their plans.

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