Product release days are kind of like juggling a couple dozen china plates all at once. With the occasional addition of a feral cat thrown in for fun.

This will be the 6th or 7th product release I’ve been through with Palo Alto Software and each one is completely different from the last. Well, except for the juggling and ending the day with a brand new shiny product to show our customers and the rest of the world. That is always pretty much the same every time.

Leading up to every release is weeks and weeks of hard, exhausting work and one brilliant day of relief in getting a job done and done well. Followed immediately by starting all over again.

So let me pull back the curtain a bit and explain what goes through the usual release of a new or updated product at Palo Alto Software.

With a refresh of a product, as what we’ve done with Marketing Plan Pro, everything starts with a brainstorm meeting. Key members from Product Development, Customer Support and Documentation all get together and go over customer feedback, general updates, platform considerations and they decide what should be updated, and if any massive overhaul is required for the new program. Then all those “wouldn’t it be nice to have” ideas are given over to the Development team who comb through them and start coding the software. Fast forward a bit past all the hard work put into product development, quality assurance, editing and documentation, we get to a point where the rest of the company starts gearing up for the actual release date. Customer Care and Technical Support start to learn the ins and outs of the software, the new features, etc. The Web team starts mapping out what the new Web pages are going to look like. Marketing starts creating copy and figuring out just exactly how to position all the information. The PR department starts writing press releases, updating social networking profiles and starts writing blog posts like this one.

Then everyone holds their breath for that moment when the switch on the server is flipped and all the new content goes live.

It’s an exciting moment, usually met by a loud celebration quickly followed by a lot of naps.

It’s important, especially in the software world, to keep up with the movement of the industry. Computers, programs, platforms, computer language… it’s all constantly changing. Software produced a just few years ago is obsolete today. As a company we have to grow with the demand of the world and the technology, or poof! we go away.

Recently, Shuna Fish Lydon from the Eggbeater blog wrote about sustainability in the Restaurant business. She’s smart and talented, and never fails to make me see things from another viewpoint. In her article she concludes – “My industry is not sustainable. Restaurants are not sustainable. Not for the employees. Or most employers.”

We talk here a lot about planning and knowing your market. We want people to succeed at their business. We want people to grow their businesses. But there is a hard truth out there that not all businesses succeed. For whatever reason, they eventually close and something new replaces them.

It takes a lot of hard work to start a business. It takes guts to keep it going, especially in an industry you know has a very steep sustainability curve. But sometimes business isn’t about sustainability and longevity. It’s about making money, or creating a product or service that fills a [sometimes short-term] need in your community. It’s about doing your best and making it work for as long as possible. And celebrating that amazing achievement.

Having a plan and making sure you are smart with your money and marketing yourself right is going to give you a huge advantage over someone who didn’t bother with planning. It makes sense to think about what your goal is before you start the process.

Maybe, when it comes down to it, you’ll only go through one product release during the life of your business. So make the most of it.

Break a few of those china plates and make sure to watch out for the cat.

‘Chelle Parmele
Social Media Marketing Manager
Palo Alto Software

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