Piloting the Rocket Ship: Product and Program Launches

The last year somehow managed to be both the best and worst of times all rolled into one. Marketing and product teams rode the same rollercoaster as the rest of us, launched into massive instability in March 2020, pivoting into crisis management, shelving launch plans, and trying to understand a world rapidly changing around them. The world of work has changed significantly in the last year and those teams are no exception: the way we work today has changed significantly.

Predicting the future in the midst of unprecedented global change has never been more difficult. Yet, the need for vision, innovation, and transformation has never been more pronounced.

Large product and program launches have always been an orchestration challenge long before the pandemic. External product launches have needed to define a shared set of success KPIs that can be tracked in a single source of truth, to work across silos (and often geographies), to coordinate the efforts of multiple teams often working in different platforms, and to ensure quality delivery against immovable deadlines. Internal programs have always added significant change management efforts to do the same for any large-scale transformation, M&A integration, etc. Sometimes a mix of internal and external is needed when teams require pre-launch preparation, training, and change alongside coordination of external third parties and ultimately complex KPI tracking post-launch.

COVID added a whole new set of challenges to that already demanding array of activities. Market conditions are shifting rapidly. Health regulations change on a sometimes day-to-day basis. Buying behavior has shifted as consumers and businesses look to their vendors and suppliers to provide safety, security. And even humanity. In Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends report, they found that “More than a quarter of consumers said they walked away from companies they perceived to be acting self-interestedly. The message is clear: Efficiency may be paramount to survival, but at a time when people are demanding more from businesses, marketing post COVID-19 is about creating an authentic human connection.” The rise of digital marketing tools over the last decade has already put a heavy transformation and evolution load on today’s marketers — COVID has dramatically accelerated it.

Survival of the fastest

All of those projects and launches that were shelved and put on the back burner twelve months ago still need to get completed. The immediate react-and-respond period is over and we’re all back to work, albeit virtually and with some new digital tools and technologies. We’ve been asked often over the last year about how marketing and product teams can evolve to accomplish their already lofty goals. The answer lies in finding more efficient and effective ways to collaborate, in automating manual tasks like status tracking and reporting, and in finding those human connections not just with your customers but within your teams as well.

Gartner, in the same 2021 trends report, recommends that global marketers “reorient organizational structures by aligning to shared business and customer goals and breaking down silos that waste time and resources and create customer friction.” We completely agree — inefficiency due to silos between teams, geographies, and legacy platforms creates unnecessary additional work that slows you down significantly. All of that additional friction leads to burnout, Zoom-fatigue from meetings that could have been a live dashboard, and extra hours to resolve major problems that could have been quickly addressed if they’d been discovered when they were minor issues. This is the role of Enterprise Orchestration: to lead the symphony of your best players so that they’re all in sync, on time, and playing together. Resolving those daily frustrations and challenges leads to faster execution and better decision making, which enables your teams to achieve their launch goals with precision and predictability.

The birth of Conductor

Conductor, our award-winning Enterprise Orchestration platform, was born from exactly this need. One of the world’s largest pharma companies approached us to help with the global launch of a new blockbuster drug, expected to generate $1bn in annual revenue. They were launching in 26 countries simultaneously, a tall order for any marketing and commercialization team, made even more difficult by all of the various regulatory environments they had to manage. Most launch dates are practically immovable, but pharma launch dates are literally so, set by those regulatory bodies. If you miss your date and launch late on a billion-dollar drug, you lose millions of dollars a day in revenue. High pressure indeed.

When we started working with them their global product team was managing the launch through an extremely complex Excel spreadsheet. Excel does many things extraordinarily well but acting as a launch management system is not one of them. Each country had their own spreadsheet, filled with Visual Basic macros that constantly failed when people entered the wrong values in the wrong cells. Rows were supposed to be color-coded to reflect the status of tasks, with specific icons copied and pasted into other cells to designate which team was responsible for the work. You’ve probably seen spreadsheets like this many times — this was certainly not the only time we’ve encountered one. Each country lead was supposed to update the sheet every week and email it into the PMO, who had four people employed full time to try to synthesize all of the data and draw accurate conclusions about the launch. Version control problems often slowed that down, along with incomplete data that had to be followed up on meticulously. The end result was that they didn’t know whether they were going to launch on time and they didn’t know why (see our Creating a launch factory case study for the full story!).

The first version of Conductor was built to address their needs, evolving our existing product features into a new vision of enterprise orchestration. We’ve continued to expand Conductor since then, growing it to a complete platform for planning, tracking, and executing complex launches.


Orchestrate your launch

Conductor has been used by companies around the globe to orchestrate their most critical product and program launches. Join us on April 15th, 2021 for our upcoming webinar Disrupt the Norm: Amplify Product & Program Launches, Orchestrated with Sensei Labs Conductor Platform to hear some of the lessons we’ve learned and how you can pilot your launch rocket ship up and to the right.

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