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Working Backwards: A New Version Of Amazon’s “Press Release” Approach To Planning Customer-Centric projects – The Digital Project manager

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One of Steve Jobs’ many legacy was his annual keynotes for product launches. Apple’s annual product launch keynotes were a way for Apple to showcase its latest innovations and help customers succeed.
These keynotes were the culmination of years of hard work, preparation, and planning. These keynotes were to be the final steps in the launch of a product that had been secretly developed and was now being made public. Apple hoped this would be enough to allow products to fly off shelves. It worked in most cases.
But, most of us aren’t employed by Apple.
Our companies don’t have flashy keynotes to announce their new products. We might issue a press release. Perhaps the most important thing is that our products don’t sell well just because we launched them.
By launching fully-built and production-ready products and services, our organizations are taking a huge risk. What if they aren’t bought? Worse, what if no one even tests them? This could often have a significant effect on the company.
What if we could lower the chance of these launches occurring early in a new venture?
How could we reduce the risk of failure? Let’s consider the challenges we might face, the ways we might overcome them, the customer needs we must satisfy and the possible solutions. Then, what if all of these are met with success?
We can.
We can learn from Amazon, another tech giant. Amazon’s Future Press Release is one example of a popular technique.
What is “The Future Press Release Technique?”
This technique is intended for customer-facing “product groups” — teams that create products and services that can be used by both B2C or B2B customers. This technique forces teams to consider the value of what they are creating for their intended audience before they begin to work on it. This allows product teams to concentrate on the story of their product from the beginning, rather than on how it will end up.
Why are they doing it?
This is based on the belief that if teams cannot tell a compelling story about the product, the problem it solves, or how it succeeded, then they may not be able to consider the concepts.
It forces the team not to focus on a set number of features but rather to work backwards. It forces the team to not focus on the construction and delivery aspects of their work, but rather on the purpose.
You can imitate the technique
Many articles have been written about Amazon’s “working backward” process. Many of these articles were my inspiration when leading a group consisting of 300 engineers working on a new connectivity solution for a large telecom company.
I found almost identical “Future Press Release Templates”. They were effective, but failed to meet two crucial components that I believe are critical to the success of digital ventures.
Problem #1:
The templates didn’t focus on outcomes. Outcomes are the measurable change of customer behavior that proves that we have created something of value and met a real customer need.
Problem #2:
The templates did not contain a discussion on the collaboration challenges that the team had overcome. They say that no one is an island. The same applies to teams. The projects we work on will not see daylight if they aren’t contacted by legal, marketing, and brand representatives.