Why engineers can’t launch products on time

When a new product is getting close to launch, and you ask “is it ready yet?” do you ever hear the design team say things like:

“I’ve thought of a great feature that just I’ll add in first”

“I’m just going to test it a bit more to make sure it’s ready”

“I’ve found a small flaw I’m just going to try and fix first”

Good engineers, by their nature, are perfectionists, trained to think through every conceivable scenario in a product’s operation so that they can design out any likely causes of failure.  Engineers are also very creative and innovative to be able to conceptualise and construct products that have never been seen before.

The combination of these two traits has one major downside, which a vast number of engineering companies encounter and I’ve seen many crippled by. Not knowing when to stop and say “it’s ready to go” leads to delayed launches and spiralling development costs. I see it time and time again. So how do you decide when a product is ready to launch? How do you keep to your planned timescale?
1. Make sure that the development team sticks to the original brief

Sometimes we have to veer away from a brief when unforeseen problems come to light, but always keep track of the ROI (Return on Investment) implications of any changes to the brief. Will the selling price need to be changed? Will the market accept the price change? Is the new brief still what the market wants? Don’t be afraid to cut your losses and accept that a product idea will just not work.
2. Keep in mind your product roadmap

By that I mean your “version 2” product which you will later add to your portfolio to complement version 1. During the development process, a design team will invariably come up with loads of ideas for features and gizmos that are outside the original brief.

Of course you want to encourage your team’s creativity and keep hold of all these good ideas, but be careful about which ones you include in your product. While I’m sure they would all make your product so much better and you would sell so many more, these ideas could cause the development to drag on and on, increasing your development costs and crucially delaying, and even possibly preventing, your return on investment.

Include ideas which are quick and easy and won’t impact on your development time and budget: all the rest should be saved for “version 2”. Product road-mapping is a huge topic that I could write a great deal on, but that’s the crux for now.
3. If it’s “good enough”, it’s ready

As I said, engineers are perfectionists and rightly so. You don’t want them to be the ones saying “I haven’t actually checked it but don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll be strong/fast/efficient/durable enough.” The problem with this mind-set is that it is very difficult to get a perfectionist to admit that something is “finished”, as they will only see something as finished when it is perfect, and perfection takes an awful lot of time and money.

If you want to make sure your products are perfect before they launch, then I hope you have deep pockets. For the rest of us, we have to learn when something is “good enough”, and leave it at that. Save perfection for version 2 (or preferably even later).

When the brief is fulfilled and the product is good enough, tell your team that it is ready to be launched. If you ask the question, the answer will invariably be “not yet”, but at some point we all have to just bite the bullet and go for it.


Ros Conkie is a Marketing and PR manager with KMS Marketing and also an experienced engineer.

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