Best Practices in Sizing Product Launches

This blog post originally appeared on LaunchScience, a start-up focused on helping companies launch and commercialize new products.

The reality is that modern product and engineering teams launch new products and features on a continuous basis, often multiple times per week (or day!). So how do you reconcile the pace of development with the effort required to commercialize and communicate about them to the important constituencies? The answer is sizing.

You’ve probably heard of the expression “t-shirt sizing”. This is shorthand for assigning various product features a rough size in the range L/M/S, which then helps everyone visualize and agree on the amount of effort and attention they deserve. 

When it comes to the product commercialization process, it is a best practice to adopt a schema like t-shirt sizing that can be applied to every change. The point of sizing is to build consensus in your entire organization for the amount of effort each launch will get and eliminate misalignment between teams.

“Can we do a press release on this feature I built” – every PM, ever.

‍There’s a natural tension between product management teams and commercialization teams. Product managers think everything they work on is really important! Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Product marketers will want to spend time on things that have the biggest impact on the business, even if that means some things don’t get as much attention. Sizing helps solve this problem.

Consider the sample sizing matrix below. A matrix like this can be customized for your organization and used as a tool to drive consensus on marketing and commercialization resources.

Launch Sizing Chart

Ideally everyone in a leadership position up to your CEO knows what a “Medium” is and which roadmap features are getting which resources. Then when there are unreasonable expectations there’s a way to diagnose and work through those issues.

Fun tip: You can give the sizes whatever names you want. Instead of “Large”, call it “T-Rex” and everyone will still know what you mean.

As a first step try looking back at the past 6 or 12 months of launches and assigning them sizes, then comparing the amount of work the team put into these for commercialization. This can give you a good starting point for discussions with the extended teams in product, marketing, and sales to set expectations for the future.