Launching a new digital product or software solution can be an exciting but daunting task. It requires careful planning and coordination of different roles that all play an important part in the success of the project. To ensure your project is successful, it’s essential to have key people in place who understand their role and how it fits into the overall plan.
Each of these roles brings something unique to the table. Together they form a powerful team capable of launching even the most complex projects with ease.
In this post we will detail the six essential roles in launching a new digital product and highlight things like selection criteria and the responsibilities of each individual or team. We’ll show you along the way how our team at Apollo 21 views, values, and leverages each of these roles to release great digital products without friction.
The program manager is the backbone of any successful project launch. Responsible for setting timelines, tracking progress and keeping everyone focused, the program manager is responsible for making sure the project is running smoothly and within budget. They are also responsible for identifying potential risks and resolving issues as they arise.
The ideal program manager brings a combination of technical and people skills to the job. They need to be organized and able to plan, as well as lead a team effectively.
Additionally, they need to be an excellent communicator and understand software development principles. At minimum, a program manager should have knowledge of the project management process and related tools like Gantt charts, risk management, resource allocation and budgeting.
Moving beyond the minimum, the program manager should be responsible for constantly documenting processes that are working, interrogating those that are not, and working with the rest of the team to streamline operations at every step with the goal of ensuring that everyone knows what to do (and when) without being bogged down in the process.
Choosing the right program manager for your team is essential for success. It’s important to look for someone with past experience in leading similar projects, who has an army of team members that would work with them again, and solves the root of the problem, not the symptoms. These can be assessed through history, references, and asking them about some of the problems they ran into.
Make sure they have strong communication skills and are willing to work with various stakeholders from different departments during different phases of the project. Ask how they handle a difficult situation. Look for how they navigate the conversation and even show empathy.
Lastly, find someone who is comfortable with making decisions in a timely manner while still considering all available options. You can test this skill by pivoting their strategy as they talk through scenarios. Try “Ok, the due date has been moved up by 2 weeks, what can you do to hit it?” Whether building for a client or an internal stakeholder, the Program Manager is the connective tissue between the work and the deliverables.
If you find someone who checks all of those boxes, you will see them flex between tactical execution and strategic, business-oriented thinking. This skill set is useful both during the build of a project or product, in fulfilling the expectations of customers and end users, and for 10xing your software and product teams.
The product manager’s role is to understand customer needs, develop a product strategy based on market trends, and design an effective solution that meets those demands. To be successful in this role, the product manager must have a deep understanding of technology and be able to come up with innovative solutions for complex problems.
The ideal product manager should have a strong knowledge of software development lifecycle (SDLC) processes and how they can apply to the product being developed. Additionally, they need to have excellent analytical skills in order to identify potential risks as well as opportunities for improvement within the project.
Other important qualifications include creative problem-solving abilities, proven experience leading projects with various stakeholders, and exceptional communication skills. It’s not unusual to discover folks in product roles from a vast variety of backgrounds.
At Apollo 21, we tend to gravitate towards product minds who have experience in the design space. The ability to understand user needs and business requirements and then help translate those needs into a tangible experience (via UX and UI efforts) allows our team to move faster and communicate more effectively both internally and with our clients.
When selecting a product manager pay attention to how they communicate throughout the interview process—this is a key indicator of their ability to effectively collaborate with other members of the team and how they might communicate to a client or partner should you place them in a position to do so. You also want to make sure they are comfortable working independently and taking ownership over each aspect of their role — research, planning, testing and implementation.
Ask for examples of previous work. Dig deep into their experience with different teams, projects, and the ultimate outcomes. We like to ask questions that help us understand how a candidate handles failure, how they celebrate success, and how they break large work streams down into smaller, more digestible work streams.
Our view is that a great product manager can envision how the product fits into the bigger picture. No product exists in a vacuum and the product manager should be the “eyes and ears” to ensure that what is being built fits to the needs of the market. If not, they must take ownership of directing the team to evolve with the needs of those the product will ultimately serve.
Designers need to have a strong understanding of UX and UI design principles (color schemes, layout, typography, animation, user flows, etc.). They must be able to clearly visualize how the product will look — and more importantly, how it will be used — and make sure all elements work together in harmony to achieve the desired goal.
Designers are responsible for creating visually appealing user interfaces (UIs) and user experiences (UXs). Their skills will be the front line of defense in ensuring that the core user is understood, catered to, and that their needs are met first and foremost. For example, an application built with an older demographic in mind might require larger buttons and type for easier consumption. An experience designed for users who aren’t technophiles might need to rely on different messaging opportunities such as SMS over push or in-app notifications.
In the interface design field, user experience (UX) designers create user interfaces that make it easy for users to interact with a product or service. They employ research methods such as customer interviews and focus groups to understand how people might use the product and how they feel about it. UX designers then use this feedback to create journeys that make users feel comfortable while they interact with the product.
User interface (UI) designers take over to focus on creating visual designs that appeal to users. They must have a strong understanding of color theory, typography, grids, layout design principles, and animation techniques. UI designers need to be creative problem-solvers who can come up with solutions for complex design problems such as creating dynamic visuals that look great across different devices and platforms.
They must take into account how content will be created and who will be generating said content. For example, a media-driven experience that will be curated solely by an internal team can have more rigid requirements for image and color selection than an experience that allows all users to submit content.
Visual/graphic designers are also essential when launching a digital product. These professionals specialize in creating stunning visuals such as logos, illustrations, and photos that can be used across various channels (e.g., website, social media).
Finally, motion graphics specialists may prove necessary for designing interactive animations or videos for digital products. Their skills in video editing help them create engaging visuals that capture attention while still delivering a clear message about the product to its audience. Motion graphics specialists need to have a deep understanding of motion design principles such as timing and pacing in order to create effective videos or animations that meet the project’s objectives and effectively drive users through the experience.
At Apollo 21 we love to build new digital products. Within that construct is a keen awareness that — just as flavor is delivered through the nose AND the taste buds — great products are delivered through interactivity AND visual experiences. A great designer doesn’t just make things aesthetically pleasing. A great designer understands how to guide the user or customer to their anticipated outcomes as simply and intuitively as possible.
Our point of view is that software exists to solve a real and defined problem. Extra button clicks, screens, text, and images that do not help with that aim are superfluous. Even worse, that “fluff” risks pushing the user away from the product instead of bringing them in closer.
A digital product is unlikely to ever make it past the idea stage without talented developers. Engineers are responsible for writing the code that makes a product function properly, and for ensuring that the product meets customer needs and expectations. Without engineers, digital products would be nothing more than pretty visuals with no underlying functionality.
Take care to source engineers that have demonstrable expertise and experience with the technologies chosen for your product. Experience with your team’s methodology (Agile, Waterfall, etc.) should also be a key consideration. A talented, highly experienced engineer whose work style doesn’t align to the rest of the team is likely to slow things down in spite of their expertise.
It’s important to note that engineers don’t work in isolation; they collaborate closely with product managers and designers to create an end product that looks visually appealing and provides users with a positive experience when interacting with it. Therefore, having strong communication skills is just as important as technical skills when it comes to successful digital product development.
Ultimately, engineers are the backbone of any successful digital product launch; their knowledge, skill sets, and ability to problem solve help ensure that all the pieces fit together into one cohesive whole that meets customer needs while providing an enjoyable experience at the same time.
Our team understands that there is nothing better than an engineer who understands the needs of a project but is given the freedom to exercise creativity and deliver code in a way that solves real problems for real users. With that in mind, we recognize that not all engineers are given the chance to understand the impact of the finished product. As a result, we decided long ago to keep engineering and client communication near to each other. Doing so creates a virtuous cycle that not only benefits the client and their stakeholders but also helps our engineers better understand how to deliver a great solution that solves a specific need.
Quality assurance (QA) specialists are responsible for testing the product during development to ensure it’s free of bugs and accomplishes the requirements as expected. Thorough testing is essential to ensure a successful product launch, as even small issues can be disastrous if not caught prior to public release.
During the development process, QA specialists are responsible for testing the product to ensure it works properly and meets customer expectations. This involves running various tests to make sure all features, functions, and components are working correctly. Furthermore, they must also evaluate the user interface to ensure it’s intuitive and user-friendly. In addition to this, QA specialists may also identify any potential security vulnerabilities that could put customer data at risk.
To be effective in their role, QA personnel must have strong technical skills and knowledge of software testing best practices. This includes knowledge of automated testing tools such as Selenium, WebDriver, and JMeter, as well as experience with manual testing methods such as exploratory testing, unit testing, and integration testing.
It’s also important for them to be familiar with different types of test cases (e.g., functional test cases, performance test cases) so they can create meaningful tests that uncover issues in the system before launch.
When it comes time to launch the new digital product, marketers have a key role to play too. They create campaigns designed to drive awareness, interest and purchases of the new product. Through their research, they understand who their target market is and craft messaging that resonates with that audience.
It's never too early to start planning your marketing strategy for your new digital product. Before launch, you need to ensure that your target audience is well aware of the features and benefits of what you're offering.
Marketers should focus on crafting a message that resonates with the customer needs and values, utilizing research to identify who their target market is and how best to reach them. Additionally, it could be beneficial to create campaigns that emphasize the value of pre-launch purchases or exclusive offers for those who sign up early in order to drive more interest before launch day.
When it comes to identifying target audiences for digital products, marketers need to be aware of the different types of potential customers in order to craft an effective message. This involves researching the customer needs, values, and behaviors in order to create a comprehensive profile of each customer segment. By understanding these characteristics, marketers can create messaging that resonates with their target market and optimize campaigns accordingly.
Marketers also need to consider how different customer segments respond to various types of marketing techniques. For example, millennials may be more likely to engage with influencer marketing than Baby Boomers who may prefer more traditional methods such as direct mail or TV ads. Understanding which tactics are most effective for each customer segment will allow marketers to optimize their strategies accordingly and maximize ROI from their campaigns.
It's also important for marketers to consider how customer preferences and behaviors change over time - what was popular among customers five years ago might not be relevant today. This means that regular research is essential for staying up-to-date on key trends and understanding how best to reach customers effectively now and in the future.
At Apollo 21 we involve marketing, sales, and product advocates as early in the product lifecycle as possible. Their familiarity with the market helps inform better product decisions. And by letting them see how the product is coming together, evolving, and addressing a need they are better able to craft marketing materials and campaigns that thrill the market instead of falling flat.
Launching a new digital product or software solution takes careful planning, coordination and execution of multiple roles all working together. Each role is essential and brings something unique to the table. With a team of experienced professionals in each of these roles, you can be sure your project will be successful.
If you’re an entrepreneur or part of a larger organization looking to launch a new digital product, remember the six key roles outlined above and assemble your team accordingly. Without each of these roles working in concert with the others, you are likely to encounter friction in the planning, development and launch of your new product.
At Apollo 21, we help businesses and corporations leverage these skills wherever they are needed. In the end, a great product is the culmination of the collected experience and expertise of the team that builds it. Whether using your internal team, leveraging a studio like Apollo 21, or finding the best possible combination of the two, your next new digital product will be better set for success taking consideration of each role above. To learn more about how Apollo 21 can lend a hand, contact us here.