The timeline for a happy product handoff

How a train metaphor might just save your product delivery

Have you ever thought about adding some track lights to the proverbial tunnel with the light at the end of it? The journey’s half the fun right? And who wants to spend their journey in the dark?

I know, I know, it’s meant to be encouraging… “There’s a light at the end of this tunnel.” All of a sudden you’re lulled into bliss knowing that soon you’ll be at your destination.

But then there’s reality.

You’re sitting in your sprint planning meeting and the room is buzzing with conversation about beta testing and MVPs. Your client has developed a distinct glimmer in their eye and they’re seeing it, they’re tasting it… I don’t know.. senses are doing their thing, metaphorically.

It’s inevitable with any project that your client will reach a point where they see an end in sight but they’re struggling to see the path to get there. This is when you start to get questions from the client. “What does it look like for us from the point of prepping for our Private Beta Round 1 testing, to making our product available publicly?”

And your first response is probably going to be, “It depends.” You think you’re covering your bases because there are so many variables, and you still have, like, seven steps before you need to lock down all of that. But then they make a slight pouty face and deflate a little. And just like that, a little bit of the magic is gone.

I’d like to help you put your client at ease, and delight them by answering this question before they even know they want to ask it. And that answer my friends, is a simple, run-of-the-mill, write it in 30 seconds, but man will it save you so much heartache, timeline.

Fun Fact: I had a mentor early in my career that drilled in my head, “Every meeting should be a presentation.” So it’s already part of my routine to do so. But experience has taught me that the most impactful bit, especially for a client with all of the questions, is the timeline.

The format of your timeline can be broken down by weeks, by phases, by jobs, whatever you like, but it should show the full span of the project and it needs to reveal three important elements every time:

  1. What you just finished working on. Flash! There’s a lightbulb!
  2. What you’re working on now. Twinkle! Another lightbulb!
  3. What’s coming up after that. Sparkle! Look at that, another damn lightbulb! Amazing!

Breaking everything down in this way can seem repetitive, especially when you’re putting together new slides every week, but the return from clients is two fold: understanding of the effort and progress, as well as a clear idea of what to expect next.

By getting them in the routine of seeing that all those things you just finished are the same things you just told them last week you were working on, gives them the confidence that next week will be the same. And everything you said was coming up after that will soon follow. It’s a freakin’ flash, twinkle, sparkle, light show in this tunnel! No dark corners to get lost in!

So there it is, how to add lights to your tunnel and make the journey just as pleasant as the final destination.

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