What Does Success Look Like?


How do you know when software is ready to release? This article discusses one piece of knowing when the software is ready to release—knowing what a successful release would look like.

Geoffrey Moore discusses a model of high-tech marketing—what your customers expect and when—from the introduction of a product through its growing acceptance to the product's end of life.

Bob Grady describes the three possible goals of any software project: 1) meeting a specific time to market, 2) some feature set that would make the customers happy, and 3) keeping defects low. According to Grady, there is only one primary goal for a given project, and the other goals are managed within the constraints of that goal.

It makes sense to me that different customers have different project goals, depending on where the product is in the product lifetime. Table 1 (below) describes the intersection of where your market is with your possible project goals. If you're just starting out with a product, you have technology enthusiasts as your primary customers. They want the software fast. The software has to do something, and not be too shabby, but the enthusiasts don't need a lot of product, it just has to do something well.

Once you've increased your market to include the visionaries, you have slightly different concerns. Although the priorities are frequently similar, your customers are early adopters. They have a specific problem, and they want your software to fix that problem. Unfortunately, it seems as if each early adopter has his own problem, and that the problems are sufficiently different that you may be able to use a core product, but you have several one-off solutions to address each of your early adopters' problems. The Early Adopters drive the demand for quick releases with new desired features. If your competitors release a product with a few more features, and then you release a product with those features plus a few more, you've seen the product leapfrog game, an example of Early Adopters in action.

Market description


Early Adopters


Late Majority

End of Life

Who buys the software

Technology Enthusiasts





Time, features, defects, ranked by importance

1. Time to Market

2. Feature Set

3. Low Defects

1. Time to Market

2. Feature Set

3. Low Defects

1. Low Defects

2. Time to Market

3. Feature Set

1. Low Defects

2. Feature Set

3. Time to Market

1. Low Defects

2. Feature Set

3. Time to Market

Table 1: Project priorities based on where you are in the product's lifecycle

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for Stickyminds.com and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website, jrothman.com, as well on createadaptablelife.com.

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