Why consult your customers about your release process

Posted by Success Software Services

Your release process isn’t just an internal consideration. It has a direct impact on your customers — and potentially a disruptive one.

Product updates may require your customers to deliver training on new features, modify familiar workflows, or invest time and resource in securing business-wide adoption. At worst, an unstable release can disrupt their operations, resulting in cost and productivity inefficiencies.

This means every update must deliver real value and focus on the features your customers truly want. The most effective way to achieve this is to consult them about your release process.

In this blog, we’ll examine the benefits of a customer-focused release process and suggest points to consider when implementing one.

Why you should include your customers in your release process

Your release process is likely subject to conflicting demands. Your business may need to deliver at pace while managing tight budgets and resource constraints. This can keep your focus on internal pressures, while the question of quality takes a back seat.

But delivering on time and under budget is no use if your product doesn’t align with your customers’ needs. Failing to keep your customers front and center will likely cost you in the long run. Rolling back or fixing failed updates can be arduous and expensive, and customers may start exploring alternative solutions.

Including your customers in your release process can avoid the need for trade-offs between speed, cost and quality. You’ll reduce workloads, accelerate time-to-market, and improve customer satisfaction.

Let’s look more closely at how a customer-focused release process can benefit your business.

1. Improving prioritization

At any given time, you will have a range of product improvements on the table for future releases. Nevertheless, tight deadlines and limited resources make it difficult to decide when — or if — these can be implemented.

By involving your customers in your release process and evaluating their positive and negative feedback, you can better prioritize these improvements. This will help you accelerate delivery of essential updates instead of wasting development time on features that won’t be used.

2. Setting customer expectations

Involving customers in your release process shouldn’t be a one-way street. You will benefit from their feedback and they will appreciate your transparency. To keep them in the loop, provide regular updates about what you’re working on. You can also indicate rough delivery windows, with appropriate caveats. Offering customers this kind of clarity about your release process can mitigate frustrations over existing problems and build anticipation for new features.

3. Staying on the same page

Customer expectations vary and aren’t always easy to anticipate. And even when you do have extensive feedback, it can be hard to translate this into concrete product improvements.

Because of this, longer feedback loops can result in time spent building a new feature that misses the mark or misreads the market.

Regular customer input allows you to spot issues early and adapt your plans to fit their needs. Instead of rushing to implement integrations based on the hype cycle, you can deliver tangible improvements to the functionality of your product.

4. Planning for user testing

For a successful release, it is not enough to ensure stability. Yes, a bug-free experience is important. But to avoid post-deployment issues, you need to understand the granular details of how customers use your product. That way, you can be confident that any update doesn’t come with unintended drawbacks for the end user.

A customer-focused release process lets you plan for in-depth user access testing (UAT). UAT allows your customers to test new functions directly before they go live. They can then provide practical feedback based on their user experience.

Scheduling UAT well in advance and implementing any necessary tooling will give you vital insight into how customers will engage with new features — or if they will engage with them at all.

What a customer-focused release process means for you

Consulting your customers about your release process helps you balance the conflicting priorities of a tight development lifecycle. You will be able to focus on the most beneficial and sought-after improvements, based on a deep understanding of how your customers actually use your product.

Of course, bringing your customers into your release process isn’t a simple fix. To secure substantial benefits, you’ll need to consider your specific circumstances. The steps required will differ between B2B and B2C products, as businesses may be slower to adopt new updates and place greater emphasis on stability than individual customers.

By the same token, the requirements for healthtech and fintech will not be the same, as differing levels of regulation will shape customer needs.

If you’re looking to build a more agile and iterative release management process, Success Software Services can help. We provide software development partnerships that help you get quality updates to your users quickly and effectively, using world-class agile delivery processes.

Get in touch to learn more about how we can support you to make lasting changes to your release process.