Find out what you can do to ensure a successful product launch.

Show Notes

Disney recently launched its Disney+ streaming service.  Unfortunately, the launch was met with some problems as many of their 10 million subscribers couldn’t log in or couldn’t stream videos.

After the launch, I read an article about how Disney representatives said the outages of their streaming service were due to the way their engineers architected the application.

That got me thinking . . . Is it really an architecture problem?

While the outages were a direct result of the tooling choices and the inability of the architecture to handle 10 million people all trying to log in at once, I think there’s a deeper root cause here.  To me, the root cause is a failure to accurately forecast demand and understand the limitations of the architecture.

This is where we as Business Analysts, project professionals, and change agents can help our organizations discover some of the risks with a product launch and take steps to make it successful.

Let’s first focus on understanding potential demand.

When I first heard about the outage, I immediately thought “Where are the business analysts?   What kind of nonfunctional requirements did this initiative have?  Was their business case?  What assumptions did Disney make it as far as volume?”

Disney must have made some type of forecast related to demand and I suspect that their forecast was off. Disney has the money and people skills to be able to develop a solution to meet the needs for 10 million customers.  The problem is if they only predict 2 million customers, the architect the solution in a way to meet that need instead of the true demand.

I want to note that this type of demand and this product is new territory for Disney.  There are a lot of unknowns and I’m certainly not faulting Disney for the outages.  I’m using this as a case study for how we could help our organizations.

What could Disney have done to better understand the real demand?  There are a few approaches that other organizations have used that may or may not apply to Disney’s context.

One thing I would recommend for any type of product launch is to make your assumptions transparent. You can use an approach such as assumptions mapping to understand what assumptions are making and then run experiments to validate or invalidate those assumptions. I discussed assumptions mapping with David Bland in episode 99.

Depending on the type of product, another approach would be to use a beta launch or pre-sell.  A beta launch involves launching the product to a limited group or limited area.  This approach allows you to better understand demand and discover any issues prior to a full-scale launch.

A pre-sell allows your customers to sign up for your service or purchase your product before the actual launch.  Services like Kickstarter help entrepreneurs and organizations to understand customer preferences and demand.

Now let’s look at the other root cause; the need to understand the limitations of the architecture.

Limitations in the architecture, tools, and skills within an organization are all organizational constraints. Before we determine how we will develop a solution, we need to understand those organizational constraints.

We may be able to build a solution, but if we don’t have the organizational capabilities to service that product, we won’t be successful.

As the launch of Disney plus was new territory for Disney, it’s unclear whether they truly knew the limitations of their architecture. I’m sure they load tested their software and performed many other checks.

As business analysts, product managers, and other professionals, we need to understand our organizational capabilities and limitations. We need to know how much volume our systems can handle. We need to know how much volume our call center can handle. We need to understand all of the constraints of our organization.

Making the constraints of the architecture visible and using different techniques to understand the true demand may have helped Disney put changes in place that would have avoided the outages.  To Disney’s credit, they were able to quickly adapt and change their application for the high volume of customers.

What are you doing in your organization to understand constraints and validate your assumptions?

Launching a New Product

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