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Global feature design and release

Problem

Once a company launches a product in a single country outside the United States (OUS) every feature team needs to consider requirements for new countries. Every new feature will present questions about design and timing of release for different markets. And this will decide whether or not the stack will have parity for features across every country where there are users. Hopefully now it is clear why features and country launches were tracked as part of launches. Decisions will continually need to be made on accelerating or abandoning product and country launches so it is important to create clear processes and documentation for that work.

Potential Solutions

There are a few options for how to decide on which countries a product will be released in and when it will be released. But it is important to make clear to everyone the long-term goal is to have every product in every market. Otherwise teams will always default to what they know which is most likely US laws, markets, and sensibilities.

Country Decisions

Decide which countries gets which features.

Is this a US-only feature or is this a feature that will be required for all customers?

  • If it is a feature that needs to be released in more than one location, will the feature be released simultaneously or is it something that will be released in a staggered fashion? What is the timeframe and what if anything needs to be done to launch it in other places?
  • Is there already operations or a support staff in the country that makes it an appealing expansion?
  • Does there need to be an evaluation of the country and cost/benefit of the release or is there a strategic reason to release it?

As a company matures every feature or product should be evaluated for each market and a decision should be made for releasing, not releasing, or continuing to watch the product-market fit for the country.¬† Since the requirements for each region differ it is acceptable to have US-only features, but it should be a clear and conscious decision to do that. It also a good practice to ingrain in teams a global-first approach to product design. Ask for strong justification why something can’t or shouldn’t be released in a country. This will prompt everyone in the organization to design for scale and find solutions for time zones, language, currency, and every other blocker that prevents the company from scaling to new markets.

Feature and release timing decisions

There should be clear tenets or principles for release timing and release choices. These tenets may be based on expansion roadmap, maturity of the market, customer request, or any other explicit and documented feature that can be measured across all the potential options. The goal should be to have explicit decisions and documentation that supports release decisions so they can be articulated to stakeholders and vetted across the company.

Change management

  • Tracking changes across markets will become difficult for a company as the features expand and the stack matures.
  • The platform will splinter to support the requirements of each market.
  • The documentation for launch process,decisions and releases, should be continually managed. This will create new operations for dev, test, and product teams. Identify milestones within the development and release process where¬† this documentation is completed and who owns that process.

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