Many fundamentals of product development are straight forward in theory but difficult to apply reliably in the real world. With each launch, teams should define clear objectives with measurable success criteria. They should communicate launch strategies and details to the broader company. After time passes, they should analyze whether a launch met success criteria. Periodically, teams should step back to evaluate the efficacy of their overall process and identify opportunities to improve.
Teams who consistently apply these practices will continuously improve their ability to ship successful products and build the company’s confidence in their efforts. Yet few teams do. Under the pressure of running a business, fundamentals slip through our fingers. We launch changes we believe are valuable without formulating clear, measurable goals. We get too busy to bother informing the broader company about what we’re doing. Focused on the future, we often neglect to loop back to assess previous launches or reflect on our engrained processes.
Even after building an appreciation of best practices in my 10 year product management career, I often find that, to the detriment of my company, applying them is too cumbersome to actually do. This is why I’m driven to create Double-Loop. The vision of Double-Loop is to make it easy for teams to follow, and keep following, the fundamentals of product development. Double-Loop will transform teams’ ability to learn from their launches and make the right bets moving forward.
Double-Loop records a historical timeline of events related to a product or suite of products. An “event” could be a code change or any type of happening relevant to the product such as a marketing campaign, news story, or Google search engine change. Events are added either automatically when the company ships code or manually by any member of the team. The record of each event consists of a summary of what happened, details, visuals, people involved, and the expected impact to the business. When time passes after the event, the team loops back to record the actual impact of the event.
While teams will be motivated to update their timelines, Double-Loop takes measures to increase the likelihood that they do. Double-Loop will be integrated with the team’s deployment process, code versioning (e.g., GitHub), project management software (e.g., Pivotal Tracker), and communication platform (e.g., Slack). Every time the team team ships code, an event will be pre-populated in their timeline with the set of code commits and changes pre-populated. Double-Loop will then ping the team to go into Double-Loop to provide more information on the launch. Or a Slack bot will ask questions about the launch, allowing folks to fill out details in Double-Loop directly from Slack. When time passes after the launch, Double-Loop will remind the team to assess the impact of the launch and update the event record accordingly.
Double-Loop will provide beautiful interfaces for the overall timeline and events. Teams will feel proud to share their pages in Double-Loop with their company. Double-Loop can be configured to automatically send emails or Slack messages with the addition of each event. As a side effect of using the the tool, Double-Loop will take care of launch emails and release notes that were otherwise extra work to generate.
I’ve been using the first version of Double-Loop in my current product management role. The process of keeping a timeline has made me a better product manager by itself. Double-Loop nudges me to fully articulate the context of each launch and close the loop on assessing impact. These are critical activities that I neglect when pressures and distractions mount. Also, the historical record has allowed me to better interpret our web analytics, lead team postmortems, and prepare for board meetings requiring a narrative of what we’ve accomplished.
The benefits I’ve experienced thus far are just the beginning of the value that Double-Loop will create for companies. Double-Loop provides a longterm memory store that will help new team members rapidly catchup with organizational learning. As contributors seem to be coming and going from companies at an increasing rate, Double-Loop will ease the transitions between the old and the new. Double-Loop increases the value of each of a company’s launch by maximizing the amount of learning retained.
While the first target users for Double-Loop are software development teams, the applications are broader. Any type of organization that would benefit from a recorded history will be able to leverage Double-Loop. However, I’m particularly compelled by Double-Loop’s utility for venture capital firms. If you’re a VC, imagine if every startup in your portfolio kept a Double-Loop timeline. You could more effectively provide advice based on the narrative of their history. And when a startup does go down in flames, their Double-Loop timeline will be like an airplane’s black box. A VC could make the timeline from a failed company available to other investments attacking the same space, thus increasing the chance of their success.
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