Steven Sinofsky's latest Learning by Shipping post is all about planning

Earlier this week, Steven Sinofsky launched his new blog, Learning by Shipping, with the former head of Microsoft's Windows division promising to offer his insight on how to launch technology products. Today, in his latest blog post, he goes into great detail on how a team should construct a plan to launch such a product.

Sinofsky's article offers up a number of bullet points on what might need to be included when creating a plan. That might include taking a look at current industry trends and seeing if some will last and if others are just a flash in the pan. Yet another is simply business oriented; what is the consumer or enterprise customer buying and where are these products being sold?

Partnerships for new tech businesses are another important planning consideration, according to Sinofsky, such as third party hardware and software developers, component manufacturers and more. He states, "Even something as basic as a plug-in model or extensibility API needs to be thought through if you want it to be part of the decision framework for the team."

Sinofsky believes that the best plans have contributions from the entire product team. He also thinks simply writing down the plan is better than, for example, creating some kind of PowerPoint presentation. Indeed, he hints he may go back and discuss the actual writing down of a plan in a future blog post.

He also takes on the topic of having engineers work well with non-engineers, such as sales or marketing employees. Sinofsky writes:

Any non-engineer who has ever interacted with an engineer knows the challenge (or frustration) of being told something can or can’t happen, or that something is right or brain-dead, or worse the stupidest idea ever. Likewise, every engineer knows the frustration of dealing with a salesperson, marketer, or customer who insists on something being done a certain way but can’t offer any rational explanation. This is often referred to as a natural tension or instituted balance of power on a team.

Creating a solid plan can help to bridge the gap between the engineer and non-engineer product groups, according to Sinofsky. It also helps to have two more elements. One is an engineering plan which he says should be read by non-engineers as a "we solved these problems” plan. The other is what he calls the "Big Bet", the one or two parts of a plan that have to work in order for the product to succeed. Sinofsky states:

These can be new technologies, break from the past, or new product area. These are the parts of a product that go beyond the incremental improvement (relative to your own previous release or to competitive products viewed in the same space).

The blog post has a ton of other interesting insights that comes from a person who helped to ship both Windows 7 and Windows 8, although Sinofsky does state at the end, "This post is about the general topic discussed and is not about anything specific in the past or present."

Source: Learning by Shipping | Image via Microsoft

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9 Comments

Brace yourselves, the 8000+ word blog posts are making a comeback.
In all seriousness though, even if I'm not an engineer, and despite all the comments about what Steven did inside MS, I'm still curious to see what's his viewpoint.
Plus, it gives me plenty of time to enjoy a cup of coffee while reading the novel-like posts.

"every engineer knows the frustration of dealing with a salesperson, marketer, or customer who insists on something being done a certain way but can't offer any rational explanation"

*Cough..Apple..Cough*

I actually like this guy and what he did for Microsoft. I personally think his departure was a loss for Microsoft, but we'll see...

LGabi said,
I actually like this guy and what he did for Microsoft. I personally think his departure was a loss for Microsoft, but we'll see...

I think it was a blessing. He strikes me as the dogmatic type (probably corroborated by the rumors that he did not work well with others). And I hate the direction he took the company- especially win8. If an OS is met with such ambivalence something's got to be wrong.

posting in his blog with an iPad? Like ophra?. "Learing and shipping", huh? Says the person who almost destroy they company who work with. The world is a better place since he has gone

How complex is it to ship Windows? You have hundreds of developers, many managers and their managers, a few designers will draw that thing, you give the teams a few months to complete, if the complete they are in, if not it goes to the next release, done, not a big deal, no rocket science there.

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