I’m not a fan of big corporate product launches. They are too loud. Too restrictive. Too inefficient. Too expensive. And too much based on delivering “messages” no one believes, rather than simply engaging in a mutually beneficial conversation with your customers or communities. I don’t see the point. And I’ve never seen the benefits of a “launch” quantified to justify the expense. Never.
Anyway, I took a crack at this issue back in February, and I’ve been talking about it internally on the OpenSolaris project for a year. The issue bugs me, and I don’t know why, but I’m working it out of my system. Ok, I’m bitter, but beyond that part. Perhaps it’s because I see engineers and developers all around me quite effortlessly engaging in transparent activities. Why, then, do we come along and take their work and “launch” it? Seems odd to me. Sun is a remarkably open company, yet we also engage in “the launch” ritual. Most companies do. Thankfully, I’m not really involved in launches anymore, which is good since I suck at them. And people who know me for more than five minutes are quite aware of my view — dump the launches.
Stephen O’Grady has a really nice one-liner on launches: “Launches are usually designed to talk at someone, not with them” (emphasis added). But Stephen’s thoughts on transparency reflect far more than that one-liner, so take a peek at his post and the comments — especially about Eclipse trying to do a transparent launch, which would represent quite a departure from how the project was born a few years ago (sorry … I worked on NetBeans at the time).
So, aside from getting feedback from a community, I’d love to see exactly what a transparent launch would look like coming from a public corporation. Although it’s a foundation, perhaps Eclipse will give us a clue. I’m looking for the details. Just how do you open all those closed launch processes? And is anyone really interested in seeing all that drama and potentially contributing to it? Or do they just want the release date? Imagine opening the FAQ meetings … you know when we carefully craft the questions and the answers to magically reflect the current partyline. How about a transparent — yet embargoed? — press release process. How would that work when reporters can presumably see inside? What would an open gold/silver/bronze analyst pitch look like? Interested in contributing to a community developed executive keynote? An open field sales competitive briefing pitch? Open pricing discussion? Open branding? Legal? Wow. I’m not sure it’s possible to open these functions because they are designed to be closed until a given day when everything is “launched” simultaneously, wrapped nicely in air tight messaging and delivered via some dramatic show at some expensive venue. Opening that process would actually kill it. Wouldn’t it? Doesn’t the “transparency” sort of cancel out the “launch” in that phrase?
I’m interested in what comes after the launch era because I believe most launches actually reduce the credibility of the project — despite (and maybe because of) all the buzz and spin. So, what replaces the launch? What innovative activities are we not doing now but could be doing if we killed the launch altogether? And would anyone even notice?