Product Innovation Trends

Making Timely Decisions as Release Cycles Shorten

Note: The following is an excerpt from our Forrester Consulting commissioned report, The State of Modern Product Delivery. Read the full report for key insights on the current trends and challenges in product delivery.

Release cycles are getting shorter. Forrester’s study indicates that most organizations release at least quarterly, with many organizations releasing monthly or more frequently (see figure below). As customer expectations rise and competitors’ release cycle times drop, organizations face mounting pressure to get solutions to market faster. This increases the importance of collaboration even as it reduces the time available to do so. Waiting for meetings to make decisions has become increasingly impractical, and the global nature of most organizations makes scheduling those meetings all but impossible.


  • Mobile and web applications demand frequent releases, but other products have similar demands. Not surprisingly, hardware-based products have the lowest release frequency, but customer expectations of those products have also accelerated. Leading consumer electronics companies have conditioned consumers to expect at least yearly releases of new hardware, too. The complexity of modern products adds to the challenge of frequent releases.
  • Many products consist of hardware, software, and services. Consider a typical mobile banking application. The product isn’t just the smartphone app; it’s also the support services, the web application, and perhaps even a capability in an ATM. All of these must be coordinated in order to have happy customers. Today’s connected world of social media means that an unhappy customer can have a very high cost — increasing the value of effective collaboration.

While a lack of understanding of customers’ real needs is a significant cause for delayed product releases, a lack of timely decisions plays a significant role as well (see figure below). Delays in making decisions and poor communication are at the root of many release delays.


  • Unclear requirements lead to quality issues. Lack of clear goals about customer needs affects more than just product development; it affects how the product is tested. Poor quality is not just caused by coding errors; it is also caused by poor fitness for purpose.
  • Resource conflicts and coordination problems have poor communication at their heart. Team distribution makes resource visibility more challenging than in the past. Understanding resource commitments and anticipating conflicts gives time to respond without affecting release schedules.
  •  The more complex the product, the more complex the collaboration. Products that span multiple devices, channels, and technologies are becoming the norm, not the exception. Orchestrating their definition and delivery is exponentially more complex than simple products; the number of stakeholders multiplies, and with it the degree of communication challenges. Successful product organizations are able to keep this complexity in check.
  • Decision-makers need to know when they need to make a decision. This is often not clear. And once a decision is made, teams need to know when they can take action on it. Ineffective communication needlessly adds to delays. Sometimes the challenge is simply bringing everyone together to discuss the issues and make a decision. Traditional meeting-based processes simply can’t keep up with the increasing speed of delivery.

Read the full Forrester Consulting report on The State of Modern Product Delivery complete with key recommendations.