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22 Apr Don’t sit on an issue. Act on it.

FYI — there are only 19 tickets left for INDUSTRY 2016 at second release prices. Make sure to register today.

If you’ve ever accessed your important Microsoft Office documents on your iPad, you have Ben Gilbert, in part, to thank.  Ben was a part of the team responsible for launching Microsoft Office for iPad just two years ago.  In fact, Ben spent countless days, long nights, and weekends feverishly coordinating all of the parties and resources involved to ultimately launch the product on plan.

On one of those late nights, Ben leaned back from his desk and turned around to glance up at the giant make-shift workflow poster he concocted, consisting of 130 screens on 12 different pieces of paper.

Then, a hot burst of despair overcame Ben as he realized something.  There’s a good chance Apple might reject their app submission outright.

Ben realized that one piece of their workflow was actually in contrast with Apple’s “App Store Review Guidelines”.  And if his suspicions were correct, it would not bode well for Ben and his team.  Microsoft had already spent considerable resources into this app, and they were already massively invested in the launch.  He could cross his fingers and hope the app was approved.  With an app so complex, and important to the platform, its possible Apple could look past the issue.  After all, if Ben did sound the alarms now, his judgment and planning could come into question – despite the fact that multiple team members were involved in the process.

But Ben knew what he had to do.  In fact, there was really no other alternative.  Everybody had to know of the risk potential.

In just 24 hours, Ben made sure that everybody was aware of the potential issue.  The development team.  Product Marketing.  Senior management.  Even their high level contacts at Apple.

The result?

As you probably know, Microsoft did ultimately launch that iPad app.  Yes, Ben and his team did have to call a bit of an audible in terms of the workflow.  However, because the issue was addressed head on and with all of the potential parties involved – they were able to come up with a plan that not only addressed the issue, but ensured a successful launch as well.

For Ben, this was one of his first lessons that as a product owner, you simply can’t procrastinate when it comes to risk mitigation… whether it’s a place like Microsoft, or at a much more startup-oriented environment, like Pioneer Square Labs (where Ben serves as a co-founder).

And Ben has advice for product owners dealing with risk, no matter the scale of their organization or product.

“If you’re close to your product and you’ve thought about an issue for the first time… chances are, you’re the first person to think about that issue for the first time.  So you can’t sit around.  You have to act on it.”

Ben will be sharing more product insights based on his experiences at Microsoft, Pioneer Square Labs, and elsewhere this fall at INDUSTRY 2016.  Haven’t registered yet?  Do so before April 30th and save $200 off of the onsite rate.

Mike Belsito
Mike Belsito
mikebelsito@gmail.com

Mike Belsito is a startup product and business developer who loves creating something from nothing. Mike is the Co-Founder of Product Collective which organizes INDUSTRY, a conference in the midwest for people that build, launch, and scale world class products. Mike also wrote the book Startup Seed Funding for the Rest of Us, which debuted on the top of Product Hunt. Mike’s products and businesses created by Mike have been featured in national media outlets like The Atlantic, Inc Magazine, CNN, PBS and the New York Times.

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