Time to Market: How To Measure and Improve It

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Radek Zaleski

Updated Jun 25, 2024 • 10 min read
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Being a laggard rarely pays off – especially in business. Take Amazon’s Fire Phone, for one. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s because it was a complete flop. One of the main factors was its late time to market (TTM).

Since there’s competition for virtually any product or service, when you have a great idea it truly matters how soon you can launch it. And your estimates need to be as accurate as possible to avoid following in Amazon’s footsteps (in terms of the Fire Phone, that is).

While this puts immense pressure onto founders’ backs, the good news for companies is that we live at a time of digital acceleration. There are both tools and people who have specialized expertise and can help you measure and optimize your product launch to gain competitive advantage.

How to measure time to market?

In general, time to market is calculated in time units. You can measure it in days, weeks, or months – depending on the type of product you’re trying to launch. There are multiple ways you can approach it. The exact time to market metrics will vary depending on factors like project scope, funding, and how innovative and/or risky the project is.

You can start tracking the TTM to a successful product launch as soon as you’ve decided to bring your idea to life, and finish immediately after you launch the initial version. This is an approach recommended by John Carter and Jeanne Bradford, authors of “Innovate Products Faster”. In between the start and end dates, they also suggest revisiting your TTM estimates when you reach specific milestones. For example, when you shortlist your must-have features, close the design phase, or end the development stage and move to production.

Alternatively, you can use development approval or securing funding as your starting point. Also, your start date and end date can be determined by analyzing industry information that’s relevant to you. This will give you a good overview of how long it takes on average to launch a product like yours from scratch, and set more realistic goals.

As said by Eric Ries, the Author of “The Lean Startup”, “the only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.”

Example of how you can measure time to market

Here’s an approach I recommend following, broken down roughly into two stages.

Stage 1 – Assess what your ideal TTM would be

Begin by mapping out the workflow for your future product – from scoping all the way to its release. Write down each step, and give it your best guess estimate. Naturally, don’t do this alone – involve all key stakeholders and listen to their opinion. It doesn’t matter what exact technique you use here – it can be planning poker, affinity mapping, or another suitable Agile estimation method.

Once each step has an estimate, add all the numbers and you’ll get the ‘dream scenario’ version of your time to market.

Stage 2 – Verify it against reality

Now’s the time to zero-in on any potential issues that could affect the real-life TTM. I recommend:

  • Turning to a risk management tool – or at least your project management software – to spot any roadblocks that could affect bringing your product to the market quickly.
  • Take each potential problem and assess how much of a delay it could cause.
  • Imagine a worst-case scenario, where every blocker becomes a reality. Think of anything that could affect the development process. Sum up all of these delays.
  • Take your ideal and most pessimistic time to market estimates, and calculate the average.

The number you get is your most realistic bet, where some things might go south, while others will play out well.

Improving time to market – my top recommendations

As someone who’s been involved in tens of successful market launches I advise you to:

1. Use a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

To put it bluntly, creating an MVP is not an option – it’s a necessity if you want to be successful and secure a decent market share. It’s the first version of your product, which covers must-have features only. Stripping it off non-essential options lets you speed up time to market and start collecting feedback for future iterations from real-life users. Bonus points, if you engage in rapid prototyping and use a low-code solution (like we do at Netguru) to speed up your product development even further.

2. Refine processes

While having a well-structured product development process is a great way to organize work and reach your goals faster, sometimes too many processes lead to too much bureaucracy. It’s important to review them continuously, and if you spot any bottlenecks, remove them. By getting rid of all unnecessary processes you’ll be able to streamline your workflow and improve your time to market metrics.

3. Reevaluate your TTM ongoingly

Re-assess your initial estimates if anything affects your previous assumptions or new info comes to light. Maybe a stage like design is taking shorter than you originally thought, as the team is using automation. Or, your market research could tell you that it's taking competitors quicker to deliver similar products. The bottom line is, keep revisiting your time to market as you know more over time.

4. Use Agile working to gain competitive advantage

Being in product development for over a decade, I’ve learned how important good project management is. While there are many methodologies which you can follow, at Netguru we’re strong advocates for Agile.

It revolves around constant cooperation, quick iterations based on received feedback, and fast adaptation to changes. You can modify your product throughout its lifecycle to make sure it’s in line with your target audience’s needs. An ability to respond to changes fast will let you, yes you’ve guessed it, shorten your time to market and improve customer satisfaction. Plus, it can help you grow your market share over time.

5. Be flexible

You know the famous saying “in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes”. This also applies to business. You can come up with the best plan to overcome each potential problem. But, the truth is, you cannot foresee every single issue that might happen. The business landscape is changing, and there are plenty of factors which you simply cannot control – accept it.

What you can do is develop a culture of adaptability – encourage your team to be flexible and to learn from every mistake in the product development cycle. I am not saying skip planning altogether, no – rather, be ready to modify your plan as needed to meet customer expectations.

6. Proactive risk management

I’ve taken part in many development processes, and honestly I can’t recall even one project where everything went perfectly smoothly. Problems happen along the way – always. However, the more experience you have in developing products, the easier it is to foresee and prevent them from occurring, or at least mitigate them. And there are plenty of risks you can come across, for example:

  • Development delays due to unforeseen bug or tech problems that take longer to tackle
  • Legal issues, which must be resolved before launch
  • Changing market conditions like a new competitor entering the market, etc.

Being aware of the problems that can potentially occur will help you better prepare for what’s coming, help you gain a competitive advantage, and potentially boost your market share.

7. Outsource to speed up your company's product development process

You don’t have to handle your product development process entirely in house. Using team extension is a great alternative to hiring full-time without compromising on development speed. You can add missing talent on the fly, on a temporary basis.

How can tools help you measure time to market metrics?

There are roughly four types of tools that can be helpful in serving the right numbers. These are:

  • Application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) solutions – they let you track development progress and spot any potential issues that could cause delays. Among others, these tools use automated CI/CD pipelines to analyze how long it takes to build, test, and deploy apps. As a result, you get an accurate overview of the timeline.
  • Process flow software – it includes features like visual mapping, task tracking, data collection, reporting and analytics, all of which help you track your product development process and evaluate efficiency.
  • Project management software – it not only lets you track work on particular Sprints, but also gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire project progress. Plus, some of these tools, including Atlassian’s JIRA, now feature a special time to market metric KPI to help keep track of team performance.
  • Risk management tools – they help you identify, assess, and reduce potential risks that could delay development. Risk management tools can often suggest strategies for mitigating issues.

These tools make it much easier to spot risks and address them before they severely affect product quality or market launch.

Measure your time to market metrics regularly to launch faster

Being late to the game can cost you dearly. And the more unique your idea and the higher its potential market impact, the more you’ll regret missing out. The golden rule is to launch the product as soon as possible with the key features, and iterate on the customer feedback, quickly.

If you need help estimating your time to market and scoping the features for the first version of your product, reach out. We have +15 years of experience in bringing digital products to the market, and will be happy to assist with yours.

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Radek Zaleski

Senior Partner at Netguru
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