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The “Pre-mortem”

by Matt Manning

Every project manager has conducted a “post-mortem” after their big product has launched or their information service redesign has rolled out to their customers. Nits are picked, fingers may be pointed and, on occasion, heads can roll. In these days of pervasive predictive analytics, though, can we realistically prevent major process errors from occurring so post-mortems are not needed in the first place?

The idea is a simple one: Assign a small team to break what you are building before someone else finds the vulnerability. It’s similar to what ‘white-hat’ hackers do. The team anticipates and mitigates negative process outcomes in-house before enterprising customers discover the problems themselves.

The types of problems discoverable via a pre-mortem include:

  • Back-door ways to circumvent access permissions so the 1-week free trial subscriber can’t download the entire database on day one.
  • Search engine optimization fails that hide the fact that high-quality content is available on your service.
  • Advanced searches that yield no results and don’t offer a way out of the dead-end.

Once discovered, problems like these can be tested and resolved before they are made public. For instance, adding a “Do you mean X?” mechanism to refine a search, giving the users the chance to make a custom data request, or suggesting coverage of a particular subject area can steer users to useful content and improve customer satisfaction even when a search result is unsuccessful.

So when it comes to the performance of your new or improved information service, maybe conducting your own ‘pre-mortem’ before you launch is a better alternative than the traditional post-mortem. The job you save may be your own!

posted by Shyamali Ghosh on February 24, 2019

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