We often try to make sure we get things right. We spend huge amount of time agonising over details, getting the OK from others, making sure it’s just so. In large organisations, this shows itself as detailed business plans and product specifications, complicated procedures and sign-offs, exhaustive management reports. And lots and lots of meetings.
But you don’t know if it’s right until you give it to the customer. No matter how much stuff you do beforehand, the moment is truth is still the moment of truth. They’re not interested in your blood, sweat and tears. They either love it or hate it. End of. (Or they don’t care, which is worse).
Why not get to that key moment as soon as possible? Stop worrying about getting it right and see if you can get it wrong as early as you can. Then change it and go again.
We hugely over-estimate the cost of getting it wrong. But we give barely a thought to all the time and effort we spend (trying) to get it right.
(Note: Making sure it’s right is not the same as making sure it’s correct. This is not an excuse to put out sloppy work.)
“Draw Something” is the latest smartphone game sensation, with its creators, OMGpop, snapped up by Zynga for $183 million. It’s the hottest app of the year and now everyone’s trying to write the next ‘Draw Something’.
But should they?
This wasn’t the first app that OMGpop had written. It was their 36th. Now, some may say it’s a reward for their perseverance. I say they got lucky. They were lucky they didn’t run out of money. Or run out of time. Or run out of energy.
OK, they hit a home run and are now basking in the glory. I don’t begrudge them their success. But what if the ‘home run’ had been the 50th attempt? And they couldn’t last out that long? Would they now be darlings of the digerati? Or just another bunch of disillusioned programmers in boring day jobs?
If your strategy is to keep swinging until you hit a home run, I wish you luck.
You’ll need it.
When you are developing a service you go through a series of trials to make sure it really works and can do enough of what the customer wants. Proof-of-concept, alpha and beta trials, pre-production, soft-launch – there’s a number of ways to work through this to get ready for market. Today, the received wisdom is to get it into the hands of users as soon as you can, and continue to develop based on their feedback until it’s ready to go out into the big wide world.
Ah yes, the real world where time frames have to be met and money has to be made. Often we don’t have the luxury of endless iterations until perfection is achieved, we have to go with what we’ve got, warts and all. Or we don’t have the money to build everything so it’s robust and infinitely scalable from Day One. That often means compromises, chewing-gum and string solutions rather than proper systems and processes. This is normally OK as long as the core elements are robust. And as long as you don’t have too many customers.
So, you launch a system that’s not quite ready and can’t scale. Well, probably the main platform will but some of the support processes, which are based on bits of paper, excel spreadsheets and lots of Virtual Assistants, won’t. As soon as you get too successful, they will fall over and you’ll have lots of unhappy customers. Or probably, lots of unhappy would-be customers, which is worse (trust me, I’ve been there).
It’s not ideal but it is manageable. The important thing is to know when the flakier parts of the system are likely to fall over and how you are going to replace them. That means having plans with costs and timescales. Then you can monitor the load across the system and prioritise action on those parts that are getting close to the max, so you switch them out before they fail.
It’s a bit like building a railroad, you only need enough track down for the train to travel the next day. As long as it’s built when the locomotive comes along, you’re fine.