For many, the start of a new year is a time of reflection and renewal. Every year we see a flurry of resolutions for the new year. These resolutions can take many forms and typically focus on health, lifestyle and prosperity. For this blog I’m going to focus a bit on the prosperity aspect.
Prosperity is associated with success and profitability. For an alarming number of years, I’ve worked to deliver successful products for various employers. A successful product is always one where we generated significant revenue and increased the value of the corporate brand. Multiple times I’ve been in the position of needing to turn around a product that wasn’t meeting its success criteria. This difficult task often occurs after significant investment, and can impact any potential future success for the product. It is against this backdrop that I offer a gift to you, my readers, in the hope that you’ll profit from my experience and prosper in 2017.
There is an old adage that knowledge is power. The product development analogy is defined success criteria with development feedback. With clear success criteria, we are able to define precisely what we want the product to accomplish and how we are going to achieve success — including revenue targets. Challenging success criteria include factors such as release timelines, quality matrices, and the concepts of “minimum viable product” and “post-ship bugs.”
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a concept from the Agile world that states “A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” This definition lacks any success criteria other than being able to learn about customers. It doesn’t imply that those customers paid for the product, received value from the product, or continued to use the product for its intended purpose for any extended period of time. The definition is so broad that even a demo or trial of the product could satisfy the feedback loop to “maximize learning.”
Unfortunately, MVP has become synonymous with releasing products with limited feature sets and uncertain upgrade paths. These are key attributes that impact product success in a negative way, and attributes we as an industry need to rally against. Customers expect solid products. They expect that what they receive is going to work, work well, and be easy to set up. They don’t expect a toolkit, unless that’s explicitly what they’re buying, and they don’t expect to need a ton of hand holding. Apple has proven that complex technology needn’t be hard to use. If the product is going to an end user, they also expect that it’ll have a nice long lifespan. Regardless of who your user is, they expect your product won’t become a liability, particularly a security liability.
So for 2017, I have a challenge for everyone involved in product development, promotion and support. I challenge you to resolve that in 2017 you will:
- Create success criteria for your products
- Perform security audits on your products prior to shipment
- Challenge practices that use customers as QA testers
- Release products that you will personally be proud to be associated with
- Ensure a customer-friendly method exists to update your products
- Deliver updates that improve customer acceptance and usage of your products
I would love to see 2017 be the year where MVP is translated into “Minimum Success Criteria – A product containing features that deliver definable value to a customer without compromising their privacy or security meets the minimum success criteria.” In other words, I’d like to see a world where we no longer see vendors believing that just because they can ship product doesn’t mean they should ship the product in its current state. Please help me in making this a reality, and if you disagree with my positon, please do start a conversation.