Launching a new website, front-end store, or product requires several trade-off’s. Here are two principles I learned at Amazon that still ring true to me.
Living with the Suboptimal
The result of external competitive pressures and a resource-constrained development environment is that we almost always have to live with the suboptimal: we have to launch with fewer features than we would like, with less complex features than we would like, in less time than we would like.
This is especially true when software teams are involved and are shared among product families, or the entire project is contstrained by time deadlines, such as an FDA Clinical Trial due date (prior experience here). In any event — living with the suboptimal is cold, hard, fact.
Just Launch the Darn Thing
Instead of trying to launch a perfect product or feature, it’s almost always necessary to spec an ideal product or feature and then adjust the spec for the resources at hand and the current competitive landscape. “Just launch the darn thing” is almost always the implicit, and sometimes, the explicit, mandate. Entering the market, even with a suboptimal but competitive product, also raises the cost of entry for future and current competitors, as an edge is gained in acquiring customers. After entry, competitors must take the (our) feature, product, or site into account.
With site and feature development, the 80/20 rule holds. The spec should meet that 80%, and what gets cut should address the other 20%. When you have to cut features to make launch, remember that development does not end with launch. Keep a list of what gets cut and prioritize that list to be developed later.
This can work if product roadmaps are created, agreed upon, and supported by the leadership. Otherwise, sites and products will be launched and never really improved to cover the 20% that was missing.
This approach can actually help avoid Featuritis, which many software and product teams fall prey to. When working under a timebox, the team must quickly decide what is in, and what is out. And, the hope is to avoid Featuritis while satisfying at least 80% of your target market.
Live with the fact that trade-off’s occur. When they do, do it in such a way that brings the product to market quicker with as many features as is possible. Again, it’s about the customer, but it’s also about the firm’s ability, capability, and current competetive landscape that needs to be taken account.