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Software developement and operations

Why it’s crucial to focus on your product’s boring features first

2 years ago · 3 MIN READ
#flarewave  #startup 

Why it’s crucial to focus on your product’s boring features first

Especially when you are totally excited about your new idea.

Do you remember the moment when you had a great idea for a new product? Most likely you were excited about the idea and thousands of features started to pop into your mind. Maybe you talked to a friend or potential co-founder about your product idea and he started to feel the same excitement. You probably looked exactly like the kids in the image - discussing the coolest features while the product grew and grew. And there you have it. Without knowing it you and your partner find yourself tangled up in the scope creep trap.

Our experience with the scope creep trap

I was once involved in a startup that was totally excited about their product and the millions of (different) possibilities. For quite a few years we tried to reach our goal and build this product. But we never made it. We got lost in complex features. We started developing Feature A but ditched it mid-development so we could start with even sexier Feature B. Next we threw most of the code away and started over. Later we started developing Feature D but during development Feature B was rethought, then kicked and to make things worse Feature D which had dependencies to Feature B was also obsolete. Long story short: We never finished.

“Failure is success if we learn from it.” - Malcolm Forbes

Currently my team and I are working on a new idea called pooling.io. Since we have gained more experience in several business as well as private projects we got better in avoiding scope creep. So this is how we started with pooling.io:

We defined our essentials and the core of our product and all necessary functionalities that are required to make it work. The result of developing the essentials is a MVP (minimal viable product). To be honest, focussing on the essentials is tough, especially when you are excited about cool and smart features that might change the world. However focussing on the essentials is the most important part though it is really really boring. We know that.

Here is an example: Imagine you want to build a new product for stock photos. You are super excited about this idea. You have smart features in mind that will kill all the existing competitors in the market. (Of course ;)) In this example the essential features seem obvious.

  • Uploading images
  • Downloading images
  • Rating images
  • User signup
  • User sign-in
  • Your super cool and smart feature A
  • Your super cool and smart feature B - Z

These essentials are the base of your new product and you need them to finally build your super smart feature that’ll blow everyone away. But these features are not very sexy. They are nothing new or ‘disrupt’ anything. They have been done millions of times. Of course you want to change your focus towards the more exciting features when you read the list of essentials. But wait … Look at it again.First of all you should reorder the list because there are certain dependencies:

  1. User signup
  2. User sign-in
  3. Uploading images
  4. Rating images
  5. Downloading images
  6. Super cool and smart feature A - Z

What you have now is a list of logical steps towards your goal. By following this path you’ll gain motivation because you know that you’re heading towards the cool feature. And there is another secret in this list. Because basic features like signup & sign-in are so common there are a lot of ready to use solutions.

Planning your essentials first has crucial benefits.

  • The essentials determine your roadmap.
  • Having a consistent roadmap makes it easy to plan your sprints.
  • A well planned sprint leads to a well going sprint which leads to satisfied developers
  • The team’s motivation won’t drop due to changes and roadblocks

and many more...

The sooner you get the basics or 'boring' features out of the way the earlier you can dig into the more interesting stuff.

Let me know what you experienced concerning scope creep and losing focus.

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Sebastian Baum



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