Too Many Bells and Whistles Will Not Sell a Product
Technical entrepreneurs love to compare the number of features in their product to competitors, and they love to keep adding features -- just because they can. Unfortunately, this approach often turns off mainstream customers, who find the result hard to use. Even worse, this “feature creep” often makes the final product late to market, sluggish and more expensive than competition.
“Focus” is the key to success in a startup, and a minimum viable product (MVP) that does a few things better than anyone else will get more attention quicker from your market. From that base, you can then iterate more effectively, based on customer feedback, to add additional features that really expand the market. Early adopters, who love to count features, are not your major market.
As a former developer, experienced technical entrepreneur, and an advisor to many startups, I recommend that every technical startup adopt and live by some strict strategic and organizational rules to counteract the urge and risks of feature creep. These include:
Separate requirements gathering from product implementation. Every startup team needs a “product owner” role who is not an engineer or coder to collect from customers, prioritize and document required features. Then developers size the implementation alternatives, and startup executives draw a line based on vision, costs and funding.
Define and enforce role and decision authorities. Developers should get the last word on implementation, sizing and duration alternatives. Marketing and product owner negotiate the minimum viable product level based on competition and customer expectations. Financial executives set staffing budgets and monitor spending.
Communicate and commit to a formal development process. With agile and other incremental development processes, schedule and track the allowable time boxes -- one to four weeks -- per cycle.;