The three stories that trigger this post
I’ve been occupied with some thoughts resulting from some articles I read or discussions I joined for some time. Here are three of them:
Story 1: focus
AnhHung and I had a discussion in our three blog posts on whether companies would want to pick a direction and fully focus or experiment with their ideas.
Just a quick note: I explicitly express my support for neither, in my post I pointed out where experiment is sensible.
Story 2: the registration form
Here is the story of how changing a button brings $300 million revenues.
I didn’t get it. That was not a small change in “only a button”. That was a major change in flow + database + architecture + graphic design, and it resulted from an R&D result.
With a change at that level, the Product Manager, Business Analyst (if any), System Designer (if any), Project Manager, DBA, Developer should be involved. Why does the article only highlight the designer?
Story 3: prototyping
Today I read about how great products like Gmail and AdSense were born from experiments and thought about where innovation should be placed. Before Paul had done what he did, AdSense had been a laugh, and because he did his experiment, Google had a billions-worth business.
However, some Gmail’s siblings from Labs didn’t make it.
So should they continue their experiments or should they focus?
The points we missed
Comparing different ambiances where the stories took place helped me realize the points we did not take into accounts which could somehow relieve the thoughts in my mind.
1. Type of product
1a. The reason why I put the flow from story 2 on the table was that we once had an issue when a developer changed a flow to make it more convenient for users and changed a form design to make it more attractive without going through the Business Analyst. When I saw the changes I freaked out as the they violated some regulations of the industry and we had to quickly revert the system before releasing to clients. It is not to blame anyone, it is to clearly state that there are might be reasons why something so inconvenient stays in the system.
However, for products that come from new & creative ideas, innovation deserves its space and time. If changes and new features suggestions must go through a lengthy process, two things could arise: the product does not move fast enough and the idea initiators might get frustrated and gradually lose their passion.
1b. Another aspect is whether the product is commercial or customized. Commercial products are offered to a large number of clients, and customized products are usually ordered by specific clients for their use only. For commercial products, the product team to brainstorm improvements and clients’ input take the form of feed backs. For customized products, users’ response can be obtained by taking the product directly to the client.
2. Software methodology
If the team employs Rational Unified Process, changes must go through change management process. If the team goes Agile, changes can be implemented quicker with more clients involvements. Smaller teams might be even more flexible.
If RUP is used then it’s valid to question where the Business Analyst is in a change, but if the process is different, it’s perfectly okay for the web designer to initiate a usability improvement.
3. Corporate type: established or startup
A good example to take is Google itself. There are tales about how open it was and how data was easily accessible and how anti-corporate the team was when the company was still a startup. But now Google is a mature enterprise with corporate hierarchy and naturally enough management practices are in place.
How large the companies are is a big factor in their choosing strategies.
And it’s funny if we compare a public company with 20 thousands employees to a startup with ten people.
The time when Gmail took of and the time 6 of her siblings were axed are not the same. 2004 was a good year to start a new service and 2009 is when companies need to cut costs.
Lastly, the arguments people brings to a discussion of one topic vary depending on their perspective and position.
For example, the product builder might want to try out with different intiatives, the analyst might want to draw the patterns, the marketer might want to emphasize the position of the brand, the venture capitalist might want to see a business model out of an idea.
It’s fascinating how we have different people with different interests joining together and personally this reminds me that sometimes we can never reach a consensus from a debate.
This entry is meant to organize some fighting thoughts inside my mind and that’s all it should do.
I don’t intend to make a point here, but I hope you enjoyed the articles that I quoted. Here they are again for your convenience:
Jared M. Spool, The $300 Million Button
Paul Buchheit, Communicating with code