“There is no such thing as scope creep, only scope gallop.” – Cornelius Fichtner, Project Management Trainer & Author
Last week we kicked off yet another project to re-base an IT application where maintenance and development costs keep increasing, limited improvement of business impact is reported, and user ratings of the application are preciously low.
And this is just the latest example this year. At the same time, our„How to Say NO – Creating Focused IT Products“ workshops for IT Project Managers, IT Product Owners, and similar roles are enjoying solid demand.
But how can feature bloat and spec creep (plus the ensuing costs) be fought or even avoided?
One initial action should be transitioning to a proper „product-based“ approach. Many IT teams are making the move recently, and I previously discussed the advantages of this approach in an earlier post this year.
Products are fundamentally determined by a user’s desires to achieve something, business objectives (desired business impacts), and technology.
Successful consumer products start from user needs and try to find a user-friendly, technically feasible solution, plus a business model that makes money from fulfilling the needs while covering technology costs.
IT applications are determined by desired business impacts (process efficiency, cost reduction, …) and technology architecture(often in the form of constraints). – Still, their usability is a non-negligible part of their business value.
The common denominator of all successful „products“ (be that IT- or consumer-) is that they are centered around a core „Job to be Done“ (JTBD) that is determined by the users’ desires or needs to achieve something.
Without diving too deeply into JTBD theory – originally proposed by consultant Tony Ulwick and popularized by Harvard’s late Clayton Christensen – focusing on the job the application needs to facilitate and its desired outcomes provides the starting point for defining or redefining IT products.
IT Product Managers or POs should have a clear agenda focused on developing applications that align the facilitation of the JTBD with business objectives.
If you start with a product-oriented model, now is an excellent time to review and restructure your application.
The following five (6) steps may be a starting point:
- Reiterate Job-to-be-Done and business goals with key business stakeholders and users. If required, clarify or (re)define the product vision (using, e.g., this template from our canvas library). Avoid the „kitchen sink approach“; be clear regarding JTBD and outcomes. Focus on key stakeholders.
- Document all of the product’s current or planned features and categorize them into
- Core Features required to „get the job done“ both from a business objective and user needs perspective.
- Features required for regulatory, legal, or compliance reasons
- Related features; functionalities that may be stakeholder- or use case specific (here’s a template)
- Reconsider functionalities and features in light of Job-to-be-Done, Product Vision, and business goals; discuss borderline cases with stakeholders concerned
- Cull features that are not linked to JTBD or mandatory regulatory etc. requirements. Less code means fewer problems, dependencies, and maintenance (-cost!); fewer features typically improve usability simultaneously.
- Create a theme-based „Now-Next-Later“ roadmap from your decisions that outlines your resulting implementation priorities – also for the continuing discussion with your stakeholders (this template may come in handy)
- Streamline the user experience where you can. Try and deliver intuitive user journeys for your core use cases. If you have no UX support, consider, e.g., the design examples in Taras Bakusevych’s post linked below.
Marissa Mayer once likened the early Google Maps to a Christmas tree with so many ornaments that it was about to fall over (see Elizabeth Laraki’s post). Today it is one of the most frequently used applications and the top navigation app download. It gets the job done for most of us and is an excellent business for Google and many advertisers.
De-cluttering is possible, and it pays.
The 4-step process we used to redesign Google Maps into one of the most loved apps in the world
A brilliant example how to refocus an app for success by former Googler Elizabeth Laraki.
How to simplify your design
Taras Bakusevych’s take on simplifying and focusing applications from a user experience perspective with lots of great examples.
Theme-Based Product Roadmaps: Something Everyone Can Understand
Andrea Saez shows how to communicate high-level priorities so clearly that anyone could walk away knowing what’s going on.
Have a great weekend.
All the best,