March 31, 2009

A lesson from Google: keep your product simple

Products, or services don’t have to be perfect before you release them. In fact, holding out on getting to the market, until the product is finally ready could be a major business blunder.

This is surely a lesson that leading software developers like Google and others have learned. For example, I clicked to add an attachment in my Gmail account recently, to be greeted with the notice below:

Clearly, Gmail continues to launch new features not just in beta, but s part of a continuous stream of product iterations and new releases. Next quarters features will be richer than today’s, but the focus is on getting today’s products immediately into use among customer.

It used to be said that ‘good is the enemy of great’, however too many great products never reach the market. Limiting what a product, or service does, so that it can be sold next quarter, as opposed to next year is key to success. Besides, the one big launch at the end of a waterfall, has been replaced with a product roadmap dotted with regular iterations and releases.

There is another trend that we have noticed from buyers. The bells and whistles approach to new product development would appear to be at an end, with budget restrictions and cut backs focusing buyer attention on core benefits and features and how they impact on their business. With payback at the top of the agenda, the ‘nice to have’ features are suddenly less important.

Another trend is the focus on ‘point solutions’, as opposed to complete systems overhauls, or technology revolutions. Buyers want a problem solved and want the most practical and cost effective way of doing so. When it comes to ripping out the back end, adopting a new platform or implementing a new technology, many buyers prefer to wait until the present economic uncertainty reduces. So, it is fix a problem today mindset and change the company tomorrow. This mindset demands a point solution.

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