One of the cooler parts of being part of a software startup has been having direct involvement in how we prioritize features. I get to see the list of potential features, the expected costs for implementing them, and then contribute to the discussion of which ones we choose to implement in what order.
- “How big a deal would it be if we didn’t do XYZ this release?”
- “Do you think we should implement ABC before DEF, even if it will delay the release?”
- “What if we break PQR in the next release and don’t fix it for a few months – is that a big deal?”
These are the types of questions we grapple with as we decide how to put a software release together. And doing a good job of answering them should be based on the impact they have to existing and prospective customers.
Being a part of this process reminds me of when I took a Product Development course in grad school. Suddenly I understood why it could take 18 months to get from a customer request to an implemented features. I could understand why even though I felt like all my customers wanted a particular feature, it wasn’t be implemented in favor of other features.
Which is basically what happened this weekend when I went to watch a movie on DirecTV. mrDiva had taken babyDiva to see his parents for the weekend, so I was on my own. I ordered takeout, took out the ice cream, and prepared to settle in to watch The Hundred Foot Journey.
Then an interesting message popped up. “Pressing “OK” will authorize you to watch on this receiver only. To be eligible to watch this on all your receivers, either text [number], go to this URL, or call this number.”
Now, this is a #firstworldproblem if I even heard one. But DirecTV has conditioned me to start watching things in one room and finish in another. Whether it’s something I recorded or a free OnDemand option, I can watch it on either DirecTV receiver I have and switch between rooms mid-show.
My first thought was “Jeez, that’s annoying.” I was planning to watch it downstairs, but I also don’t think about where I’m watching anything because I’m used to switching rooms. I was annoyed that I had to think about that. Then my next thought was, “It seems easier to stay put and watch this downstairs than to text, go online, or call to order this movie.”
And my final thought was, “OOOH, some product marketing and product management people knew this was going to happen. They are keeping an eye on how many people just say OK and how many actually do one of the other things to determine if it’s worth implementing. There must be some legacy technical thing that made it tricky to implement this so they are deciding whether it’s worth it.”
I felt pretty proud of myself.
PS: The movie was OK. I watched Chef the next night which I liked a lot more.