Yesterday, I was in a meeting with an early stage company reviewing the product development plan with the management team. While the plan was well thought out and defined by process, there was one major problem-it would take too damn long to get a product in GA (generally available to sell!). There were 2 problems-an overemphasis on process and a burning desire to build the ‘perfect product’ at the expense of getting to market. Let me address each problem in turn.
While having the right development process is absolutely critical, I do have concerns about early stage companies being too focused on process. An early stage company’s lifeline is to outinnovate its larger competitors. In any market worth caring about an early stage company will also find other start-up competitors as well. If a company is overfocused on process at the expense of getting to market, I guarantee that it will be climbing uphill against companies that place more emphasis on speed to market. Trust me, I have seen this movie before. At the same time, I am not advocating that you build product with no process either. Balance is key!
What I saw yesterday was also a desire to build the ‘perfect product.’ This is another crucial mistake that companies can make because you can end up overdeveloping and adding features that nobody needs. Once again, an early stage company must balance between getting the right product out with speed to market. An overemphasis on the ‘perfect product’ will only land you on a treadmill chasing your competitors’ constant barrage of new offerings. Having a ‘good product’ many times will suffice and give you the ability to have your sales people sell, bring features and functionality ahead of your competition, and get real world feedback to further improve your offering. Like an old, wise entrepreneur once told me, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”