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The 5TH

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2017 - 2018


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Barney Cools

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2013 - 2017

Plan Lab

Sold 2013

Controlling scope in a startup

When you create a product you tend to see months and years into the future.

Inevitably you ask whether you can squeeze these new features into the product. It’s only natural to want to make it bigger and better. How could anyone beat us if we have all these features?

If you’re outsourcing development you’ll inevitably be told “sure, as long as you’re willing to pay for the extra work”, so you probably don’t do it. If you’re working with a developer as part of your founding team, they might feel your enthusiasm and say “sure, I can fit that in” believing it’ll make the product that much more awesome.

Everything is more work than you think it will be and you end up releasing a bloated product that doesn’t do any one thing incredibly well.

I love how Des Traynor describes scope as being the difference between a scalpel and a swiss army knife. One doesn’t do much but its obvious and does it well. The other is hard to explain and does nothing particularly well.

I was more guilty of this than anyone. As the product-focused person within the team my mind rushed to all of the things that we could do.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could just launch with that killer social feature so you can choose a close friend to go on a health kick with.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had that killer gamification system so users get a score of how healthy they’ve been on any given day.

I could list half a dozen things that weren’t part of the original plan that I added in with the blessing of our developer and team.

Over six months from the launch of BodyWise v2 and our training partners social feature doesn’t work. Our gamification system is 20% built.

The things we’ve worked on since are the things that we discovered really matter to users, not the things that we thought a mature product would have.

We’re playing catch up and working back from bloated to simple. It’s working and things are on the up for us but I learnt a big lesson on the importance of controlling scope in product development.

Choose where you start and where you stop. Think simpler early.

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