Product Development – Perfection is the enemy of progress

Perfection is the enemy of progress
Perfection is the enemy of progress
Perfection is the enemy of progress

Perfection is the enemy of progress for all product development people and sadly its an enemy that many are losing their battle with. If you are a coder, hardware nerd, product developer, entrepreneur, anyone who creates products you really need to read this blog post by Andrew Chen and take it to heart.

It seems like the last year or so has increasingly thrown me into the path of people who have been afflicted by the self delusion, doubt and stalled products that Andrew’s article so eloquently discusses. This issue has become quite personal to me because I am watching so many smart people miss out on awesome opportunities with no good reason.

The first thing you need to take away from that article is that you and your customers see your products from totally different perspectives. What you see as a feature, they see as a bug and what you see as imperfection, they often don’t notice at all.

No product is a wild success on its first release. Product development requires trial, error, measurement and most importantly validation that the product is answering the needs of a large enough customer base for it to become commercially successful.

To do this you need customers! Real people who need and want your product. People who are going to give you real honest feedback in the most honest possible way – with their wallets.  If you believe that you are good enough to release a holy grail product without the failure and feedback that comes from having real customers using/breaking/loving/hating your product you’re crazy.

With the people I’ve met and spoken to so far, this behaviour comes from some or all of the following:

  • Fear of criticism
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of perspective
  • Inflexible assumptions

Imagine if you ran your product development process in a way that makes you the subject matter expert on your product.  You’ve spent time with and developed a group of people from your clearly defined target market (You do have one don’t you?). They have told you what ails them and what they would pay for a solution to that problem. You have bounced ideas off them and come up with a minimally featured non working pre-alpha product. They have provided you with feedback which helped you to modify your plans and release a working alpha product which they are even prepared to pay you for!  Success is surely not far off.

In this imaginary world the fears, lack of perspective and inflexible assumptions of the people I’ve been meeting don’t materialise. This is because you’ve stopped and taken the time to ensure that you’re building the right product.  You have confirmed that the problem you’re solving actually exists. You’re no longer spending your life justifying your own opinions because you know what you’re talking about and have evidence to back it.

The only thing that involving your customers doesn’t fix (at least initially) is lack of confidence. Getting out of the office and talking with customers is a critical process. Every single person who creates things must do it regularly in order to remain relevant in their role. Once you’ve done it a few times it becomes easy, you will find that the people you’re talking to become excited to talk with you because you’re helping to make their lives easier.

People with stuck or failing products more often than not have an ad-hoc and unplanned product development process and they are almost always so consumed with “doing stuff” that they miss the point of why they are building the product in the first place – to serve their customers needs. This never ends well.

If you have a product thats stalled, stop working on it now! Get out of your mums basement! Go and visit your customers! This does not mean jump on IRC and ask your mates what they think, or to email a couple of customers asking their opinion. It means physically going out to have a cup of coffee with your customers.

If you don’t know what to say, tell them you’re working on new products for your company and you’re looking for ways to make your customers lives easier. Ask them what makes their job hard or uncomfortable. Don’t offer solutions, just listen and take notes, your customers will know what you should be doing.

If you’re stuck and you need a hand breaking out of a project that just won’t finish, I have helped a bunch of businesses take products out of their mothers basements and release them into the real world. I can help you too – drop me a line.

Networking – Simple advice on a scary topic

Networking

NetworkingThe one thing that seems to make the hairs on be back of every nerds neck prickle is networking.  I don’t mean the act of making two or more computers talk to each other (cos all healthy nerds love doing that), I mean the act of getting out there and talking to actual human beings in a professional setting.

Networking is an essential tool in any business persons arsenal. If you’re going to be successful at what you love doing, you need to be able to communicate about the passion you have for your product and how it is going to change the lives of the people you’re talking to.  For that communication to be as effective as possible, you need to be able to connect with others effectively, enter networking skills.

Have a read, this stuff isn’t hard, its not always an intuitive process, but it gets easier the more you do it!

Have you tried these tips? Is networking something you find difficult? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Overcoming isolation – The top 10 challenges faced by a sole trader

Isolation

IsolationThe guys at Startup Smart have just published a great article on working as a sole trader. In it they talk about the major reasons why working on your own creates an environment that attracts failure and most importantly, they also talk about how to act in order to avoid failing.

This is a great article, these issues are real problems for the owner/operator and are not often understood by friends, family and others who are watching startups and small business people.  Know your enemy – and in this case time management, accountability, isolation and motivation are among the largest enemies to your success.

Great Article! 10 challenges faced by sole traders: http://www.startupsmart.com.au/sole-trader/top-10-challenges-faced-by-sole-traders.html

Did this article help you? What have your experiences been?

David Cecil – ‘Evil’ the NBN hacker jailed


What started as an investigation into a misbehaving DNS server in December 2010, grew into a multinational Australian Federal Police operation & media circus covering the “NBN Hacker”, culminating in the successful arrest conviction and sentencing of David Cecil (who ran by the online moniker “Evil”) today in Orange District Court.

ITNews Article – “Evil” Platform hacker jailed: http://t.co/oGZ9S6pB

There has been much spectacular and often misinformed reporting on this case.  The sad thing is that this kind of case is not a rare event, system compromises happen all the time to businesses large and small all over the world.  What is unique about this case is that there has been an arrest and subsequent conviction.

When we discovered the problem we did what others fail to do – we took an evidence based approach, we observed, collected data and sandboxed the risk over a 7 month period and we were not afraid to stand up and be named. This approach allowed us to assist the AFP in achieving a successful conviction, ensured that we were able to protect our customers and the internet in general from the risks that the investigation was monitoring.

Now that the case is over and I am able to talk about more of the operational details, I plan to write up a case study covering the key learnings I took away from the case, along with some suggested processes that can be followed if you are ever confronted with a similar situation.

If you’re impatient and want the information faster than I can write it, please feel free to drop me an email or give me a call.

 


Judgement – issued today:


Date of Listing: 22 Jun 2012 before Judge A Blackmore at District Court – Crime, Orange
Appearances:
  • Cecil , David Noel, Accused
  • NSW Police, Prosecuting Authority
Offence:
Actual offence – Unauthorised access/modification of restricted data
2011/00241456-001, 2011/00241456-004, 2011/00241456-005, 2011/00241456-008, 2011/00241456-009, 2011/00241456-011, 2011/00241456-015, 2011/00241456-018, 2011/00241456-019, 2011/00241456-020, 2011/00241456-024, 2011/00241456-036, 2011/00241456-037, 2011/00241456-042, 2011/00241456-043, 2011/00241456-044, 2011/00241456-045, 2011/00241456-046

Sentence:
The offender, David Noel Cecil, is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 6 months to commence on 5 April 2012 and expiring on 4 October 2012

This sentence is Concurrent with other sentences being served by the offender.

The offender is sentenced to a period of 6 months (fixed) full time imprisonment to commence on 5 April 2012. These 18 sentences are to be served concurrently.

Offence:
Actual offence – Cause unauthorised modification of computer data 2011/00241456-049

Sentence:
The offender, David Noel Cecil, is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years to commence on 5 July 2012 and expiring on 4 July 2014 with a non-parole period of 12 months. The offender is to be released to supervised parole when the non-parole period expires.

This sentence is Partly concurrent with other sentences being served by the offender.

There is to be a partial accumulation of the two unauthorised modification of data to cause impairment charges.

The offender is sentenced to a period of 2 years imprisonment to commence on 5 July 2012. There is to be a non-parole period of 12 months.

During the period of the recognisance the offender is to accept the direction and supervision of the NSW Probation and Parole Service.

Offence:
Actual offence – Cause unauthorised modification of computer data
2011/00241456-050

Sentence:
The offender, David Noel Cecil, is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years to commence on 5 October 2012 and expiring on 4 October 2014 with a non-parole period of 12 months. The offender is to be released to supervised parole when the non-parole period expires.

This sentence is Partly concurrent with other sentences being served by the offender.

The offender is sentenced to a period of 2 years imprisonment to commence on 5 October 2012. There is to be a non-parole period of 12 months.

During the period of the recognisance the offender is to accept the direction and supervision of the NSW Probation and Parole Service.


The demise of Fairfax

The demise of Fairfax, nice writeup by Paul Budde http://t.co/MrYicnex

This is like like watching a very large sinking ship or one of those slow motion “train hitting a broken down car” movies..  Fairfax appear to be completely lacking any understanding of their customer base and how to pivot in order to monetise a shift toward digital content.

Fairfax – I’ll give you this for free:

  • Paywall based news sites lose customers.
  • Lost customers do not come back.
  • You need to stop thinking about yourself as a print media business that trades in “words”.
  • You trade in content.
  • Content these days moves and also follows your consumers EVERYWHERE.
  • Content these days rarely costs the viewer anything.
  • Niche, customisable content and communities that develop around that niche content are what generate revenue and stickiness.
  • Build a user generated news content site, turn the news into a bidirectional communication process that users both contribute to and consume and maybe you’ll be in business in 2 or 3 years time.

Go and open up a newspaper from 80 years ago, it looks like a really weird version of the trading post and is mostly announcements and advertisements.  Compare it to a newspaper from today, there is lots of immersive content, still some adverts, and theres a teeny, tiny (dying) section at the back (classifieds)which still resembles the original newspapers.  Now is the time to find your new content type and to monetise it, FAST.

Want help?  Get out of the office, go and visit your consumers. Listen to them.  Ask them how to fix this problem. You do know who they are don’t you?

Once you’re done, ask the guys who you just fired how to fix your business..  I’m willing to bet that all the answers you need are sitting in both your customers and ex-employee’s minds.