One of the biggest mistakes a Product Owner can make is to want it all. I’ve heard Product Owners say, “We need all these features and nothing can be omitted.” My first reaction to this statement was “Really? NOTHING?” Product Owners commonly fear taking away features from clients or not giving the client everything they asked for. As a former developer, I often wondered what type of customers or users would require everything the Product Owner was asking us to create. Some features or capabilities just didn’t seem worth the effort it would take to build let alone maintain them. Others didn’t make sense that a client would even want them. If your product owner is making this type of statement and more importantly pouring on more questionable “must haves,” then you need to sit her down and explain to her the pitfalls of having a morbidly obese product that will eventually need liposuction to survive.
One of the core problems with making a product fat with “nice to haves” is the cost and time to maintain those features. Any time a new feature is added, developers and testers must account for testing ancillary code on lessor used features impacted by the new request. Regression testing as well as potentially breaking other areas is increased. These necessary activities to ensure product quality take time, effort and money. When developers and testers are focusing on ensuring less valuable features stay intact it takes away from implementing new and more valuable features. So as the team builds all the “must haves”, the product becomes obese and complex to maintain with little room left to build muscle…you know the features and capabilities that strengthen the product. Quickly the product becomes inflexible and unable to scale without huge risk and cost. The ability to get features out to the market quickly vanishes. The product becomes a liposuction candidate for excess fat removal to allow for muscle growth.
Product Owners, listen up. There are times when even a highly used feature could be replaced with something more valuable or modern. Learn what problems the end users really have and what features they use, don’t use or truly need and why. Often end users get complacent and believe an invaluable capability is necessary when really their needs have changed and evolved without them knowing it. Your product must evolve beyond what your user base believes is critical. That means letting go of features to create room for new muscle. If you’re squeamish about this idea think of the iPhone 7.
Apple took away, what many considered a highly valuable feature, the headphone jack. The removal of the jack allowed for a thinner phone with a wrap around screen. The benefit of a smaller, lightweight phone with more screen space was greater than having an embedded headphone jack. Additionally, the new approach to connecting audibly with the iPhone 7 brought greater quality sound than before. Definite added bonus. So, before you make that statement you need it all, think about your product diet, its fat and the amount of muscle your product contains. Avoid product liposuction by focusing on features which help create product muscle (aka the features that matter to your clients). Don’t let your product consume empty calories or “must haves” which only create a maintenance, testing, development nightmare for you and your development team. Focus on creating products that your customers will really want and can use to solve their future problems instead of products that are full of useless fat that solved last year’s problem.