January 12, 2016
Determining the First Release
The first thing you release needs to put the solution to your customer's most important problem in their hands. Deciding what the most important problem is and what the smallest solution to that problem is should be the main focus of any first release.
Less is More
You don't need to release as much as you may believe. Instead, focus on the part of the process centered around the biggest opportunity to react to pain, start building and testing around that, and then expand outward. Starting with this core assures that the focus is on solving for the biggest pain and therefore guarantees that the release will give the customer what they need and will make it easier to differentiate.
If you stuff too much into your first release you risk:
- Limited adoption: if less care and attention is paid to differentiators or core value propositions, or if the product is doing a mediocre job of solving a lot of problems instead of an incredible job of solving one problem, then the consumer base will be limited
- Losing time: if the company spends too much time building means you get beaten to market by competitor
- Increased expense: building software is expensive the longer it takes to get out, the longer it takes to get a return on your investment
One of the biggest barriers to moving quickly is reputation risk. Companies fall into the mindset that if they don't release something, then they can't get bad reviews. They'd rather release something and have it fall flat in terms of customer reaction than release a product and receive negative reviews. Creating a big, expensive product no one wants or uses is a much bigger risk than a product with a few bad reviews. It's also possible to mitigate reputation risk by releasing the product under a different brand name or releasing to a small group of friendly customers.
The central focus of every single release should always be servicing the customer and their needs. Customer interviews and surveys, as well as testing, can give a comprehensive overview of the customer's problem and help to define a solution to be created. Not only will this develop and maintain a successful consumer base, but it will also prevent companies from wasting valuable time and resources on ineffective product releases. In this way, companies can always ensure that their first releases, and any subsequent ones, will be as successful as possible.