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Should the client really come first?

A client sends in a feature request.

The business team rush to make it happen & force it upon the product team.

“This is the most important thing we need to build right now, so drop everything else & do it.”

Which would make sense if the solution that was requested was actually solving the client problem.

It could also make sense, potentially, if there were only one client and the entire product was specifically being produced for them.

However, it’s highly likely that this approach will destroy your product.

And that is because of the following:

  1. Feature requests = mess

Say you’re baking a cake. Someone suggests adding butter, so you put in some butter. Someone else suggests adding a bit of sugar, so you put it in.

So far so good.

But down the road, people are suggesting adding spinach (?!), people are suggesting adding hot chilis. One guy even suggesting just throwing in some tomato sauce.

The end result? Something that, in trying to please everyone, pleases no-one.

The ingredients themselves, the feature requests, don’t seem so bad in isolation. It’s just one little feature, right? But when aggregated, you have a messy product with no vision, no clear value, no clear user experience.

  1. What people say is not what they mean

Surprise, surprise. However much experience someone has, they are still human.

And humans are really bad at making objective decisions. Therefore, when that big client comes rushing over requesting a new feature urgently, this is usually the reality:

What they think they want: “You need to build this feature really quickly because we need it.”

What they actually want: “We have this problem & we don’t know how to solve it.”

Unfortunately most teams at this point jump into action, clearing the backlog to focus on this one feature request, rather than stopping to think about whether 1) the product already solves it, but it’s not clear to the customer or 2) the problem they are faced with can be solved without a big new feature being built.

And the struggle goes on.

The product team builds features they know don’t serve a purpose. That drag the product in a hundred different directions at once.

The business team thinks the product team just did a bad job.

And, meanwhile, your product just deteriorates into a scrapyard of half-baked solutions, with no vision, no end goal, no users.

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